July 21, 2023

Game Recap | EDM 14 WPG 28

1st Half - (EDM) Shannon Brooks 22 - Jamal Parker 7

It wasn’t without its warts and blemishes – in fact it will take a ton of concealer to gloss over many of the mistakes in the first half – but the Winnipeg Blue Bombers got done what they couldn’t do in last Saturday’s Capital Collapse.

Simply put, they kept chopping wood right to the final whistle and cranked out a 28-14 victory over an Edmonton Elks squad that made the game more than a little uncomfortable for the 28,512 in attendance at IG Field on another picturesque Manitoba summer night.

Now 5-2, the good ship Blue Bomber will now pull into port for some much-needed shore leave and its first bye of the Canadian Football League season. The Elks, meanwhile, fall to 0-7.

“It’s always good to win at home – that’s what we’re supposed to do, right?” began quarterback Zach Collaros. “Our crowd was amazing and for us to be able to pick ourselves up in the second half was huge. I thought we really set the tone physically there early on and with some big plays, were able to separate.

“Our defence played extremely well all night long and we were able to take care of business there at the end.”

All true. And in the end the win – a two-touchdown ‘W’ – is what this will be remembered as when the club returns to work in about 10 days. It’s the way they got to that victory that had some squirming early.

The Blue Bombers had three turnovers in the first half – two in their first two possessions – and were tied with the Elks 6-6 at the intermission and then up only one score heading into the fourth.

That’s when the club got back to playing its trademark bully ball by controlling the line of scrimmage. The offence cranked out 80 yards rushing in the fourth quarter while the defence pitched a shutout in the final frame – punctuating the win with Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat sacks that were followed by another Demerio Houston interception.

“Are we playing our best football? Definitely not,” said Oliveira. “We’ve got to be critical going into the bye week. Enjoy this win but still think how we can be better individually and how we can help this team win more football games. We’ve got to start fast and play a full 60 minutes and play a clean football game.

“It feels good that we got this win, great that we’re going into the bye week, but we’re going to come back and try to be better.”

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


The Blue Bombers had their issues establishing the run early in the game but when it mattered – and this will sound familiar – they dominated up front and pounded the ball along the ground.

Oliveira finished the night with 110 yards on 17 carries and was a force in the fourth with 80 of those, as stated above, coming in the fourth quarter.

“That’s our O-line working right there and obviously Brady hitting the hole and finishing the run,” said Collaros. “And I’m sure Rasheed (Bailey) cleaned a couple guys out, too.

“… It’s belief in our guys up front – their conditioning, their toughness, their physicality, Brady finishing runs and our receivers understanding what their job is each and every play.”

Oliveira added to his league-leading rushing total and now has 527 yards through seven games.

“They stuck with it,” said head coach Mike O’Shea of the run game. “I like that Buck (Pierce, offensive coordinator) and the staff… Marty (Costello, offensive line coach) and Jay (Hogan, running backs) and Bourgs (Kevin Bourgoin, receivers) stuck with it and just kept rolling through the call sheet to find the ones that were going to work and eventually it pays off. They’re not going to abandon it.

“But, once again, if it looked different and it was a win, we’d be happy with it regardless of how it looked.”


Kenny Lawler sat and watched for six games and certainly made his debut a memorable one. The veteran receiver was a force with a team-leading seven receptions for 93 yards – two of those catches converting second downs.

“That’s exactly what we said he’d look like,” said O’Shea with a chuckle. “He’s got a huge catch radius; he’s got terrific hands… you saw that catch on the sidelines where he contorts his body and comes up with it. Yeah, he’s really good.”

(TSN replays, FYI, seemed to indicate the ball touched the ground, but the Blue Bombers wisely got up to the line of scrimmage and called another play before it could be challenged).


The Blue Bombers’ three turnovers are concerning – the team did force three of their own – but two of the mistakes uncharacteristically came in the short yardage situations. Dakota Prukop was stuffed on the first possession – and just the third offensive play of the game – on a third and one and then fumbled the exchange on a third-and-one in the second quarter that was recovered by the Elks’ Kony Ealy.

The club did get its first touchdown in short yardage when Prukop plowed in from two yards.

“Nobody’s happy about that,” said O’Shea. “But I’d much rather have them focus on the positive things – the win and the good things they did for the next week rather than take that with them.”


The victory was O’Shea’s 87th as head coach of the Blue Bombers, moving him past Cal Murphy into second place on the franchise’s all-time list. Only the legendary Bud Grant, with 102 wins, stands above him.


Blue Bombers were up 28-14 deep into the fourth quarter, but the Elks were marching and were starting to make everyone in the building uncomfortable – especially in the wake of the ending in Ottawa. On third and five from the Winnipeg 19-yard line, and with just 3:42 left, Willie Jefferson did what he has done better than any D-lineman in CFL history by working around right tackle Brett Boyko to swat a Cornelius pass down at the line of scrimmage.

Nail, meet coffin.

“That’s like putting the dagger in,” said defensive tackle Ricky Walker, who had two tackles and a sack. “That’s stepping on their throat and finishing them off. Any time you get to do that to seal it and then see your teammates celebrating with the crowd that’s a good feeling for the defence.”


As much as the Blue Bombers leaned on the ground game late, Collaros moved around the pocket effectively to piece together a tidy passing game by completing 20 of 24 passes for 308 yards with TD strikes to Rasheed Bailey and this dandy to Nic Demski.

GAME BALL: Brady Oliveira, RB

The rushing numbers, especially late, speak for themselves. He brought energy to a game that needed it and thrived on being fed the ball over and over again.

NEXT: The Blue Bombers will settle in for their first bye week of the season and return to the practice field on Sunday, July 30th in advance of their next game – a home date on Thursday, August 3rd against the B.C. Lions with a 7:30 start.