Winnipeg Blue Bombers clamp down on REDBLACKS in road win

For the second week in a row, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were tested by an upstart Ottawa REDBLACKS team. For the second straight week, the defending Grey Cup champions passed the test.

The Blue Bombers’ defence bent but didn’t break, as Jeremiah Masoli made 27 of 38 passes for 331 yards but didn’t record a touchdown. Devonte Williams rushed 12 times for 85 yards, but also couldn’t find the end zone.

Zach Collaors made 15 of 22 passes for 228 yards, a pair of touchdowns and an interception. Greg Ellingson led the Bombers with seven catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. First-year receiver Dalton Schoen had three catches for 58 yards and the game-sealing touchdown.

» Box score: Bombers, REDBLACKS by the numbers
» Through the Lens: Bombers at REDBLACKS
» Watch: Collaros and Ellingson connect for the TD

Masoli and the REDBLACKS didn’t get the exact start they wanted, with a nine-play drive culminating in a 27-yard field goal from kicker Lewis Ward, who split the uprights 4:21 into play to put the home team in front 3-0.

After a Marc Liegghio single in the first minute of the second quarter put the Bombers on the board, the REDBLACKS managed to add to their lead. A burst of rain seemed to play a factor, as a wet ball slowed what appeared to be a promising Ottawa drive, as did a 14-yard loss courtesy of a L.B. Mack III sack. Ward stepped in and connected from 36 yards out through the wind to give the REDBLACKS a 6-1 lead at 3:23.

Collaros got his first big play of the game, connecting on a 32-yard hookup with Drew Wolitarsky, but turned the ball over on the next play, with Monshadarik Hunter getting his first interception of the season.

At 13:28, with the rain cleared and the REDBLACKS on the wrong side of a challenge that saw a reception overturned, Ward took the field for the third time and sent a 32-yard attempt home, giving his team a 9-1 edge.

After an eerily silent half from the Bombers’ offence, it finally started to show some signs of life. Collaros found Greg Ellingson with 16 seconds left in the half for a 13-yard touchdown. The Bombers had two cracks at a two-point convert, though and were unable to cash in on either of them. The REDBLACKS took a 9-7 lead into the break, perhaps slightly less sure about their control of the lead than they had been through much of the game’s first 30 minutes.

The Bombers took their first lead of the night in the first minute of the third quarter, thanks to Liegghio’s 30-yard field goal. The points came at a cost, though, as the Bombers lost star receiver Rasheed Bailey to injury on the drive (he would return in the third quarter).

Collaros and Ellingson had a chance to tack a touchdown onto that lead, but instead came away with a play that they’d both want another shot at. Collaros threw high to a wide open Ellingson in the end zone, with the receiver unable to pull the ball in. The Bombers were forced to settle for Liegghio finishing the drive from 22-yards out, giving the Bombers a 13-9 lead at 7:55 of the third quarter.

Next it was Masoli and Darvin Adams wondering what might have been. Masoli looked for the former Bombers’ receiver in tight coverage, but Deatrick Nichols masterfully defended the would-be touchdown, knocking it out of Adams’ hands. Ward lined up a 37-yard field goal to make it a one-point Bombers lead at the 12:00 minute mark, a lead that went into the fourth quarter.

The rain came back in the fourth quarter and it impacted the REDBLACKS on a short yardage play. At the end of a long drive, the ball was popped loose by Jackson Jeffcoat and while the REDBLACKS recovered, they turned the ball over on downs, losing a great opportunity at Winnipeg’s 17-yard line.

The Bombers played the ensuing drive like the veteran, championship team that they are. Collaros produced a drive that lasted over five minutes, methodically marching the Bombers’ offence up the field. He finally found Schoen on a 27-yard toss that put the Bombers up 19-12 at 9:19. For the second week in a row, Liegghio missed a convert at an important juncture in the game. Without his single, the REDBLACKS stayed within a converted score with more than enough time to match the Bombers’ drive.

On third down back at Winnipeg’s 17-yard line, a pressured Masoli couldn’t find Jaelon Acklin in the end zone. A pass interference challenge from REDBLACKS’ head coach Paul LaPolice was fruitless, confirming his team’s turnover on downs with 1:50 to play.

Ottawa’s defence forced a quick two-and-out and forced a punt with a minute left on the clock. A roughing the kicker penalty kept the ball in the Bombers’ hands.

The Bombers will head home for Week 3 action, where they’ll host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a re-match of the two previous Grey Cup games. The REDBLACKS head into their first bye week of the season.

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