A lot to take away from the Bombers’ “nothing” game

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For a tie, Friday night’s game between the BC Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers produced plenty of stories to chew on leading up to the West Final, which the Bombers will host at IG Field in a few weeks. .

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Chief among them, the victory – a 24-9 score for the hometown Bombers ahead of 23,685 – ensured they end their dominating 2022 campaign with 15 wins, the most in a single season during their legendary existence.

“That says a lot about the group of guys we have in this locker room,” running back Brady Oliveira said. “We have a lot of selfless guys, a lot of guys who trust the process and try to work on their craft every day as they walk into the dressing room and onto the pitch. We have a lot of guys who just want to be good every day, whatever their role, they’re going to give it their all.

“So I think that’s great. We preach every week to go 1-0, so the fact that we’re going into this bye week on a win, that’s a positive. Fifteen wins, that’s good, but we know where we want to be at the end of the year.

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Second, the Bombers sent a message to the visiting Lions: if they are able to get a flight back to Winnipeg in a fortnight, after dispatching the Calgary Stampeders in the Western Semi-Final Next week, the road to Regina and the 109th Gray Cup next month won’t be easy, even with Canadian center Nathan Rourke behind center.

For all intents and purposes, Friday’s game went down to the first quarter, with both teams fielding full lineups, including the return of Rourke after an eight-game layoff due to a Lisfranc sprain that required surgery to repair.

Rourke, who was dropped while leading the CFL in passing yards and touchdowns, looked like a pedestrian in Winnipeg, completing seven passes for 68 yards.

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Winnipeg welcomed him back to action with a Casey Sayles sack on the Victoria native in the first ever practice of the BC game. Jake Thomas would retrieve the soccer ball, and he would reach out to Rourke moments later, a gesture that he would help him off the turf, only to eventually retract it.

Nothing came easy for Rourke and the second-place Lions on the night.

For Zach Collaros and his highly armed offense, it was all done with surgical precision in the first quarter.

Collaros went 4 for 5, tossing the ball for 68 yards and for two touchdowns – a 22-yard strike against waiting most outstanding rookie Dalton Schoen to make it 7-0, then an 11-yard pass on the race to Rasheed Bailey to double the advantage, 14-0.

The pair of majors for Collaros gave him 37 touchdown passes on the season, the second most all-time for the Bombers in a single season as he surpassed Matt Dunigan’s 36 passes he has launched in 1993.

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Khari Jones holds the record having thrown 46 two decades ago in 2002, including 23 to Bombers legend Milt Stegall.

Collaros also pushed his streak of at least one passing touchdown in a game to 14 games.

” He did not come. It probably won’t come up,” Collaros said, answering a question about his touchdown total and record 15th win. “We have a lot ahead of us, obviously, that we still have to accomplish. This is where the real fun begins.

“It’s something we’ll reflect on after the season.”

Schoen finished with 84 yards in the game on two receptions, including a catch and a 62-yard run in the second quarter, putting him nearly 140 yards ahead of Montreal’s second-placed Eugene Lewis, who won’t play this weekend. -end against Toronto.

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The 25-year-old’s touchdown in the first quarter was his 16th in the league, five more than BC’s Dominque Rhymes, the closest receiver.

Schoen, like Collaros before him, did not allow himself to dwell on his accomplishments.

“I think maybe that’s a downside of this profession, at least for me, that I never want to step back and look at that,” Schoen said. “But I said to some people this week, I think I’m going to lose my edge and I don’t really want to look at what happened in the past.

“That’s how I like to operate. (Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea) does a good job of telling us about the process. For me, I have my process that I like to follow, week after week, and I think it’s worked so far. I’m just going to stick with it so I don’t think about anything until this is all behind me.

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Meanwhile, on the field, the Winnipegger Oliveira became just the fourth Canadian running back to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since 2000.

He entered the game needing 71 to reach four figures and passed it by just one yard on a 20-yard springboard in the third quarter to finish the season with 1,001. Oliveira had nine carries in two quarters of work.

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you end,” said Oliveira, who weathered early-season criticism stemming from low ground totals. “The way I started this season, probably no one thought I would be here. I think it’s just a testament to all the hard work I put into it.

“The fact that I was able to get this with my offensive line and prove to myself that I can do this and that I belong. And me being a Winnipegger, it means so much more to me that I’m able to go out there and play hard for those fans and for the city. I just want to play for my city and help my team win football matches, so that’s a big accomplishment.

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Only fellow Winnipeggers Andrew Harris (five times), Jerome Messam (four times) and Jon Cornish (three times) had reached the mark since the turn of the millennium.

Leading 17-6 at halftime, the Bombers turned around on a one-yard touchdown by Mike Miller on a direct shot in the third quarter to make it 24-6.

Marc Liegghio, who went 1 for 4 on field goal attempts last week, made the only one he was called to hit on Friday – a 13-yard chip shot with the end of the second quarter .

Liegghio landed all three after kicks.

For O’Shea, he felt that his team had achieved what they wanted in a game that meant nothing in terms of rankings.

“Ask Zach to see the pictures, make sure he sees them, make sure we play clean football, get guys who needed it, and bring back guys who missed time in the game and in the flow” he said.

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Bombers wide receiver and candidate for Most Outstanding Canadian Nic Demski was rested for the game as the Bombers welcomed receiving duo Greg Ellingson and Drew Wolitarsky, who both missed several weeks with respective injuries.

They each downed a ball in the game, with Ellingson hooking a 26-yard catch on three targets and Wolitarsky a nine-yard hitch on his lone target.

Dakota Prukop played the second and third quarters and part of the fourth, completing four of 10 attempts for 110 yards. Drew Brown spelled it for the rest of the last frame, going 0 for 4.

The Bombers will now have a week to rest and prepare for the West Final, which will be played on November 13.

Who will meet them at IG Field will be decided next week when the Lions host the Stamps at BC Place.

[email protected]

Twitter: @scottbilleck

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