BC Lions get elusive road win over Winnipeg Blue Bombers

WINNIPEG — The BC Lions have done something no West Division team had been able to in the last five years.

Vernon Adams Jr. and the Leos went into IG Field and beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 30-6 on Thursday night. It was the first time the Blue and Gold lost to a West Division club at home since the Saskatchewan Roughriders did it in 2018.

BC’s pivot connected on touchdowns with wide receivers Alexander Hollins and Justin McInnis, and backup signal-caller Dominique Davis added a rushing major of his own in the winning effort.

Defensive lineman Mathieu Betts got to quarterback Zach Collaros three times in a seven-sack defensive effort for the Orange and Black.

The Lions hadn’t started 3-0 in two straight years since 1994.

Collaros – starting his 100th game in the CFL – finished with no touchdowns and one interception and did not find the end zone for the first time this season as the Bombers dropped to 2-1.

Box Score: Lions, Bombers by the numbers

Winnipeg’s first drive began with a nine-yard run by Oliveira. After a gain of inches on second down, Collaros moved the chains on third down before his running back added another 10 yards. A roughing the passer penalty two plays later gave the Bombers one more first down but the drive stalled in Lions territory and Sergio Castillo came in to make it 3-0 in favour of the home team.

The Lions’ also scored on their first drive. After a three-yard run by running back Taquan Mizzell, Adams Jr. found wide receiver Jevon Cottoy to get a new set of downs for BC. The veteran quarterback then went deep to Hollins and drew a pass-interference penalty that moved the ball all the way to Winnipeg’s 20-yard line. Two plays later, BC drew another penalty – this time inside the end zone – to get a first-and-goal from the one-yard line before Davis punched it in to make it 7-3 for the visitors.

Collaros had things going in the drive with connections to wide receivers Nic Demski and Dalton Schoen that moved the ball into Lions’ territory. That was until a Betts sack on second down forced the Bombers to punt the ball for the first time in the game.

After the visitors also had their first punt, Collaros once again marched his team into plus territory. An unnecessary roughness penalty called after a late hit from BC’s defence on Schoen gave the Blue and Gold good field position, but a blitz on first down by defensive back Emmanuel Rugamba got to the pivot and set the offence back five yards before an incompletion on second down forced yet another punt by the home team.

The return set up the Leos on their own 42-yard line and allowed them to put together another scoring drive. First it was Hollins catching one over the middle to move into Bombers’ territory before adding another one for nine yards. Mizzell tried running over the middle on second down but was stuffed by the blue defensive line, forcing third down. Davis came back in to handle short-yardage duties once more and moved the chains after an offside penalty by the defence. The Bombers then forced a third-and-three, leading coach Rick Campbell to send in veteran kicker Sean Whyte to extend the lead with a kick off the left upright, 10-3.

Another Winnipeg punt gave the Orange and Black a chance to extend the lead, but the Bombers would not let them accomplish the mission. After a couple of big gains with the Adams Jr.-Lucky Whitehead connection, linebacker Malik Clements sacked BC’s pivot with a blitz on second down to put an end to the possession.

The home team started their next drive from the one-yard line and put together one of their best possessions of the evening. Collaros found receiver Carlton Agudosi in stride down the right sideline for a 47-yard gain to get things going, then an Oliveira run moved the ball further and back-to-back catches by receiver Drew Wolitarsky moved the chains once more. Demski then displayed his versatility with a run through the middle that made it second-and-inches before a Dru Brown quarterback sneak made it first-and-goal. Lions’ defensive back Garry Peters batted a pass in the end zone on first down and defensive lineman Sione Teuhema netted the third sack of the game for the visitors on second down to force Winnipeg to send in Castillo for his second field goal of the game, 10-6.

With under a minute to go, Adams Jr. connected with Whitehead for the fifth time in the game to flip the field. Hollins then added another long catch of his own as BC quickly moved into Blue and Gold territory. After a scramble by Adams Jr., the Lions had second-and-three from the 18-yard line with 16 seconds to go. Wide receiver Justin McInnis then made an acrobatic catch down the left sideline and made it first-and-goal from the two-yard line. A sidearm throw from the Leos’ signal-caller to Hollins in the end zone extended the visitors lead to 17-6 going into halftime.

The second half began much like the first one ended, with Adams Jr. connecting with McInnis to move the chains across midfield. Mizzell then evaded a couple tackles for another big gain and No. 18 made another first-down reception. BC’s pivot escaped a sack on first down and scrambled for 24 yards to Winnipeg’s 17-yard line, but defensive lineman Celestin Haba pushed the pocket and sacked Adams Jr. to force a second-and-18. An incompletion then sent Whyte in for his second kick of the evening, as the veteran split the uprights to go up 20-6.

The next possession had BC’s defence winning the battle at the line of scrimmage against Winnipeg’s offence once more, with Betts tallying his second sack of the game on second down to force another punt by the Blue Bombers.

Adams Jr. made another deep connection with Hollins for 23 yards to get the next drive going, but pressure by the Bombers’ defensive line on the next two plays forced third down and a punt that returned the ball to Collaros and his offence. Former Blue Bomber defensive back Marcus Sayles made a hard tackle on first down and a holding penalty made it second-and-20. That was a prime pass-rushing opportunity for the Lions who took advantage of it with defensive lineman David Menard getting to Collaros for the fifth sack of the night for the visitors.

After forcing the Bombers to punt from deep into their own territory, the Lions took over already in plus territory after the return and orchestrated yet another scoring drive. Adams Jr. converted a third down to move the ball a little closer but as the drive stalled it was Whyte coming in once again to extend the lead to 23-6.

The teams traded punts as the fourth quarter began until linebacker Ben Hladik intercepted a tipped ball on a pass by Collaros and returned it all the way to Winnipeg’s 10-yard line. Adams Jr. immediately found McInnis in the end zone to extend the lead to 30-6.

Star returner Janarion Grant gave a bit of momentum to the home team with a big return to BC’s 51-yard line on the next possession, but another sack on Collaros kept the visitors dominant evening going. Winnipeg’s signal-caller found a way to convert third-and-nine, but was unable to move the chains once more on a subsequent third-and-10 that ended on yet another sack.

This game repeated a similar meeting in 2022 when BC at 3-0 hosted Winnipeg at 4-0 on July 9 of last year, with the Bombers winning 43-22 over the Lions.

The Bombers travel to Montreal to face the Alouettes on Saturday, July 1, while the Lions visit the Argonauts in Toronto on Monday, July 3.

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