Blue Bombers make turnovers count in win over Montreal Alouettes

WINNIPEG — For 30 minutes on Thursday, the Montreal Alouettes went toe-to-toe with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, putting together a statement game against one of the top teams in the CFL.

The Alouettes learned the hard lesson that it’s a 60-minute game, though, as the Bombers feasted on a trio of third quarter turnovers to run to a 47-17 win.

The Bombers shook off a three-turnover first half and answered by producing three of their own in the second half to blow open what was a close game that saw five first half lead changes. Winnipeg has now won five games in a row and snapped the Alouettes’ four-game winning streak.

Zach Collaros made 16-24 passes for 240 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions, while Brady Oliveira took 18 carries for 119 yards and a touchdown with a receiving touchdown.

Cody Fajardo made 14-25 passes for 137 yards, zero touchdowns and an interception. He fell to 0-9 in his CFL career when playing against Zach Collaros-led teams.

Marc Antoine-Dequoy had two interceptions, with one going back for a touchdown as part of a three-interception showing from the Als’ defence in the first half.

After a slight weather delay, the Alouettes snatched momentum away from the Bombers on their opening play from scrimmage. Collaros was flushed toward the sideline and had his pass attempt read perfectly by second-year linebacker Tyrell Richards. The first overall pick in the 2022 CFL Draft tacked on a 40-yard burst to the end zone to put the Als on the scoreboard just 34 seconds into play. David Cote’s convert went through at the 50-second mark, making it a 7-0 game in front of a silenced IG Field crowd.

The Bombers caught another unfortunate break when kicker Sergio Castillo missed on a 51-yard field goal attempt, keeping the team scoreless as the miss was returned out of the end zone. Collaros managed to shake off his uncharacteristic start, though and put something more familiar together. He led a five-play, 38-yard drive that was capped with a four-yard touchdown pass to Dalton Schoen, giving the receiver his sixth touchdown of the season.

Castillo’s convert went through and tied the game 7-7 at 14:27 of the opening quarter.

Cote’s 42-yard field goal pushed the score to 10-7 at 2:24 of the second quarter, but Collaros and the Bombers had another response ready for them.

It started with a sensational 45-yard catch from Nic Demski that got the Bombers to the Alouettes’ 25-yard line. Two plays later, Collaros found a wide open Schoen for his second touchdown catch of the night, on a 22-yard play that looked like two friend throwing the ball around on an empty field. Castillo’s convert gave the Bombers a 14-10 lead at 4:21.

The Bombers were poised to add to their lead, but Dequoy made his presence felt in the game with a pair of huge plays. First, he snagged a Collaros pass away from Bombers’ star receiver Kenny Lawler near the goal line. While the Als weren’t able to score on that drive, when Dequoy got back on the field, he read a second Collaros pass, intercepted it and took it 57 yards the other way for the Als’ second defensive touchdown of the night. Cote was back out on the field at 12:41 of the second quarter for the convert, making it a 17-14 Montreal advantage.

That Montreal lead was short lived. Despite his turnovers, Collaros was undeterred and continued to fire away, finding Lawler for a 40-yard gain, before handing off to Oliveira on successive plays, with the tailback rushing in from 26 yards out for the touchdown. Castillo missed the convert, leaving it a three-point game, 20-17 for Winnipeg with 64 seconds left in the half.

The Bombers’ defence was able to avenge an overturned interception call from the first half when Winston Rose picked off Fajardo, giving the offence the ball at Montreal’s 26-yard line. It took the Bombers six plays to find the end zone, but backup QB Dakota Prukop muscled his way in at 6:39. Castillo’s convert pushed the score to 27-17 at 6:59, giving the Bombers their most comfortable lead of the night.

The turnovers that helped the Als so much in the first half turned around to bite them in quick succession in the third quarter.

A high snap got away from Fajardo and Bombers’ defensive lineman Jackson Jeffcoat vacuumed it up for his second fumble recovery of the season. That got the Bombers the ball at Montreal’s 37-yard line and led to a 21-yard field goal from Castillo, that gave the Bombers a 13-point lead, at 30-17 at 11:13.

The Als’ offence lost the ball on their next drive to a turnover on downs, with Fajardo looking deep to Hergy Mayala, but the receiver unable to pull the ball in. The Bombers took control on the Montreal 48 and three plays later, Collaros found a sprinting Lawler at the back of the end zone, with the major coming with two seconds left in the frame. Castillo’s convert put the Bombers up 37-17 to start the fourth quarter.

Oliveira added a receiving touchdown at 4:10 of the fourth quarter, putting the cherry on the cake of his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season. Dru Brown finished out the night at quarterback for the Bombers and Davis Alexander finished out the night for the Alouettes after Castillo added a 28-yard field goal at 11:46 to make it a 30-point Bombers’ lead.

The game ended on a concerning note for Richards, after his pick six to start the game. The Alouettes’ linebacker was carted off the field midway through the fourth quarter with a leg injury.

Both teams go from here into their OK Tire Labour Day Weekend games. The Alouettes will host the BC Lions on Sat. Sept. 2, while the Bombers travel to Regina to face the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium on Sun. Sept. 3.

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