CFL: Andrew Harris leads way as Winnnipeg Blue Bombers down Toronto Argonauts

WINNIPEG – After a disappointing loss last week against the Calgary Stampeders, Winnipeg Blue Bombers QB Matt Nichols said that his team owed it to the home fans to give them a win on Thursday night. Nichols was a man of his word, and the Blue Bombers battled their way to a 33-25 victory over the Argonauts in a game filled with spectacular special teams play.

Bombers fans barely had time to find their seats before­ the home team gave them a reason to get on their feet, as KR Ryan Lankford returned the opening kickoff 105 yards to open the game’s scoring before a snap of offence had been played.

Manitoba native Anthony Coombs made a highlight-reel play of his own on Toronto’s first possession, tipping a would-be interception out of the hands of Bombers DB T.J. Heath and into his own, pulling it down for a 39-yard gain. The Argos’ offence stalled, but K Lirim Hajrullahu successfully converted the field goal attempt.

Not content to watch their opponents steal all the special teams glory, the Argonauts pounced on their next opportunity. RB/KR Martese Jackson showed off his fancy footwork to the Blue Bombers bench, tip-toeing along the sideline before exploding upfield on his way to a 78-yard punt return touchdown.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Ryan Lankford (84) returns the Toronto Argonauts’ opening kick 104 yards for the touchdown during the first half of CFL action in Winnipeg Thursday, July 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

After another defensive stop, the Argonauts’ offence appeared to be destined for more points, but an errant throw from QB Ricky Ray was poached by Bombers’ DB Maurice Leggett for the game’s first turnover.

Bombers K Justin Medlock made sure the Argonauts paid for that error, kicking home a 45-yard field goal and tying the game at 10.

After Hajrullahu edged the Argos back into the lead with a field goal, Matt Nichols got the Bombers offence moving again, finding SB Weston Dressler for a big gain down the left sideline. After moving into striking distance, RB Andrew Harris finished the job, plunging into the end zone to help his team re-take the lead.

Martese Jackson clearly wasn’t pleased with just one return touchdown on the night, as he sliced through the Bombers coverage team on the ensuing kickoff, sprinting 105 yards and finding the end zone again. Unfortunately for the Argos, a blocking foul nullified the score, and after two red zone drops they’d settle for another field goal.

Amazingly, Jackson wasn’t even done with the first half. After another Argos defensive stop, Jackson used a well-timed spin move and his rapid acceleration to take the Bombers punt back 67 yards to begin another Argos drive in enemy territory. Jackson appeared to have a laneway to the end zone once again, but he ran out of steam after a half full of long kick returns for the CFL rookie.

The half ended on a flurry of field goals, including a 55-yarder from Medlock. The two kickers combined for seven field goals in a half dominated by stellar special teams play.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ quarterback Matt Nichols (15) throws against the Toronto Argonauts during the first half of CFL action in Winnipeg Thursday, July 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

The Argonauts opened the half with a long drive, chewing up almost seven minutes of game clock. But once again, Toronto’s offence was stymied in Winnipeg territory, and Hajrullahu kicked home his sixth field goal of the night.

Nichols and the Bombers’ offence responded with a long drive of their own, picking their way through the Argos defence through the air. Once in the red zone, Winnipeg went back to Harris, who scored his second touchdown of the night to help the Bombers re-take the lead.

Medlock added a couple field goals in a defensively sound fourth quarter, giving the Bombers an eight point lead at the three minute warning.

With Toronto driving in the final minute of play, it was former Argonaut TJ Heath who iced it for the Bombers, recording his second interception of the game and sealing the Bombers victory.

After four straight games to start the season the Argonauts will get a well-deserved bye in week five, before heading to Saskatchewan for a match-up with the Roughriders in week six. The Blue Bombers will head to the West coast, where they’ll take on the B.C Lions in week five action.

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