October 7, 2023

Game Recap | WPG 34 BC 26 OT

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Brady Oliveira celebrates his rushing touchdown against the B.C. Lions during overtime CFL football action, in Vancouver, on Friday, October 6, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER – It was rightfully billed as the Canadian Football League’s game of the year and a heavyweight tilt between two powerhouses with control of first place in the West Division at stake. So, in the boxing tradition of titling big fights, we’ll call it ‘The Showcase at B.C. Place.’

And in a superb battle that served up one dramatic moment after another, it was the Winnipeg Blue Bombers who delivered and landed more punches than the B.C. Lions in a wild and wacky 34-26 overtime victory that flashed every cell in their championship DNA and now has them with both hands firmly on first in the West.

The Blue Bombers are now 12-4 – the Lions fall to 11-5 – and have now captured the season series 2-1, having also won 50-14 in Winnipeg in August after a 30-6 Lions win at IG Field and June. That means it’s likely, though not yet official, that the West Final will be in Winnipeg on November 11th and the Sem-Final in B.C. a week earlier on November 4th.

“That was definitely a heavyweight fight,” said Blue Bombers right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick. “It was two great teams going at it. They made plays, we made plays and we just kept swinging.”

“Bottom line is we came out here with a win. We played team ball. I’m just proud of being a part of this unit, these coaches… it’s just that special. It’s hard to put into words. We have hard conversations. We’re hard on each other, but we all have each other’s backs and that’s what we’re capable of when you have that, and you keep believing.

“This is huge, but the work still isn’t done. We’ve still got work to do and I know the guys are excited to do it, but this makes the bye week coming up that much better.”

The Blue Bombers trailed by 10 with less than three minutes remaining after some critical mistakes in the score zone in the fourth quarter with two Zach Collaros fumbles, but the defence rallied after an iffy first half and the club went on an 18-zip run – including a Brady Oliveira TD gallop in OT that was capped by a Collaros-to-Kenny Lawler two-point conversion.

And the defence got an absolutely massive third-and-one stop by defensive tackle Ricky Walker with 1:54 left to set up an Oliveira-dominated final drive in regulation that set up a game-tying Sergio Castillo 28-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining.

Incredibly, the Lions almost got a miracle finish on the final play in regulation, as Vernon Adams, Jr. hit Dominique Rhymes, with the veteran receiver brought down at the Blue Bombers’ five-yard line by Jamal Parker with no time remaining.

“We left it all out there, for sure,” said Collaros. “It was an amazing effort by everybody. We never gave up. Our belief in each other and playing for each other was on full display all night long. All three phases. Just an amazing win from an amazing opponent.”

“This feels good for the guys, obviously,” added head coach Mike O’Shea. “This is an emotional win in an emotional game. They realized this is who they can be. It’s not like they forgot that, there were just a couple games this year that didn’t feel like that, that felt opposite of that. It’s good. The timing is perfect. Right on time.”

More from our view in the press box on the 12th win of the season for the Blue Bombers…


One of the juicier subplots entering the game was conversation centering around the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player battle, featuring the reigning two-time title holder in Collaros and B.C.’s Adams, Jr.

Both men put up gaudy numbers with Adams, Jr. going 19 of 33 for 352 yards and a TD strike to Jevon Cottoy and Collaros rebounding from three turnovers – an interceptions, and two fourth-quarter fumbles in the score zone – to complete 31 of 41 passes for 389 yards with TDs to Janarion Grant and Drew Wolitarsky.

“Ups and downs,” said Collaros of his game. “But the guys never gave up on me, believed in me and we did enough out there to win the game.

“It’s the people around me. From my teammates, the coaching staff, the (football) ops people, everybody in the organization and the city just believing me. There’s just an understanding that the guys have your back out there.

“The defence stepped up there when I put them in some bad situations, kept them out of the end zone and we were able to finish it off.”


Oliveira was sensational, especially late in the game, and finished with 73 yards on 12 carries and pulled in eight passes for 85 yards.

He’s a leading candidate for the top Canadian award – as is Lions defensive end Mathieu Betts – but his numbers and his performance in the final minutes and then OT, helps him also in the MOP debate.

“That was a gritty one from start to finish,” said Oliveira. “You saw it going into the fourth quarter, late in the fourth and overtime. We just had the ultimate belief in the huddle.

“I’m definitely drained. I try to do that in every game. I want to be known as that guy that plays like that from start to finish and lays everything on the line for my team. It’s about honouring my teammates whether that’s 20 touches or 10 touches.”


So many to choose from, but when a game goes into OT the last play is massive. The Blue Bombers got the Oliveira TD and Lawler two pointer in their first possession in extra time.

Ricky Walker sacked Adams, Jr. on first down in their first possession, with a second down pass attempt knocked down by Redha Kramdi. Facing a 3rd-and-18 situation, Adams, Jr. launched a pass downfield that was broken up by Evan Holm to seal the W.

THE BIG STAT: 18-zip

Mentioned above, but the Blue Bombers were trailing 26-16 in the fourth quarter but rallied to out-score the Lions 18-zip to the end in securing a gut-check victory.

GAME BALL: Brady Oliveira, RB:

The combined yardage totals – including being busy as a receiver – are impressive. So, too, was his will in the game’s critical moments.

NEXT: The Blue Bombers head into their final bye week and return to face the Edmonton Elks at IG Field on Saturday October 21st in their final regular-season home date. That is followed by the finale in Calgary against the Stampeders October 27th and then bring on the postseason and the Grey Cup derby.