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August 18, 2017

Game Recap | EDM 26, WPG 33

Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans celebrate a TD with RB Andrew Harris during second quarter CFL action between the Bombers and the Edmonton Eskimos in Winnipeg on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. (CFL PHOTO - Jason Halstead) Edmonton Eskimos LKJLKJ during second quarter CFL action between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Eskimos in Winnipeg on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. (CFL PHOTO - Jason Halstead)

Just for the record, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, to a man, positively loathe the term ‘statement game.’

Fair enough.

Still, what the Bombers did Thursday night in front of a raucous crowd of 30,554 at Investors Group Field – namely, hand the Edmonton Eskimos their first loss of the season in a thrilling 33-26 victory – is exactly the kind of game that will send murmurs through the Canadian Football League neighbourhood.

So ‘statement game’? Maybe not.

But in improving to 6-2 on the season, the Bombers not only moved to within two points of the Eskimos, now 7-1, they showcased a whole pile of layers to their game that translate positively in the present, and potentially, when the games really matter in November.

Let’s be more to the point: the Bombers owned the line of scrimmage offensively, as the club cranked out 538 net yards, with 390 through the air and a whopping 170 along the ground while controlling the ball for 36 minutes and 12 seconds.

And the exclamation point to that? Running back Andrew Harris rushed 11 times for 105 yards and pulled in eight catches for another 120.

“We had a great gameplan, especially for such a short week,” said Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols, who finished 32 of 40 for 390 yards with one TD and zero interceptions. “Coaches did a good job of putting us in some good situations and guys were out there making plays. There were a few times where I threw the ball into the slot and there were catch-and-hits and guys were breaking tackles and ripping off 15 yards.

“And our offensive line played great. You turn on the film and (Edmonton’s) D-line harasses everyone and I was relatively clean back there tonight (three sacks against).”

And so if this shouldn’t be termed a statement game, what does the result say about this Bombers team?

“We’re just playing,” said Moe Leggett. “We still don’t feel like we have the respect and we’re just going to keep using that, using that as fuel to keep playing and keep getting these wins.

“This confirms what we already thought,” added Nichols. “We feel like we can play with anyone… and when we play our football we can beat anyone. We know it’s going to be a battle down the stretch here with all these Western opponents. Every game is going to be tough like that and I just think it’s great for us to be in a tough game like that and play well for four quarters and come away with a win.”

The injured-riddled Eskimos offered up a valiant effort, especially given their extensive hurts list and the bodies that fell Thursday night. They kept answering every time the Bombers looked to be pulling away, as Mike Reilly completed 20 of 33 for 356 yards, including TD strikes to Kenny Stafford and D’haquille Williams.

The Bombers got a spectacular TD from Darvin Adams – simply the latest in a series for the gifted wideout – while Nichols and Dan LeFevour both rushed for short scores.

The individual numbers that really jump out belong to Harris, though, who had 19 combined touches for 225 yards – an average of 11.8 yards. Asked when he last went over 100 yards receiving and rushing in a game, Harris shrugged.

“Probably not since junior… probably not even junior,” he said. “Some games just come to you naturally.

“Those guys (the O-line) were on fire tonight. They love running the football. Those guys get fired up when we call run plays back to back to back. I mean, as a running back when you call a play and you can hear them giggling and getting excited about that, you know it’s going to be a good play. Those guys are dogs up front. And I love ‘em.”


THE BIG STAT

36:12: On a night when there were some very juicy offensive totals, the Bombers’ time of possession – 36 minutes and 12 seconds – might have been the tastiest. One of the keys going into the game was to try and keep Mike Reilly and the Eskimo offence off the field for as long as possible and the discrepancy in possession, Edmonton held the ball for just 23:48, was dramatic.

MILESTONE WATCH

The Bombers Andrew Harris continues to shoot up the CFL’s all-time rushing list. He entered the game in 32nd spot on the all-time chart, but with his 120-yard effort moved past Henry Burris, Ron Stewart and Jim Germany into 29th spot.

OUCH UPDATE

WR Julian Feoli-Gudino was injured in the first quarter after pulling in a pass and did not return to the game with a lower-body injury. He was replaced by Matt Coates, who pulled in three passes for 32 yards, including 13 YAC yards, in relief… The Eskimos, already crushed by injuries, lost leading receiver Vidal Hazelton, middle linebacker Korey Jones and O-lineman Jean-Simon Roy.

NUMBERS GAME

14-2: The record in games in which Andrew Harris has rushed for over 100 yards, for both the Bombers and his previous club the B.C. Lions.

7-3: Winnipeg’s home record in its last 10 games at Investors Group Field, including 3-1 this year.

4: Consecutive games in which Matt Nichols has not thrown an interception.

7.1: Average gain per rush by the Bombers in Thursday’s win.

27,934: The Bombers average attendance through four home games in 2017.

THE COACH SAYS

“I thought (Harris) did very well. I thought the coaching staff did a great job with the game plan and Matt did a good job executing it. He had time to do that. It was pretty pleasing all around from the preparation standpoint through to the execution. And then the energy the offensive line brought to allow us to run the ball like that was pretty special. They really enjoy that and so does the bench. It gets people fired up, it really does.” – Mike O’Shea.