October 21, 2023

Game Recap | EDM 25 WPG 45

1st Half - Brady Oliveira 20 - Patrick Neufeld 53 touchdown celebration (2)

Don’t even begin to suggest it didn’t matter, because any time the ball is put on the tee for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers – and especially at the home fortress that is IG Field – the competitive juices flow as freely as the spirits at the Rum Hut.

The Blue Bombers don’t half-ass things, after all, and even after having first place in the West Division gift-wrapped Friday night following Calgary’s 41-16 victory over B.C., the home side was absolutely full throttle less than 24 hours later in a solid 45-25 win over the Edmonton Elks in front of a fourth consecutive sold-out crowd of 32,343 Saturday night in south Winnipeg.

The result pushes the Blue Bombers to 13-4 and should remind everyone across the Canadian Football League – including the Stampeders and Lions, one of which will be here for the West Final on November 11th – just how dominant the Blue Bombers are in their own barn.

The exclamation mark on that? Winnipeg is 8-1 at IG Field this year and 31-3 in the regular season at home over the last four campaigns. Factor in wins in the last two West Finals and that record is a jaw-dropping 33-3.

“Any time you get sellouts, especially four in a row, you’ve got to come out here and play good football – and that’s what we wanted to do,” said slotback Nic Demski, who had five receptions for 27 yards and went over the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the first time in his career. “Even though we knew we had first clinched (with the Stamps win), we still wanted to come out here and play good football, get into a rhythm heading into the playoffs.

“Right now it is really the most important time of the season. For us to come out here and play lackadaisical, I mean, that’s not what we wanted to do. We wanted to make a statement and I think we did a good job of that.”

The Blue Bombers showed few, if any, signs of a club that had had its ticket punched to the West Final before even stepping on the field, building a 14-0 lead less than five minutes into the game on a Brady Oliveira TD run that was followed by an Adam Bighill score on a fumble recovery after a strip-sack of Elks QB Tre Ford by Jackson Jeffcoat.

The Elks didn’t knuckle under, though, and the Blue Bombers countered with two TDs from Rasheed Bailey – the first from Zach Collaros, the second delivered by Dru Brown – and a second score from Oliveira, also along the ground.

The Blue Bombers forced three turnovers, registered five sacks, and got the defensive score from Bighill, while being hit for a 98-yard kickoff return TD by Deontez Alexander. Eugene Lewis finished with seven catches for 158 yards, but Winnipeg’s defence also limited Ford to just 14 yards rushing on two carries – although he did have 288 yards through the air.

But if there was any concern the Blue Bombers might take their foot off the gas after the Stamps helped them Friday night, it quickly evaporated Saturday night.

“I don’t know if I was concerned – I think I was aware everybody was going to react in their own personal way to that news,” said head coach Mike O’Shea. “You just hope we’ve built enough through these types of experiences throughout a few years to say that they’ll get it figured out.

“I’m not sure we were as clean as we needed to be execution-wise, or penalty-wise for the first little bit, but they figured it out.”

More on the Blue Bombers 13th win of the season from our view in the press box…


Further to the above… the Blue Bombers found out late Friday night they had locked up first and, well, that’s a weird way to knock off an item on your team to-do list.

“Up until about midnight (Friday) I was just trying to stick to my process,” said Collaros. “I didn’t watch the game, but I had some text messages from people as I was trying to stick to what I do. I watched a TV show with my wife and tried to keep it as normal as possible.

“It is weird when you hear (that you’ve clinched first) and you kind of want to celebrate, but it’s not that time, right? I texted Stan (Bryant) and Paddy (Neufeld) and said, ‘Maybe we should be lighting up a cigar right now or at least have a drink.’

“You still go in to win the football game. We’ve been fortunate to be in this position before – you play to win the game; you play as hard as you can and if not, you’re going to get hurt. Everybody took it serious in here and the results speak for themselves.”


Demski eclipsing the 1K put the Blue Bombers into the CFL record books as the first team to have a Canadian finish with 1,000 yards rushing – Oliveira – and 1,000 receiving yards. And the fact that they are both Winnipeggers and from the same high school in Oak Park only makes the story that much more riveting.

Demski is now at 1,006 receiving yards while Oliveira upped his league-leading rushing total to 1,498 – the second-highest total by a Canadian in CFL history to the 1,813 Jon Cornish churned out with the Stamps in 2013.

“It feels good. It does feel like a monkey off my back,” Demski said. “I really thought I was going to get it last week, but some stuff doesn’t work out that way. It was a grind to get it, but I got it done and now I can just focus on playoffs.

“It’s special. We knew about it (making CFL history) but when it happened, and we were talking on the sidelines it still doesn’t really settle in.

“But just like the crowd applause and knowing how much it means to this city as well – especially two Winnipeg guys to do it together – it did go over my head, but I’m definitely taking it in now and it’s a crazy thing that just happened. I’m thankful for the opportunity.”


Oliveira is certainly a leading candidate for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian Player award, but he continues to muscle his way into the Most Outstanding Player conversation. He’s just under 1,500 yards rushing and at 1,980 yards from scrimmage including his contributions through the air. He also now has 13 TDs.

“It’s amazing. This team, the guys I have around me and that I come to work with every day, is special,” said Oliveira. “Without them I can’t do any of this. Without them I can’t do any of this and I truly owe it to them, my coaches. Total group effort. It’s a special honour and as a Canadian I’m super proud to be in the record books but I owe it all to my teammates.”

Collaros, meanwhile, threw for his league-leading 33rd touchdown Saturday and was a steady 13-of-16 for 125 yards to boost QB efficiency rating, also best in the CFL and has 4,252 yards passing – the highest total in his career.

Award voters have to submit their first ballots – anointing team-by-team winners – by Sunday.


Nothing jumps out instantly, to be honest, but the Elks were hanging tough with the Blue Bombers before Collaros connected with Bailey for a six-yard TD that put the home side up 31-18 with less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Bailey would also haul in another from Dru Brown in the fourth quarter, but his first score helped the Blue Bombers drop the hammer.


Don’t ever take this for granted, Blue Bombers Nation – the club reached the 13-win mark for 2023 with one more game remaining. The Blue Bombers have had 13 or more-win seasons only eight times in the team’s history: 1958 (13-3), 1960 (14-2), 1961 (13-3), 1993 (14-4), 1994 (13-5), 2001 (14-4), 2022 (15-3) and 2023 (13-4).

GAME BALL: Brady Oliveira, RB:

Two more scores and 72 yards on 14 carries before giving way to Johnny Augustine. He’s a tone-setter for this offence and the team.


The Blue Bombers head into their final game of the regular season next Friday in Calgary against the Stampeders October 27th, with kickoff scheduled for 8 p.m. CDT.

They’ll next be in front of their loyal and faithful fans in the West Final, scheduled for November 11th at IG Field, with a 5:30 kickoff.