October 28, 2023

Game Recap | WPG 36 CGY 13

Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Brendan O’Leary-Orange, centre, catches a pass as Calgary Stampeders defensive back Michael Griffin, left, and defensive back Jonathan Moxey look on during second half CFL football action in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Oct. 27, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY – The names on the depth chart may change, but this never does for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers: regardless of the circumstances – in this case with first place in the Canadian Football League’s West Division locked up – this bunch collectively and routinely swings the sledgehammer to get the work done.

That was the case again at a frosty McMahon Stadium Friday night, as a Blue Bombers lineup missing or resting 11 regular starters served up another workmanlike effort in a 36-13 win over the Stampeders to put a big, fat bow on the 2023 regular season.

The win means the club finishes the regular season with a 14-4 record, tying the second-highest total in franchise history and leads perfectly into the upcoming bye week. The Blue Bombers will now face either the Stampeders or B.C. Lions – who meet next week in the West Semi-Final – at IG Field for the West Final on November 11th.

The Blue Bombers also enter the postseason on a four-game heater, the last two wins coming after the team had clinched first place.

“There’s nothing meaningless about that,” said head coach Mike O’Shea outside a jubilant Blue Bombers dressing room. “They played so hard for each other and worked through the week with a great frame of mind. You’d expect nothing less. I’m sure there’s a lot of chatter about what it could look like, and it might not have been perfect, but boy the effort and how hard they played – it’s the right way to do it.”

Having secured first place, the Blue Bombers opted to pull 10 players who started last week against Edmonton, including Nic Demski and Stanley Bryant on offence and eight regulars on defence in Jackson Jeffcoat, Willie Jefferson and Ricky Walter on the defensive line, linebackers Adam Bighill and Kyrie Wilson, dime back Redha Kramdi, safety Brandon Alexander and cornerback Wintson Rose. As well, Dalton Schoen missed his second straight game with an ankle injury.

But those who wore Blue Bombers colours on Friday were full throttle from start to finish, cranking out 26 first downs and 464 yards of net offence while forcing two turnovers and registering a pair of sacks.

“They’re not hollow words when I talk about guys being able to play and being able to help us win football games,” O’Shea said. “The guys that are in that room can help us win football games and they went out there and they made the most of their opportunity.

“I couldn’t be happier for those guys because they thrive in their role. They don’t have to be happy about it, but they thrive in their role working hard in practice and making sure guys are getting good looks. They deserve this.”

More on the Blue Bombers xx from our view in the McMahon Stadium press box…

THE 1.5K/2K MAN:

Blue Bombers running back Brady Oliveira entered the night needing just two yards rushing to hit the 1,500-yard mark and 20 in total to get to 2,000 yards from scrimmage (rushing and receiving) and got to work early, knocking both items off his to-do list in the first quarter before giving way to Johnny Augustine.

Oliveira, the Blue Bombers Most Outstanding Player and Most Outstanding Canadian Player nominee, finished with 32 yards on seven carries, giving him 1,534 along the ground this season. That’s the second-highest total by a Canadian in CFL history – Calgary’s Jon Cornish had 1,813 yards in 2013 – and that total is also the sixth highest in Blue Bombers history.

Seconds after accomplishing the feat, Oliveira got up, congratulated his teammates and threw the ball from the moment to the sidelines for keeping.

“I honestly never thought I’d hit 2,000 yards from scrimmage – ever,” said Oliveira. “It’s crazy. I guess I’ve got to start dreaming bigger now. Like I say all the time, I owe it to my teammates to come out here every single week to battle and honour them. I love these guys and they’ve done a great job all year. All success from my 2,000 yards is totally a group effort.”


The Blue Bombers No. 2 pivot started the game and share the workload with Dakota Prukop, and once again flashed the skills that must have the rest of the league – especially those with QB questions – intrigued.

Brown finished 13 of 17 for 278 yards and two touchdowns – one to Rasheed Bailey and the second to Brendan O’Leary-Orange. He finished the regular season with nine TDs and zero picks.

“I don’t really think about it too much, to be honest with you,” said Brown when asked about his stats. “I’ll reflect once the season is over. When I come in my teammates expect me to compete and execute at a high level. I want to honour them and honour my family when I go out there and play. If the numbers reflect that, cool. And if they don’t, I’m just going to compete my ass off.”


Rasheed Bailey has already carved out a place as arguably the most physical receiver in the CFL, and a guy who does all the dirty work that can often go unnoticed like blocking downfield or at the line of scrimmage.

Over the last two games the veteran receiver has stepped out from the shadows to make some magic with two touchdowns in the win over Edmonton last week and a third against the Stamps.

And the third one is easily a Top 10 Plays of the Year candidate, as he latched on to a tipped pass from Dru Brown before busting outside and breaking one tackle after another, then keeping his balance as he dove into the end zone to cap a 68-yard score.

“It’s just that time,” said Bailey. “I said it last week – it’s a testament to my hard work. All year – dirty work, dirty work, dirty work – still making plays. That play represents the whole year and it will probably go down as one of the greatest touchdowns of my career.

“Thank you, God. I’ve been serving, I’ve been doing so much, and when it comes back to you, you score a touchdown and you see all the guys surrounding you, that’s real impact, that’s real love, that’s real leadership. That’s what that touchdown means to me.”


The Blue Bombers led 19-13 early in the fourth quarter when Brown found O’Leary-Orange for a picturesque 31-yard TD that pushed the lead to 26-13.


Oliveira’s accomplishment is historic. Period. Full stop.

GAME BALL: Dru Brown, QB

His numbers are solid. But the word used all week by O’Shea to describe Brown was ‘poise’ and he showed every bit of that Friday in Calgary.

NEXT: The Blue Bombers now take a few days before returning to practice later next week, then settling in to watch the Stamps and Lions in the West Semi-Final.

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.