Jamarion Grant’s return TDs power Winnipeg past Calgary Stampeders

WINNIPEG — A pair of punt return touchdowns from Jamarion Grant lifted the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to a 26-24 win over the Calgary Stampeders on Thursday night.

In his first game in the CFL, Grant managed to amass over 300 return yards, with an 83-yard score highlighting his impressive night.

Quarterback Matt Nichols continued his efficient play, completing 18 of 22 passes for 177 yards.

Stamps pivot Nick Arbuckle went 22-for-35 for 260 yards while adding one touchdown through the air and a pair of scores on the ground.

Winnipeg’s defence managed to get two interceptions and two sacks on the night. Marcus Sayles led the way, finishing with eight tackles, a sack, and a pick.

Despite Stamps star quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell returning to practice ahead of the game, head coach Dave Dickenson opted to stick with the hot hand, naming Nick Arbuckle the starter for Thursday night’s clash. But he’d have a tough start to the game, opening without a completion on his first four attempts.

The Bombers’ offence would open the game with a 37-yard drive, highlighted by a 17-yard pickup on the ground by Harris. Nichols would scramble on second down and slide short of the first, leaving Justin Medlock with a 27-yarder. The veteran would give Winnipeg the early 3-0 lead.

Not to be outdone, the Bombers’ special teams unit would get in on the fun. Following a two-and-out by the Stamps, Grant corralled the punt at his own 35, cut back towards the left sideline, and find a seam, taking the ball 76 yards to the house. Medlock’s point after would make it a 14-point lead for the hosts. Grant’s touchdown marked the 15th return score of the season across the league.

Arbuckle would answer that big play with one of his own, finding Reggie Begelton over the middle for a 42-yard catch-and-run. The pivot would follow that up with a 25-yard toss to Richard Sindani before calling his own number on a 12-yard scamper to cut the deficit to three — following the convert — at the tail end of the first frame.

Calgary would take their first lead of the game to open the second quarter. Arbuckle took a shot to the back left corner of the end zone, with Eric Rogers getting a one-on-one matchup with Marcus Sayles. The Winnipeg defensive back would commit a defensive pass interference penalty, giving the Stamps the ball on the one-yard line. From there, Arbuckle would punch in his second rushing score of the night on a sneak play.

Nichols would lead a 59-yard drive downfield on the next possession. He’d find Drew Wolitarsky on a fade to the back of the end zone – and the receiver came down with a foot in bounds – however, it was ruled that he didn’t have full possession of the ball. They’d have to settle for a field goal, which Medlock would easily knock through the uprights for a

The Grant show would continue in the second quarter, as the return man would find another gap in the Stamps’ coverage team and take the ball 83 yards to give the Bombers a 20-14 lead with his second punt return touchdown of the night.

The teams would swap turnovers to end the half. Grant would be stripped by Fraser Sopik while attempting to get his third return score of the half. Robertson Daniel would jump on the loose ball at opposition’s 34, giving Calgary the chance to cut into the lead before halftime. The Winnipeg defence would bail out Grant, however, as Sayles redeemed himself by picking off Arbuckle in the back-left corner of the end zone with six seconds remaining on the clock.

Winnipeg would hold its six-point advantage heading into the locker rooms.

The Bombers would come out in the second half and continue to widen their lead. A 29-yard reception over the middle by Kenny Lawler would highlight the opening drive. Medlock would drill his third field goal of the contest from 55-yards out to make it a two-score game. That would be the lone score of the third quarter, as the teams would finally start to settle into the game.

Rene Paredes would nab his first field goal of the game at the start of the fourth quarter. He’d convert on a 47-yarder after a nine-play, 48-yard drive stalled. That made it a six-point game with 12 minutes to play in the game.

Calgary would get an opportunity to take the lead after Winnipeg failed to answer with a score of their own, but Terry Williams would be run into by one of his blockers, allowing Nick Hallett to knock the ball loose and fall on it to set the Bombers up inside the red zone. They’d get close to a score, but after forcing Nichols out of the pocket, the Calgary defence kept the signal-caller out of end zone on the scramble. Medlock’s fourth field goal of the game would be a chip shot and would give his team a 26-17 advantage.

That stop would be huge. Arbuckle would complete a pair of passes to Terry Williams totalling 26 yards. Sitting on the 11-yard line, Arbuckle would connect with Eric Rogers, who would come up with a fantastic second effort, diving across the plain for the touchdown. That made it a 26-24 game with just over two minutes to go.

Arbuckle would get a chance to drive the field and win the game with more than enough time on the clock, but a pass to Richie Sindani would go through the receiver’s hands and into the clutches of an awaiting Winston Rose.

The Bombers would grind the clock out and escape with a hard-earned win.

With the victory, the Bombers move into sole possession of first place in the West. They’ll head into their showdown with the BC Lions on Aug. 15 looking to start a brand new winning streak. The Stamps will be back in action on Aug. 17, when they’ll welcome the Montreal Alouettes.

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