Blue Bombers stymie Edmonton Elks to get back to winning ways

WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Blue Bombers stared their one-game-old demon in the eyes on Thursday night and promptly exorcised it.

In their 28-14 win over the visiting Edmonton Elks, the Bombers held their lead and more than held their own after an uncharacteristic fourth-quarter collapse against the Ottawa REDBLACKS just five days earlier at TD Place.

Zach Collaros made 20-24 passes for 308 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while Nic Demski put up 115 yards and a touchdown. Kenny Lawler had seven catches for 93 yards in his first game of the season.

Taylor Cornelius was 17-29 for 220 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Dillon Mitchell scored his first touchdown of the year and matched Demski’s 115 receiving yards.

The Bombers used a strong second half to pull away from an Edmonton team that had hung with them through 30 minutes. The Bombers took control of a game that was a 6-6 halftime tie, out-scoring their visitors 22-6. With the win, the Bombers improve to 5-2, while the Elks continue to look for their first win of the season at 0-7.

The Elks got some early momentum after stopping the Bombers on a third-and-one on their first drive to force a turnover on downs and set their offence up on their own 39-yard line. That resulted in a two-and-out, but the Elks’ defence quickly provided another opportunity. With Collaros looking to receiver Kenny Lawler, defensive back Marcus Lewis stepped in front of the pass and pulled in the interception, setting the Elks up at Winnipeg’s 41-yard line.

Cornelius and the Elks got as far as the eight-yard line, only to see the pivot’s pass tipped and scooped up by Bombers’ defensive tackle Cameron Lawson — who got nabbed his first-career interception — marking the game’s third turnover in its first seven minutes of play.

The Bombers used a 12-play, 99-yard drive to get on the scoreboard to try to take control of the game. The Collaros-led drive was a flex of all of the muscle that’s at his disposal. Lawler made a spectacular 28-yard grab at the sideline and Nic DemskiDalton SchoenRasheed BaileyDrew Wolitarsky and running backs Greg McCrae and Brady Oliveira were all involved in getting the ball to the Elks’ tw0-yard line. Dakota Prukop plowed into the end zone for the touchdown at 13:54. Sergio Castillo‘s missed covert left the score at 6-0 for the Bombers.

The Elks got on the board at 7:47 of the second quarter thanks to a 28-yard field goal from Dean Faithfull. It wasn’t long after that the Elks’ defence provided another opportunity in the game. The unit forced its second short-yardage turnover of the night, with Prukop losing the ball as he went toward the heap of bodies in front of him. Edmonton d-lineman Kony Ealy recovered and got the Elks the ball at Winnipeg’s 50-yard line.

While that drive didn’t materialize in points, the Elks were able to later knot the game up at 6-6 with a 30-yard Faithfull field goal at 13:27 of the second quarter. The Bombers responded with a quick six-play drive that put Castillo in position for a 45-yard field goal attempt that went wide, leaving the game tied at halftime.

After an offensively quiet first half, both teams started to come alive in the third quarter.

After a 46-yard field goal from Castillo at 4:34 and a 54-yard punt single from Edmonton’s Jake Julien made it a 9-7 game, both teams got their first touchdowns of the game. First, it was Collaros finding a wide open Demski for a 70-yard TD connection. Castillo’s extra point made it 16-7, but the Elks had an answer cooking and delivered with a much-needed big play of their own. Cornelius looked downfield and found Mitchell for an 80-yard hookup that got the receiver his first touchdown of the season. Faitfhull’s convert went through at 8:57 and the Bombers were left holding a slim 16-14 lead.

The Bombers weren’t deterred by the Elks’ big play. The defence stepped up next and forced a safety on Cornelius, which allowed them to double their lead to 18-14 at 10:31. They closed out the third quarter with a 21-yard field goal from Castillo to go into the game’s final frame up a converted touchdown.

The Bombers’ offence took on a familiar, productively methodical look to open the fourth. Oliveira was routinely fed and willed the ball up the field, keying a nine-play, 81-yard drive that Collaros finished off with a fake handoff to his star tailback and dumped the ball six yards into the endzone to Bailey. Castillo’s convert let the Bombers double up the Elks, 28-14 at 8:14.

Willie Jefferson‘s third-down knockdown on Cornelius forced the Elks into another turnover and gave the Bombers the chance to put the game away. While Edmonton got the ball back once more, Cornelius was sacked twice, including once by Jefferson as the clock ticked away. On third-and-25, Demerio Houston picked off a desperate Cornelius, earning his fifth interception of the season.

The Elks head back to Commonwealth Stadium next week, where they’ll host the BC Lions on Sat., July 29. The Bombers head into a bye week and see action again on Thurs. Aug. 3 when they host the BC Lions at IG Field.

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