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October 21, 2017

Game Recap | WPG 28, TOR 29

Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols hands off to Andrew Harris during warm-up CFL action in Toronto on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (CFL PHOTO - Dave Chidley)

TORONTO – The Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ outside shot at first place in the Canadian Football League’s West Division officially ended on play #152 Saturday night.

Justin Medlock’s 39-yard field goal attempt with no time remaining sailed wide right, and in the process, the Bombers fell to 11-5 and surrendered any shot at catching the Calgary Stampeders.

And yet, it wasn’t the Medlock miss the Bombers were fixating on in the visitors’ locker room at BMO Field afterwards; it was numerous other mistakes made and the attention to detail lacking in some of the other 151 snaps that had many of them angry enough to spit rust.

On cue, we give you quarterback Matt Nichols:

“There’s obviously a lot of things you do wrong when you lose a football game,” began Nichols. “I don’t know what some of the major ones are right now, but we’d better figure it out.

“It’s the littlest things that change a game early in the game or late in the game. I’m pretty frustrated with our offence. Our last play of the game before the field goal (a one-yard loss on a run by Andrew Harris)… mis-aligned… pretty simple things that we’ve done every week for the last couple of years with those guys. We messed it up and a play that we probably could have gotten five or six more yards out of and probably made the difference for the kick going in.

“It’s tiny details that lose games against good teams at this time of year. Can’t do it.”

The Bombers held an 11-point lead in the third quarter (25-14) and were up by eight in the fourth quarter (28-20) before the Argos took a 29-28 lead with 2:01 left in the game.

Nichols and the offence then marched from their own 22-yard line into Argos territory – the QB converting three second-down situations – to set up Medlock for the victory.

But the man who has been so automatic for the club in those circumstances yanked his attempt.

“I didn’t come through for the team,” said a despondent Medlock. “It’s definitely shocking. I felt good going into it and… yeah, I’m just shocked. It was my fault.

“I hit it, looked up, it was just wide… missed. I don’t know. I’ll have to look at the film. I’m just in a little dry rut right now. I need to make some kicks and just go one-for-one and keep it going. I thought I was going to make that last one.”

The loss drops the Bombers to 11-5 and extinguishes their outside shot at first place in the West after the Stampeders fell to the Saskatchewan Roughriders Friday night to drop to 13-2-1. They have a five-point edge on the Bombers with two games left.

Two numbers really jump out as critical in the defeat for the Bombers. First, the Argos finished with 556 yards net offence on an afternoon where their time of possession was an astounding 37 minutes and 55 seconds – more than 15 minutes more than the Bombers.

“They play good football,” said Weston Dressler, who was sensational with eight catches for 129 yards and a touchdown. “They play hard and physical and I felt like their offence was on the field a lot and it kept us out of a rhythm offensively. We had a quick two-and-out in the third quarter after they had been on the field for a while that hurt us, hurt our defence because they had to go right back out on the field.

“We’ll take a look at the film. There were mistakes made all through the game. We feel right now that if we play a little better in the first quarter, maybe it doesn’t come down to that.

“Everyone’s playing good football this time of year. You get things figured out… it’s one play here and there and you don’t know when it’s going to be, that can decide a game. So you’ve got to give everything you’ve got every single play of the game.”


THE BIG STAT

556: Net offensive yards for the Argos on a day when they held the ball for a whopping 37:55 to the Bombers 22:05.

TRACKING HARRIS 1K-1K

Bombers running back Andrew Harris is attempting to become the first player in CFL history to finish a season with 1,000 yards rushing and receiving. He finished the day with just 32 along the ground and only four through the air. His season totals are now 903 yards rushing and 820 receiving. He now needs to average 48.5 yards rushing and 90.0 receiving in the final two games to make history.

MILESTONE WATCH

Harris finished with two receptions on the afternoon and has his sights on the CFL record for a running back of 102, set by Saskatchewan’s Craig Ellis in 1985. Harris is now at 96 catches, a new career high and a Bombers record for receptions by a running back.

OUCH REPORT

Bombers left guard Travis Bond was injured on the first drive and was replaced by Patrick Neufeld. He did not return to the game with what the club called an ‘upper body injury.’… The Bombers got a scare late in the second quarter when CB Chris Randle left the game momentarily with what looked like a leg injury, but he returned to the game… Ditto for DE Tristan Okpalaugo on his interception return to the Argos one, who looked to injure his shoulder while stretching to try and break the plane of the goal line. He also returned to the game.

NUMBERS GAME

60,000: Ray reached the 60K mark in career passing with a nine-yard toss to Jimmy Ralph in the fourth quarter. He joins Anthony Calvillo (79,816), Damon Allen (72,381) and Henry Burris (63,227). Ray also eclipsed the 5,000-passing mark this season and for the fourth time in his career and first time since 2008.

4-41: The receiving totals for newcomer Chris Givens in his CFL debut, including 21 YAC yards. Givens also added 110 yards on five kickoff returns.

2-4: Justin Medlock’s field goal makes and attempts. He missed from 40 and 39 yards.

7-13: Medlock’s totals in the last four games, dropping his percentage this year to 76.7.

98: Tristan Okpalaugo’s interception return of a Ray pass in the third quarter covered 98 yards to the Argo one-yard line, setting up a TD plunge by Dan LeFevour.

THE COACH SAYS

“We didn’t play a clean enough game in the second half. We took a few penalties, we didn’t get off the field, we didn’t stay on the field. It should have been a much cleaner last 30 minutes than it was.

“There’s not a player in there that thinks they played an OK game. They all want plays back.” – Mike O’Shea.