July 15, 2023

Game Recap | WPG 28 OTT 31

Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Dustin Crum (18) prepares to throw the ball as Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat (94) rushes towards him, during first half CFL football action in Ottawa on Saturday, July 15, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA – They took their foot off the gas, their eyes off the road and then crashed in a spectacularly ugly fashion, with the wreckage strewn all over the nation’s capital.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers blew a 19-point second half lead – including surrendering two touchdowns and a pair of two-point converts in the final two minutes and 29 seconds that tied the game in regulation – in what was ultimately a stunning 31-28 overtime loss to the Ottawa RedBlacks that will undoubtedly leave a scar.

The shocking defeat drops the Blue Bombers to 4-2 at the one-third mark of the Canadian Football League, while an energized RedBlacks side is now 2-4.

“We just didn’t play well enough in the second half, and they did,” said Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea. “They put it on us in the second half, especially right near the end of the game. We were still up 16 at the end, we just made some mistakes.

“We certainly didn’t play clean enough in any phase and they were riding a bit of momentum. Their quarterback was making some plays with his legs, moving the chains, and keeping the drives going and they were excited. We just couldn’t seem to get off the field.”

The Blue Bombers turned the ball over twice – including a Zach Collaros pass that was tipped by Drew Wolitarsky and returned for a Pick-6 by Brandin Dandridge with 2:29 left – all part of an epic second-half collapse that featured mistakes across the board.

“We have to finish better as a team,” said defensive end Willie Jefferson. “Offence, defence, special teams we’ve got to be better in the fourth quarter. Defence has got to get off the field at the end of the fourth quarter and the offence has either got to stay on the field or put some points on the board. That’s the kind of stuff we do… today, we couldn’t do it.

“We’ve got to be able to stay top, stay with the energy, stay with the momentum, and just finish the game. We were up with three minutes left in the game and that’s the time when we’ve got to really get to Winnipeg football. We didn’t do that. It wasn’t Winnipeg football in the second half.

More on the Blue Bombers loss from our perch in the press box…


RedBlacks QB Dustin Crum, making his first career start, rushed for a TD with 48 seconds left in regulation, then connected with Nate Behar for the two-point conversion and then scrambled 29 yards for the winning score in overtime.

It was a testament to his potential, as he shook off an iffy first half – he was just 5-of-12 for 20 yards – to finish the day 26 of 42 for 261 yards while rushing nine times for 103 more.

“We let one slip,” said defensive tackle Jake Thomas. “You always want to finish games. We let a good hungry team back into it. We’ve got to learn to finish games and apply the pressure to win games like that.

“They just started to connect on their plays. We knew coming in that their quarterback would be able to scramble around back there, and you saw it… two of the last three drives, at least, he broke off some good runs. All the credit to them. They didn’t give up. What did they score 16 points in the last three minutes? We were on the other side of that a few years ago against Montreal and it’s a lot better when you’re on the other side of it, for sure.”


The Blue Bombers were guilty of more than just the two turnovers, with dropped passes and fumbles on offence and then missed tackles and breakdowns on defence. Too many times the club looked in position to seal this one away before missing some gimmee putts.

“They ended up making more plays than us, so hat’s off to Ottawa,” said Collaros, who finished 22 of 32 for 354 yards with two TDs and the interception. “We didn’t make enough plays; they were able to gain some momentum there and win the game.

“It always comes down to execution, physicality. We’ll watch the tape, learn from it and we’ve got a quick turnaround against a physical football team. We’ve got to rest up and in five days play another one.”


Critical now for the Blue Bombers is how they recover from this, especially in a short turnaround. The two losses this season – including the 30-6 home defeat to the B.C. Lions – were both so out of character for a team that has piled up so many wins dating back to 2016.

“’Shock’ is a good word,” said Nic Demski inside a morose Blue Bombers locker room. “It’s a lot of different feelings going through your head after something like that. It will probably take by the time we get home to really take in what just happened. They didn’t stop fighting to the end and they outplayed us.”


Pretty simple in a game decided in OT – the Blue Bombers had the ball first in extra time and settled for a Sergio Castillo field goal. But on Ottawa’s first possession Crum rumbled up the middle 29 yards for the epic comeback.


The lead blown by the Blue Bombers, who went up 25-6 on a Drew Wolitarsky TD in the third quarter and then were outscored 25-3 the rest of the way.

GAME BALL: Adam Bighill

The future hall of famer was all over the stats sheet with seven tackles, a tackle for a loss and two sacks.

NEXT: Short week for the Blue Bombers, who return home to face the Edmonton Elks at IG Field next Thursday, July 20th with a 7:30 start.