Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 07/3/2014 3:52 PM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 07/3/2014 11:37 PM | Updates
He took such a vicious pounding he will wake up Friday morning draped in blue and gold AND black.
He made some costly mistakes that spoke of his inexperience.
But in what is oh-so-sweet music to the ears of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and their faithful, new QB Drew Willy seems to have a flair for the dramatic.
And, most importantly, for winning.
The Bombers improved to 2-0 in a thrilling come-from-behind 36-28 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks Thursday night, entertaining a raucous crowd of 27,533 at Investors Group Field from the opening kickoff to the final gun.
So, for what it’s worth, long-suffering Bomber fans will savour this for a while: regardless what happens in the rest of Week 2 of the CFL schedule, this outfit will at least have a share of first place in the West Division.
The Bombers didn’t grab their first lead Thursday until just 2:33 was left in the game. Willy — the victim of two roughing-the-passer penalties and after jamming his hand early in the game — shook off a second-half fumble and interception to march the Bombers 60 yards on six plays when it mattered most.
That gritty drive was capped by Nic Grigsby’s third touchdown of the night and put the Bombers ahead 33-28.
And just to top off his night, Willy connected with Aaron Kelly for a 47-yard gain with 103 seconds left that moved the chains and took valuable time off the clock.
Willy’s numbers — 21 of 33 for 307 yards with no touchdowns and an interception — weren’t the story in the end. His resilience and leadership were.
It took the CFL’s newest entry exactly 15 minutes to skewer any notion of being a hapless expansion side. Not that anyone was really expecting any different, given the roster the Redblacks fielded for their inaugural contest had 400 more games-played experience than the Bombers Week 1 lineup.
Having an extra week to scheme against the Bombers’ unorthodox defence, future Hall-of-Famer Henry Burris moved the Redblacks up and down the field in the first quarter with the precision of a diamond cutter. The 38-year-old vet completed eight of his first 10 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns — the first to Dobson Collins, the second to Chevon Walker — as Ottawa built a 21-7 lead before the traffic had even started backing up at the Rum Hut.
Winnipeg had cut the lead to 21-17 at the intermission as the defence — which looked lost early — made adjustments and stood ground. Grigsby scored again and Lirim Hajrullahu — who was a perfect three-for-three — crushed a 47-yarder to keep the game from spinning away.
With Willy struggling and the Bombers' defence treading water, it was the special teams who provided the spark that brought the ballpark to life. Demond Washington, now in his third year, gobbled up a kickoff and broke hard to the Ottawa sidelines — and then promptly broke a couple of defenders’ ankles with a sharp cut back to the middle of the field — en route to a 96-yard return for a touchdown.
And just like that the Bombers had a pulse again. It was Washington’s fourth kick-return score. And his biggest.
A point to consider in the aftermath of this comeback: the Bombers are in Montreal to face an Alouettes side that looked lost in its opener before returning home to face the Edmonton Eskimos.
The jury’s still out on this bunch, but the evidence so far is compelling.
Updated on Thursday, July 3, 2014 at 4:34 PM CDT: Updates blog box.
10:45 PM: Updates final score headline.
11:21 PM: Updates with Canadian Press post-game story.
11:37 PM: Replaces Canadian Press story with local post-gamer.
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