Winnipeg Blue Bombers stay perfect with big road win over Ottawa REDBLACKS

OTTAWA — Chris Streveler rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another, leading the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to a 29-14 win over the Ottawa REDBLACKS on Friday night at Ottawa’s TD Place.

Bombers starting quarterback Matt Nichols was sidelined in the third quarter and replaced by Streveler. The REDBLACKS nearly erased an 18-point deficit in the second half, but Streveler’s one-yard touchdown with 9:42 remaining ensured victory for the visitors.

The loss was Ottawa’s first of the season, while the Bombers improve to 3-0 to lead the CFL West Division.

Nichols threw for 262 yards on 16-of-20 passing with a touchdown — an 82-yard catch-and-run by Nic Demski on the team’s first possession — before exiting. Drew Wolitarsky also caught a touchdown pass, while Andrew Harrisled the game with 80 rushing yards on 18 carries.

The REDBLACKS’ offence struggled throughout the night, managing just 14 first downs and 236 net yards. Dominique Davis completed 21 of 36 attempts for 234 yards and two interceptions and was also sacked twice.

Lewis Ward made both of his field goal attempts, including a career-high 53-yarder, while corner Jonathan Rosescored on a fumble return touchdown in the third quarter to provide Ottawa’s points. RJ Harris caught six passes for 87 yards to lead his team.

CHRIS MATTHEWS AND NIC DEMSKI CELEBRATE A FIRST-QUARTER TOUCHDOWN FOR THE BOMBERS (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Bombers’ offence got off to a quick start, finding the end zone on just their second offensive play of the game when Demski found himself wide open behind the REDBLACKS’ secondary on the way to an 82-yard catch-and-run.

A successful fake punt on third down set up a promising drive for Ottawa in response, especially after Davis connected with Caleb Holley for a 39-yard pickup deep into Winnipeg territory. But Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea challenged for offensive pass interference and won, negating the pickup and eventually leading to a punt.

While Ottawa’s offence failed to generate much in the face of pressure, sophomore kicker Ward was able to split the uprights on a 53-yard field goal, improving to 10-for-10 on the season and also setting a career-long. The successful kick was Ward’s 58th in a row dating back to the start of the 2018 season.

On the other side, the Bomber offence continued to be a handful. On a drive that was extended by roughing the quarterback penalty against George Uko, Nichols would connect with Darvin Adams and Wolitarsky before turning things over to short-yardage quarterback Streveler. The sophomore pivot was able to escape pressure and throw a two-yard touchdown pass to Wolitarsky, extending Winnipeg’s lead to 15-4.

Looking to build on an 11-point lead in the second half, Nichols and company got to work quickly out of the break. The veteran pivot hit Adams for gains of 21 and 23 yards, followed by a Rose pass interference penalty down to the 15. After a five-yard run by Streveler on third down, the short-yardage quarterback finished the drive once again, scoring from a yard out to make it 22-4 in favour of Winnipeg.

An injury to Nichols began to swing momentum in the game. Nichols took off for an 18-yard run before taking a hit from Ottawa linebacker Kevin Brown, suffering what appeared to be an injury to the head/neck area on the play. Nichols was replaced by Streveler, whose first down pass was deflected and intercepted by Anthony Cioffi.

Ward’s second field goal of the game cut the deficit to 22-7, but that wasn’t all. On the Bombers’ next offensive play, Charles Nelson fumbled after a short completion, and REDBLACKS corner Rose scooped up the ball and returned it 39 yards for a defensive touchdown. The play was upheld by automatic review on the turnover, while O’Shea challenged the call himself but lost, upholding the major and making it an eight-point game heading to the fourth.

After a couple of rare misses from Medlock in the kicking department, he atoned for himself in the fourth quarter. Looking to pin the Bombers deep, Medlock tracked his own punt and got to it first knocking the ball out of bounds for possession at the five-yard-line.

Harris was denied at the one, but Streveler would score his second rushing touchdown of the game and third total major of the night, providing a much-needed insurance marker to make it 29-14.

Davis would throw a second interception — this one to Chandler Fenner — as the REDBLACKS’ comeback fell short.

After leaving the game in the third quarter, Nichols was later spotted on the Bombers’ sideline in street apparel. The team also lost receiver Chris Matthews in the first half.

It was a tough night for REDBLACKS running back Mossis Madu, who rushed only six times for 18 yards against a stingy Winnipeg front seven.

Willie Jefferson had his first sack as a Blue Bomber on defence, while Winston Rose also chipped in with an interception and Marcus Sayles recovered a fumble. Mike Miller had five special teams tackles, tying a CFL record.

A week after breaking out with 155 receiving yards, Lucky Whitehead was held to just one catch on three targets for 16 yards. Demski finished with a game-high 105 receiving yards on four catches, while star pass-catcher Adams had five catches for 55 yards.

The Bombers look to keep their perfect record intact when they host the Argos on July 12, while the REDBLACKS aim to rebound when they host the Alouettes on July 13.

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