November 5, 2016

Game Recap: WPG 33, OTT 20

Ottawa Redblacks' Jonathan Rose misses a pass as Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Darvin Adams jumps with him during the first half of CFL action in Ottawa on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA –  They slapped on their steel-toed boots and hard hats, rolled up their sleeves and went to work.

And while the finished product might not have been something worthy of the cover of Architectural Digest, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 33-20 victory over the Ottawa REDBLACKS in the nation’s capital Friday night did serve up some important building blocks.

First and foremost, it means the Bombers, now 11-7, still have a shot at second place in the Canadian Football League’s West Division, although they’ll need a major favour from the Saskatchewan Roughriders – minus QB Darian Durant – as they face the B.C. Lions Saturday night in Vancouver.

A Rider win would mean the West Semi-final would have the Lions travelling to Winnipeg on November 13th; a Lions win or tie means the Bombers will be heading back to Vancouver for their first playoff appearance in five years.

“We’d like to have a first-round home game locked up, but at least we put ourselves in that position where anything can happen tomorrow,” said quarterback Matt Nichols. “We came in here and did what we wanted to do for the most part… there’s a few things we wanted to clean up, but we did some very good things on both sides of the ball and got a little bit of momentum back going into the playoffs.

“Everyone in there is excited,” added Nichols, nodding toward a euphoric Bombers locker room.

“There are a lot of guys who have been waiting four or five years to even get to the playoffs so we’ve got a lot of fired up guys ready to go.”

Matt Nichols

The victory, as sloppy as it was at times for both teams – especially given the nine starters out of the Ottawa lineup and the Bombers without two offensive linemen in Sukh Chungh and Travis Bond two linebackers in Khalil Bass and Ian Wild and receiver Clarence Denmark – also means that Winnipeg doesn’t enter the season on a two-game skid after falling at home last week to Ottawa.

The night did have its historic significance as well, as Justin Medlock connected on four field goals to set a new CFL record with 60 in a season. The previous mark was 59, set by Saskatchewan’s Dave Ridgway in 1990.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Bruce Johnson celebrates an interception against the Ottawa Redblacks during the first half of CFL action in Ottawa on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

“I kind of wanted to kick some field goals today,” said Medlock with a grin. “I had some easy ones (he hit from 20, 15, 10 and 12 yards) but overall in this whole season I hit some long ones. Credit to the snapper, holder and even (Matt) Nichols, too, who stepped up big in the middle of the season when we needed a holder.”

Medlock set the CFL record for field goals but also set a new club record for single-season scoring with 227 points – smashing Troy Westwood’s 1994 mark of 213. This in a year in which he also tied Bernie Ruoff’s club record for longest field goal (58 yards) and twice tied Trevor Kennerd’s mark with seven field goals in a game.

Asked to describe his season, Medlock was succinct: “Solid. I came here to do some great things. I knew I had a great snapper (Chad Rempel) and I knew I had two holders (Nichols and Weston Dressler) who could do the job.

“I think I’m kicking well right now, but I think I’ve had better years and better kicks… I shouldn’t have missed some at the beginning of the year,” he said. “That kind of drives me nuts.”
 The Bombers offence was the first to take the field Friday night and the first possession was a rather inauspicious start as Nichols’ second pass attempt of the game glanced off Rory Kohlert right to Nicholas Taylor, who returned the gaffe 57 yards for a TD just 72 seconds into the game.

Winnipeg’s offence amassed 437 yards, but was hit and miss in the red zone. Nichols connected with Darvin Adams for two scores, but the length of Medlock’s field goals also speaks of how close they were without the finish.

“It was kind of a weird game,” said Bomber receiver Weston Dressler. “You’re trying to get that energy and that playoff-type atmosphere going. It didn’t quite feel like we got to that point today. We were trying. But I think when playoffs are so close, right around the corner, it’s easy to think ahead and get excited for that.

“We’ve been waiting for it for two weeks now. We’re excited to get going for the second season.”

Weston Dressler

And so Friday night wasn’t just about the workmanship, it was just about getting out with a ‘W’ to carry into the playoffs. It’s win or go home time now.

“We won. We came here with that goal in mind and we did,” said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea. “The other parts of it, we’ll take care of later on. But as far as I’m concerned it’s a win and we needed a win.

“The guys did their part. Our mistakes are our mistakes and that’s what we need to fix. We’re not really paying attention to their roster and who they dressed or didn’t dress. It’s our execution, it’s our speed, it’s our physicality… that’s what we look at.”

The result also means one more thing for the franchise: it is just the second winning season since 2007 (along with 10-8 in 2011) and the first 11-win campaign since 2003.

“There’s no time to reflect, we’ve got to move on,” said O’Shea. “The record is kind of irrelevant now that we’re in the playoffs when you need to win every single game to accomplish what we set out to accomplish.”

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Terrence Frederick blocks a pass on Ottawa Redblacks' Jamill Smith during second half of CFL action in Ottawa on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick


+1: The Bombers finished +1 in the takeaway-giveaway department, forcing a fumble, interception and turnover on downs by the REDBLACKS while having an interception and fumble of their own.

The Bombers finished the regular season +29 in the turnover ratio, tying a club record, set in 1987.


The Bombers ended a four-game losing streak against the REDBLACKS that dated back to Ottawa’s first game, when they won in Winnipeg 36-28 back on July 3rd, 2014… DB Kevin Fogg looked to have injured his left leg in the game and did not finish. Expect an update when the club returns to practice next week.


Weston Dressler finished the game with five catches for 82 yards, giving him 1,003 receiving yards this season on 80 catches. It is the sixth time in his career he’s eclipsed the 1K mark, and impressive considering it game in just 14 games.

“It’s nice,” said Dressler. “Numbers are just numbers and they don’t mean a whole lot, but it shows what the team is doing. We’ve got a great unit and fun bunch of guys to work with and Matt’s been awesome all year and our offensive line, when they’re playing well, we’re playing well as an offence.”


While Dressler reached the 1K mark, Andrew Harris fell just short. He finished with 974 yards rushing after piling up 60 yards on 10 carries, but was pulled late in the game for Christophe Normand, who had eight carries for 58 yards.

Harris also pulled in three passes for 82 yards, giving him 67 receptions for 631 yards – the most catches by a Bomber tailback since Robert Mimbs had 71 in 1990.


2 – Quincy McDuffie returned a kickoff 95 yards for his second of the season, tying a CFL record, also shared by former Bombers Eric Blount (1998) and Will Ford (2013) and six other players.

299 – Matt Nichols completed 19 of 29 passes for 299 yards with two TDs and one pick. His 3,666 yards passing and 18 TDs are both career highs.


“If everyone makes up for a mistake like that, we’d never lose.” – O’Shea on McDuffie’s kickoff-return TD, which came just one minute and 24 seconds after fumbling a punt that led to an Ottawa TD.