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August 4, 2023

Game Recap | BC 14 WPG 50

1st Half - Kenny Lawler 89 staredown

Memo to all the doubters, the cynics and those who had already or were seriously contemplating bailing from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers bandwagon: The Canadian Football League’s heavyweight division still very much features a contender in the blue corner and sporting the gold trunks.

The Blue Bombers authored their best effort of the 2023 season – and a decisive statement in the process — with a 50-14 win over the B.C. Lions that had the 30,874 gathered at IG Field in full party mode on another perfect summer night in south Winnipeg.

The win brings even more drama to the already-compelling two-horse race in the West Division, as the Blue Bombers and Lions are now tied for first at 6-2 and with the season series also tied at 1-1.

Circle October 6th on your calendar, football fans, for if this plays out according to the script, first place could be on the line in Week 18 when the Blue Bombers are in Vancouver for the third regular season meeting of the season between these two powerhouses.

“That was fun, man,” said Blue Bombers running back Brady Oliveira. “From the start to the finish, it was a total team effort. We started fast. We played an entire 60 minutes, and the offensive line did a great job tonight from start to finish. They were moving guys, they were physical, we were playing smart, we’re on the same page.”

“It’s hard to win in this win in this league. We put it on ‘em, and it feels good.”

Oliveira, just to be clear, also stiff-armed to the ground the notion that this would classify as a ‘statement win.’

“It might seem like that to the public, but in this locker room we just focus on whoever is on the schedule this week. We’ll enjoy this one tonight and move on to whoever we play next week. We really go day by day in this locker room, week by week, and focus on us, play for one another and go out there and execute and play our style of football. That’s what we did tonight.”

A fair and honest take. Still – let’s put it this way – with the 30-6 home loss to the Lions in June being tossed out as part of the narrative all week Winnipeg was clearly motivated to set a tone early, and did that with couple of early haymakers en route to building a 27-4 lead at the intermission as Zach Collaros connected with Dalton Schoen and then Kenny Lawler for TDs covering 71 and 57 yards, respectively. The Blue Bombers added a third score with 1:47 left in the first half, as Oliveira waltzed in untouched from three yards out.

That production is significant for the obvious impact on the scoreboard, but because it also came against the CFL’s stingiest defence so far this season – a unit that had surrendered an average of just 13.4 points per game and just FIVE touchdowns in the first seven games of the season.

Those numbers took a beating by game’s end, with Winnipeg finishing with six TDs in the game, including one more by Oliveira on a 27-yard run, and another from Schoen – courtesy a 14-yard strike from Dru Brown.

“It felt good because we executed our gameplan,” said Collaros, who was sensational with 369 yards passing and three TDs against one interception. “Any time you can do that – stay on the football field, create explosive plays, all those things. It’s fun. Obviously, we’ve got to do a better job finishing the game. We turned the ball over there twice late in the game and that’s not our standard. But it was a pretty clean game other than those two plays.

“I thought Buck (Pierce, offensive coordinator) did a really good job mixing it up all night long.

“Even with the lead that we had built in the third and fourth we mixed up the run and pass, RPO Sally-type stuff (run-pass option), in the run game and our offensive line did a really good job of wearing them down and Brady ran the ball hard, Greg (McCrae) as well.”

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

REPEAT AFTER ME… THIS WAS NOT A ‘STATEMENT WIN’, ‘NOT A STATEMENT WIN’, ‘NOT A…’

The Blue Bombers can read the standings and were certainly aware of the situation heading in – a loss would have given the Lions a four-point edge and the season series – but if a team downplays the big-picture significance of a defeat in June, it most certainly also tries to do the same about a win in early August

“It’s Week 8, Game 8 for us… I don’t know that first place is determined at this point of the season,” said head coach Mike O’Shea. “I don’t believe we think that way and I’m sure it must cross guys’ minds but, once again, the majority of the group are wired and if the pendulum swings one way or another they get back quickly to being pretty level-headed to where what’s most important to them is showing their teammates – not showing it to somebody else.”

“It’s Week 10, Week 9… it’s just another week,” Collaros added. “It’s a really good defence over there, so any time you can execute your gameplan against them you’re excited. The goal is to score touchdowns, so we did that pretty well tonight.”

SPECIAL ‘K’:

Lawler offered up one of those performances that justified every nickel he’s earning while making everyone wonder what kind of numbers he’d have if he hadn’t missed the first six game while on the suspended list.

In two games he now has 14 catches for 293 yards in two games.

“Tonight… that’s what we play the game for,” said Lawler. “We go out there, we see all the brothers have success. That’s what we play for. There’s no greater feeling than that, hanging that 50 on some guys and being able to see everybody contribute.

“That’s what we play the game for, that’s why we go out there and practice. It’s the ultimate team sport.”

SALUTE TO THE BIG EATERS:

There was so much fixation on the first meeting between these two clubs and the seven sacks surrendered by the Blue Bombers offence. And Thursday night? Zero sacks allowed including, obviously, none by CFL sack leader Mathieu Betts who came into the game with 10 QB takedowns.

“I don’t know what we did… I’m about to cramp up right now from chasing him all game,” said right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick when asked how they limited the production of Betts. “I’m just glad there’s nothing on the stats sheet because he’s for damn sure had a good game and I’m going to see him again soon so I don’t want to give him any energy.”

TAKEAWAY:

Demerio Houston picked off his league-leading sixth interception, as the Blue Bombers forced five turnovers including another pick from Brandon Alexander and three more on downs.

THE BIG MOMENT:

It came early and with the Blue Bombers leading 7-0 on the Collaros to Schoen TD. On the second offensive possession Collaros found Lawler behind coverage for a 57-yard score and a 14-zip lead with nine minutes left in the first quarter.

In a battle between heavyweights, the Blue Bombers connected early on a couple of critical body shots from which the Lions never recovered.

THE BIG STAT: 576

The net yards of offence by the Blue Bombers offence – the highest by the club this season and the most since the club cranked out 588 yards in a 56-10 over Montreal on June 22, 2018. Winnipeg had 447 yards passing and added another 129 along the ground.

GAME BALL: Kenny Lawler, WR

Playing in just his second game of the season, Lawler was an absolute force with seven catches for 200 yards and a TD. Two of his receptions were plus-30 yards and he also caught two passes that converted second downs.

NOTABLE:

Collaros, the reigning two-time CFL Most Outstanding Player was superb with his three TDs and 369 yards passing. He was 13-of-18 for 280 yards – including the TD strikes to Schoen and Lawler – in the first half alone.

He is now a stellar 39-7 in his games as a starter in Winnipeg, including playoffs and two Grey Cup victories and 10-3 all-time in games against B.C.

NEXT:

The Blue Bombers are in a stretch that will see them face West Division opponents in five of six games – including the next two on the road with trips to Edmonton next Thursday, August 10th (8 p.m. CT start) followed by a visit to Calgary on August 18th.

The next home game goes Thursday, August 24th against the Montreal Alouettes, followed by the annual Labour Day Classic/Banjo Bowl doubleheader with the Saskatchewan Roughriders on September 3rd and 9th.