Close call but Bombers fall 0
The Bombers went toe to toe with the league leaders and defending champs for 59 minutes and 33 seconds.
As usual with the Blue and Gold this season, it ended up being just not good enough.
The B.C. Lions marched 42 yards on four plays in the last 26 seconds, and Paul McCallum booted a 41-yard field goal as time expired to give the Grey Cup champs a 20-17 win.
The Bombers fell to 2-6 and are dead last in the CFL, but they got a warm cheer from the sold-out crowd at Canad Inns Stadium as they left the field.
Despite that, the Bombers are not a happy bunch after what, from the outside, looks like a moral victory and a bit of momentum after allowing a season-low 20 points.
“I wouldn’t say momentum. I would use the word confidence,” said linebacker Marcellus Bowman, who had a fourth-quarter interception. “We have a little more confidence on all three sides of the ball, because we all played pretty well the way we competed. We just gotta get used to winning. That’s all about the finish.”
The last time the Blue and Gold, who have the worst record in the league, won two games in a row was when they capped a three-game winning streak last Aug. 26. The league-leading Lions improved to 6-2.
Next up for the Bombers is the 49th Labour Day Classic on Sept. 2 in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The bad news is Winnipeg has lost seven Classics in a row, although the Riders (3-4) have been struggling lately.
The Lions went up 17-14 with 1:52 remaining, but the Bombers marched down the field and tied the game on Justin Palardy’s 31-yard field goal with 27 seconds left. It looked like the game was headed to overtime, but that’s when Leos pivot Travis Lulay got to work. First he hit Ernest Jackson with a 16-yard pass, and then found Geroy Simon over the middle for a 24-yarder to get the Leos in field goal position.
Two plays later, McCallum spoiled what would have been one of Winnipeg’s biggest victories in a long time.
“We feel as if we should’ve won the game. Defensively, we played our best game of the year,” cornerback Jovon Johnson said. “We were in man-to-man, and Geroy got open. He spotted him and threw a nice ball to him.”
Joey Elliott started his second straight game in place of the injured Buck Pierce, but the attack was far from consistent. He mustered only one touchdown drive, and Winnipeg’s six of its nine fourth-quarter points were thanks to turnovers. Elliott was good on only 20 of 42 attempts for 256 yards and an interception, and whether he or Pierce starts against the Riders will be the big story in Winnipeg for the next nine days.
The Lions led 10-0 at the half thanks in large part to the Bombers’ undisciplined play. Johnson intercepted Lulay, only to have Jonathan Hefney flagged for illegal contact on a receiver. The Lions continued to march down the field, but they prevented a Lions score when Johnny Sears intercepted Mike Reilly in the end zone.
After a couple offside penalties kept another B.C. drive alive in the first quarter, what would have been Sears’ second interception of the game was nullified when defensive end Kenny Mainor got pinched for roughing the passer.
Later on the drive, Brandon Stewart took a roughing the passer infraction when he jumped on Lulay’s back as he was heading out of bounds. Three plays later, Lulay hit Winnipeg native Andrew Harris with a five-yard touchdown toss to give the Lions a 10-0 lead.
Winnipeg continued its undisciplined ways in the third quarter, as receiver Cory Watson was penalized for objectionable conduct after throwing the ball after a catch at a B.C. defender. Winnipeg was moved back 10 yards, and Palardy missed a 38-yard field goal. It could have been 10 yards closer.
The fans, of course, feel the Bombers got screwed, but their penchant for penalties is just another sign of a young team that is still learning how to win. They need to learn to not put themselves in positions to be flagged.
“It’s one of those things where you have to make sure you keep the game in your hands,” Bowman said. “You have to make sure as an individual you do exactly what you’re supposed to do as much as you can.”
Johnson, meanwhile, felt if the officials had one more eye each they would all be cyclopes.
“Sometimes you just gotta be fair,” Johnson said. “They played dirty and they didn’t get called for it. We pull out a dirty play or a play that we feel is fair, and we get called for it. On the interception play we hit the quarterback. They hit our quarterback the same way and didn’t get a penalty.”
Lulay completed 16 of 26 attempts for 220 yards, one touchdown and two picks. Backup Mike Reilly was also picked off, by Johnny Sears.
TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER
B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay completed 16 of 26 passes for 220 yards and one touchdown, usually with Winnipeg defenders in his face. More importantly, he led the Lions to the winning field goal after taking the ball at his own 35 with just 27 seconds left.
TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER
Lions middle linebacker Adam Bighill recorded eight defensive tackles and was a key to holding Chad Simpson to only 39 yards.
TOP SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER
Once again, Bomber punter Mike Renaud was simply outstanding, winning the field position war, especially when the Winnipeg offence was stymied in the first half. Well-placed punts in second half, too. He finished with a 47.3-yard average.
B.C. placekicker Paul McCallum booted a 41-yard field goal on the last play of the game to give the Lions the victory. It was set up by a great catch by Geroy Simon for 24 yards with time running out.
SMACK OF THE MATCH
Give it to backup Winnipeg running back Will Ford who stopped B.C. punt returner Tim Brown cold on one return in the first half. Honourable mention to linebacker Henoc Muamba, who stuck Lions quarterback Travis Lulay in the first quarter.
It didn't go for a big gain, but Bomber receiver Cory Watson caught a short pass, then looked like Nik Lewis as he leapt over Lions defensive back Dante Marsh for a first down in the third quarter.
— Jim Bender
Should the Bombers make Joey Elliott their starting quarterback?