July 29, 2016

Game Recap – WPG 30, EDM 23

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols (15) looks for the pass against the the Edmonton Eskimos during first half CFL action in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday July 28, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.

EDMONTON – Mother Nature brought the lightning, but Matt Nichols provided the spark.

The veteran quarterback jolted a comatose Winnipeg Blue Bombers offence to life in Thursday’s 30-23 win over the Edmonton Eskimos in the Alberta capital, a storm-delayed victory that dissipated – at least temporarily – the big, black cloud hovering over the franchise.

Making his first start of 2016 for the embattled Drew Willy, Nichols had the Bombers offence up off the gurney and sprinting up and down the turf at The Brick Field from the very first possession; an eight-play 85-yard drive that was capped by a one-yard Andrew Harris touchdown run – his first score as a Bomber.

By night’s end, the former Eskimo pivot had completed 26 of 33 passes for 304 yards and one score – a dandy 20-yard strike to Darvin Adams – as the Bombers amassed 441 yards net offence while controlling the ball for over 36 minutes as the club improved to 2-4 with its first win in Edmonton since 2006.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols (15) makes the throw against the Edmonton Eskimos during first half CFL action in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday July 28, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.
“It feels great, not only for myself, but for this team,” said Nichols. “Starting the season 1-4 is never easy and it takes a certain group of guys to come out and not let it affect them.

“It’s one of those games where we had a lot of injuries (Weston Dressler, Darvin Adams and Quincy McDuffie did not finish) and we lost a couple more tonight, but the guys just stepped right in. They had never played certain positions before and were getting open for me.”

“Overall team effort.”

Matt Nichols

Indeed, it was. For as much as the offensive turnaround will provide much of the post-game chatter, the defence had their fingerprints all over this victory. The secondary was ravaged by injury ‑ missing Chris Randle, Johnny Adams, Macho Harris and Julian Posey – but was superb in limiting Mike Reilly’s effectiveness. Terrence Frederick, making his CFL debut at cornerback, was spectacular in picking off Mike Reilly with less than four minutes remaining and the Eskimos marching.

“It’s probably been a year and some months since I’ve played in an actual game,” said Frederick, not long after members of the defence chanted his name to come out to do interviews. “It felt good to get back out there with my teammates and have a good time, enjoy the moment with your teammates and have some success out there on the field.

“I had some nerves on the first series, but after that it’s just playing football once we get going.”

The Eskimos finished with 366 yards offence, down from the 501 they had in Winnipeg a couple of weeks ago, but with the Bomber attack keeping them off the field for long stretches they were able to bring pressure and finish tackles.

The Bombers were productive on first down and managed to crank out yards along the ground. Andrew Harris, who had 104 yards at the intermission, finished with 127. Both Adams (10 catches for 121 yards) and Dressler (six for 111) went over the century mark before leaving the game.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers Andrew Harris (33) is tackled by Edmonton Eskimos Cauchy Muamba (8) and Deon Lacey (40) during first half CFL action in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday July 28, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.

In other words, it was a complete 180 from what we’ve seen through most of the first part of the season.

“My goal tonight was to take care of the football and bring passion to the field. I kept telling these guys that I expect the same out of them and I think everyone really answered the bell and played an extremely hard football game.”

That passion was never more evident than on the TD strike to Adams as Nichols turned to the Eskimos bench – this is a team that traded him last September for just a seventh-round draft pick – and screamed.

“You get fired up in the game… maybe there’s a little chip on your shoulder any time a team lets you go you want to prove to them they were wrong,” said Nichols. “That’s not something I do all the time, but… from the time I was a young kid trying to get to college, trying to get to the professional level I always had to prove people wrong and I feel like it’s not any different for me now.”



26-33, 304: Matt Nichols’ passing line. Making his first start since last fall, the former Eskimo was steady from start to finish.


53: Rushing yards by Andrew Harris in the first quarter.

50: Rushing yards by Andrew Harris in the last TWO games.

43: Receiving yards by Adarius Bowman, ending his streak of consecutive 100-yard games at four.

8: Eskimo QB Mike Reilly eclipsed the 300-yard passing mark for the eighth consecutive time, pulling him to within one of the CFL record held by Sam Etcheverry and Kent Austin.


“I’m pretty proud of the guys. It was an all around very good effort. We’ve got to be humble about this. Sure, it feels really good to come in here and win, but we’ve got to correct the little things.” – Mike O’Shea.

FYI: The game was delayed for 30 minutes with 1:30 left in the first quarter due to lightning. It marked the second time this season the Bombers have had a game delayed, as their home opener was also stopped because of lightning… The CFL announced earlier on Thursday that Bomber DE Jamaal Westerman was fined for an ‘unnecessary hit to a vulnerable player’ (Bo Levi Mitchell) in last week’s loss to Calgary. It was the fifth time Westerman has been fined since last season.