Winnipeg Blue Bombers defend home turf with dramatic win

WINNIPEG — On the night of their banner raising, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers looked every bit the two-time defending Grey Cup champions in a gutsy 19-17 win over the Ottawa REDBLACKS.

Zach Collaros made 18 of 26 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown but was pulled from the game by the injury spotter after he took a hit to his head in the game’s late stages. Backup Dru Brown came in and successfully led the drive that allowed for kicker Marc Liegghio‘s game-winning field goal.

The Bombers’ win negated a fearless performance from quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who made his REDBLACKS debut on Friday night. He finished the game 24-34 for 380 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

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For the second straight season, the Bombers got an extra boost in the pre-game as they watched their Grey Cup banner be raised in front of their raucous fans.

The crowd at IG Field didn’t have to wait long to have reason to cheer. Collaros showed his MOP form with an excellent shovel pass to running back Brady Oliveira, who took the ball 24 yards to Ottawa’s three-yard line. After the Bombers took a loss on their short yardage attempt, Collaros looked from the five-yard line and found Greg Ellingson for his first touchdown as a Bomber.

Masoli brought Ottawa’s offence out on the field and was undeterred. It took him just three plays to work his way down the field, finding Shaq Johnson on the ensuing drive, capping the quick turnaround with a 20-yard completion to the former BC Lion receiver. Lewis Ward‘s extra point tied the game 7-7 at 10:47 of the first quarter.

Some fast thinking from backup quarterback Dakota Prukop kept a Bombers’ drive alive as the first quarter came to a close. As the snap on Marc Liegghio‘s 48-yard field goal attempt dribbled under Prukop’s outstretched hands as the holder, he scrambled out of the dangerous situation and got his team a first down. That led to Liegghio setting up from 20 yards, a kick he put through the uprights at 2:11 to go in front 10-7.

Again, after getting scored on, Masoli came back looking for revenge. His 54-yard completion to Marco Dubois didn’t result in a touchdown, but it got Ward in position to send a 17-yard chip shot home to tie the game at 10 aside.

Ottawa took its first lead of the night on a 67-yard punt single from Richie Leone and that would be enough for the REDBLACKS to go into halftime in front.


The REDBLACKS’ kicking game added to their lead at 9:15 of the third quarter, when Ward connected from 39 yards out to make it a 14-10 game.

Ottawa’s defence stepped up next, forcing the first turnover of the night. Bombers’ receiver Dalton Schoen lost the ball as he was being tackled by Justin Howell, with Sherrod Baltimore pouncing on the loose ball to set the REDBLACKS up at their own 32-yard line.

With Masoli airing it out on consecutive plays, Winnipeg’s defence responded in kind. Nick Taylor pulled in the deep shot, handing the ball back to Collaros and the offence at the Bombers’ 40-yard line. Neither turnover ended up producing points, so the REDBLACKS took their four-point lead into the fourth quarter.

Winnipeg’s defence made a difference again early in the fourth quarter, stopping Ottawa backup QB Caleb Evans on short yardage, forcing a turnover on downs at the Bombers’ 47-yard line.

As the clock started to become a factor in the game, the Bombers’ offence took charge. Collaros engineered a 10-play drive that was finished off in short yardage by Prukop, who broke into the end zone at 8:50 to go in front. Liegghio’s missed convert left the Bombers up 16-14, with a window open for a victory.

Masoli was determined to jump through that window and bring his new team with him. He hurled a 51-yard bomb to Llevi Noel, getting near the midfield mark and cracking the 300-yard passing mark along the way. The drive got Ward to the 42-yard line and he calmly split the uprights to put the REDBLACKS back in front, 17-16 at 11:10.

Collaros and the Bombers’ offence took to the field down one with 1:46 left on the clock. After taking contact on a second down rush, Collaros was removed from the game by the injury spotter for the next three plays, opening the door for the Bombers backup, Brown.

Brown immediately made good on a first-and-15 throw, keeping the Bombers’ hopes alive. As the clock went under a minute, Brown found Ellingson, Schoen then Nic Demski let Oliveira take the team to Ottawa’s 17-yard line. Liegghio made good on the earlier miss, connecting from 25 yards out to put the Bombers back in front 19-17 with six seconds to play.

With a second left on the clock, Masoli and the REDBLACKS were unable to pull off the lateral magic required for the miracle finish.

These two teams will pack it all up and do it again. The REDBLACKS will host the Bombers at TD Place on Friday, June 17 at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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