Game Recap | BC 26 WPG 24

Game Recap | BC 26 WPG 24
Game Recap | BC 26 WPG 24

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have found themselves in a dark, damp, hellish place they haven’t visited in over a decade – an 0-3 hole and staring up at the rest of the Canadian Football League’s West Division.

An injury-ravaged Blue Bombers squad – which now looks to have sent even more bodies to the infirmary – traded punches with the B.C. Lions on a perfect Friday night in front of 31,210 at Princess Auto Stadium, but still suffered another loss in a 26-24 defeat.

The 0-3 start is the first since 2010 when the club opened 0-4 and marks the first three-game losing streak in these parts since September 19-October 5, 2019 – just before Zach Collaros was acquired before the trade deadline.

And, to make matters worse, the Blue Bombers played chunks of the second half without two starting receivers in Dalton Schoen and Keric Wheatfall, both of whom suffered lower-body injuries.

“It’s just frustrating, man,” said Chris Streveler, who scored all three touchdowns for the Blue Bombers on QB sneaks. “We’ve just got to find a way to get it done and finish. We’re all looking back at plays we wish we could have back… it’s just tough. And now to see guys go down with injuries, it’s just hard. We’ve been bitten by the injury bug pretty bad. I’m just hoping for the best for those guys. We’ve just got to find a way to win those games.”

The Lions improve to 2-1, meanwhile, and the impenetrable fortress that has been home field has now seen the Blue Bombers lose both dates in south Winnipeg to open the 2024 campaign. More on the Blue Bombers third loss to start the season from our perch in the press box…

ADAMS, JR. AND HOLLINS WREAK HAVOC:

The Lions have a roster stacked with offensive firepower, but the Blue Bombers were hurt by two players in particular as QB Vernon Adams, Jr completed 21 of 33 passes for 398 yards and two TDs – both to Alexander Hollins, who finished the night with seven catches for 215 yards including a 71-yard bomb to open the scoring on B.C.’s first possession. Hollins finished the night with six of his seven catches counting as second-down conversions

Justin McInnis was also busy, pulling in six passes for 95 yards and a score as B.C. cranked out 500 yards of net offence.

“We just need to win, honestly,” said defensive back Redha Kramdi. “I mean, 0-3 just doesn’t look like us. We’ve all got to look ourselves in the mirror. We left plays out there and that first drive… that double move by Hollins (on the TD), I should’ve known it, should’ve seen it coming. Everyone has just got to work to get one play better, and that would be my one play.”

ANOTHER POSITION GROUP CRUSHED BY INJURIES:

Last week the Blue Bombers lost defensive linemen Celestin Haba and Miles Fox to injuries and Friday it was Schoen and Wheatfall going down.

Winnipeg’s six-game injured list also features end TyJuan Garbutt and tackle Cam Lawson, while Schoen and Wheatfall potentially joining Kenny Lawler on the hurts list. Deatrick Nichols also didn’t play Friday, although he was on the one-game injured list.

Even with that, the Blue Bombers got valiant work from Zach Collaros (23-0f-30 for 247 yards), Drew Wolitarsky (seven catches for 72 yards) and Nic Demski (eight for 94), although the veteran slotback was lamenting a deep pass that was inches off his out-stretched hands with 2:10 left in the game.

“It sucks,” said Demski. “It’s not good, that’s for sure. I feel like we should’ve won that one. I know there are mistakes in all four quarters to lead up to the loss, but I feel a little bit heavy, weight-bearing on me – I don’t think I’ve ever dropped a corner being that wide open before, so it sucks.

“I feel like crap. I know it’s a team and so it’s a team loss. I know in all three phases we still have things to work on but as a leader on this team and the playmaker I am I definitely feel that weight on my shoulders right now.

“I don’t think I fully extended. I misjudged it. I was just so open and sometimes even when you’re that open you can misjudge the ball. Obviously, you’ve got to look at film and watch it, but I’m just going to put it on me. Anytime I’m open like that and the ball’s in the air I’ve got to go get it.”

“Frustrating, obviously,” added Collaros. “Watch the tape, repair some mistakes, come into work tomorrow and try to do better. Not good. I’m proud of the guys for stepping up. We had a lot of guys go down and for the receiving group to navigate the way they did in the third and fourth was impressive by them.”

RISK VS REWARD?:

The Blue Bombers were first and goal at the Lions six-yard line on the final play of the first half and trailing 13-7 when the decision was made to take a shot at the end zone rather than settle for a field goal.

A Collaros pass attempt to Schoen sailed out of bounds with one second left, but after review by the CFL Command Centre, it was ruled the clock had been late to start after the snap and the half was then ruled over.

“We had five seconds left and with the way we practice we know we’ve got all sorts of plays and all sorts of throws that take three seconds, four seconds, five seconds, six seconds, seven seconds,” said head coach Mike O’Shea. “So, we have that. We’ve been doing that for years, timing specific plays out and this one didn’t work out that way.

“If we had five seconds again, if we had four seconds again from that place… it’s interesting. We can complete that ball and get down in three seconds – a six-yard, seven-yard ball in three seconds. This time, time ran out. I’m sure it won’t be pleasing when I say this, but with five seconds at the end, we’ve practised that so many times, we know we can do that.”

“We practice those situations and typically we get it off in time,” added Collaros.  For me, I’ve just got to do a better job of throwing it in the dirt across the line of scrimmage rather than throw the ball out of bounds because (the clock) stops when it hits and object.”

OLIVERIA RETURNS:

Johnny Augustine started in the Blue Bombers backfield and rushed four times for 15 yards, but the return of Brady Oliveira was one of the silver linings on the night for the home side. The CFL’s rushing champ, who missed last week’s game, finished with nine carries for 64 yards including a 28-yarder which was vintage O Train.

“I felt really good tonight and as I got into a rhythm I started to feel better,” Oliveira said. “If you look at my previous games – last year, the year before – as I get going, I feel better. That was a positive getting out there, getting my feet wet, getting my eyes right and I started to play physical football, that felt good.”

KEY MOMENT

The Blue Bombers were trailing 26-24 with 1:50 left and had forced an incompletion on B.C.’s first play from their own 20-yard line when Adams, Jr. connected with Hollis for a 63-yard strike that was an absolute killer the Lions then killed the clock out by running six more plays, including three knees by Adams. Jr.

KEY STAT: 500

The Lions cranked out 500 yards of net offence, averaging 8.8-yards per play while converting an astonishing 71 percent (16 of 24) second-down conversions

NEXT: Blue Bombers head out on the road next week to Calgary for a showdown with the Stampeders on Saturday, June 29th with kickoff with a 6 p.m. CDT kickoff.

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