WINNIPEG — Win the turnover battle, win the football game.
The Calgary Stampeders fulfilled that age-old pigskin prophecy on Friday Night Football, as they pulled away in the second half for a 29-10 victory over the hometown Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field.
Bo Levi Mitchell completed 22 of 34 passes for 334 yards in the win for Calgary (2-0-1), while Matt Nichols and his 27-for-40, 267-yard performance saw Winnipeg (1-1) finish on the losing end of the battle of Eastern Washington alumni.
Both pivots ended the night with one touchdown and a pair of interceptions to their name — most notably a critical fourth-quarter pick-six thrown by Nichols.
The Bombers appeared poised to strike first midway through the first quarter, when Matt Nichols led his offence on an 8-play drive down to the Calgary 12-yard line. The ninth play of the drive, however, turned into a clean end-zone interception for Stampeders safety Josh Bell.
The visitors then committed a turnover of their own — a Bo Levi Mitchell toss intercepted by Winnipeg linebacker Mo Leggett at midfield — on the ensuing drive, but it was called back on an illegal-contact penalty against Leggett.
Five plays later, kicker Rene Paredes spotted Calgary a 3-0 lead with a 17-yard field goal.
Paredes had an opportunity to double the Stampeder lead on the first play of the second quarter, but his 44-yard attempt drifted wide right. Bomber return man Ryan Lankford dashed 56 yards on the return, only to fumble the football. Calgary holder Andrew Buckley then fell on it, to regain possession for the Stamps and cap a wild play.
Two plays later, the visitors were knocking on the door at the Winnipeg 2, but the Bomber defence had other ideas: defensive coordinator Richie Hall’s unit stopped all three Calgary attempts, only to have a Roc Carmichael offside penalty give the Stamps three fresh tries. On the following 3rd-and-goal, sixth time proved to be the charm for the Stamps, as receiver Kamar Jorden wheeled into the end zone on an end around. The two-point convert was intercepted by TJ Heath, and Calgary led 9-0.
Heath would again have Mitchell’s number midway through the second quarter, when he picked off an errant pass and set up the Winnipeg offence on the Stamps 44.
Four plays later, Nichols found receiver Julian Feoli-Gudino for a 21-yard touchdown. Bombers kicker Justin Medlock nailed the convert, and the hosts had cut the Calgary lead to 9-7.
A 24-yard chip shot for Medlock late in the first half then sent Winnipeg to the locker room up 10-9.
Paredes responded with a 20-yard chip of his own five minutes into the second half to restore the two-point Stamps lead.
Momentum swung firmly back to Calgary a few series later, when Stamps linebacker Maleki Harris read Nichols and reacted for a 27-yard pick-six. The subsequent Paredes convert pushed the visitors’ lead to nine.
With the Stamps defence stifling Nichols and the Bombers, Calgary essentially sealed the victory on the first play of the fourth quarter, when Mitchell found Kamar Jorden on a 22-yard touchdown connection. Paredes was money on the convert to push Calgary’s lead to 26-10.
The fourth quarter passed relatively quietly as Winnipeg couldn’t kickstart anything against the Stampeder defence.
With the win, Bo Levi Mitchell improves to 6-0 at Investors Group Field against the Bombers, while Matt Nichols remains winless against the Stampeders.
Calgary linebacker Alex Singleton recorded a game-high nine tackles, while rookie Wynton McManis took Nichols to the turf twice for his first career sacks. Standout performers for the Winnipeg defence included TJ Heath, who paced the Bombers with six tackles and two interceptions, and Tristan Okpalaugo, who recorded four tackles and a sack.
Week 4 will see the still-undefeated Stamps head further east to Montreal for a date with the Alouettes (1-2) on Friday Night Football (Jul. 14, 7:00 p.m. ET), while the Bombers will be back in action at Investors Group Field against the Toronto Argonauts (1-1) on Thursday Night Football (Jul. 13, 8:30 p.m. ET).