This time, the fans were on time but the team showed up late.
On a night when the storyline outside Investors Group Field was mostly about how surprisingly easy and efficient it was to get to the game, the larger storyline looked like it was going to be the car crash going on inside the park.
But after falling behind 14-0 just five minutes into the first quarter and trailing 23-13 at the half, the Bombers stormed out of the locker room for the second half and appeared to seize control of the game back with a pair of touchdowns that put them up 27-23 early in the third quarter.
But by night’s end, it all came crashing down anyway as a new piece of Winnipeg history had an opening as disappointing as it was dramatic as the Bombers were outscored 14-0 in the final quarter to lose 38-33 to the Montreal Alouettes in the first regular season game at Investors Group Field.
Up in smoke
Defensive back Demond Washington — the man who replaced the recently exiled Jonathan Hefney as the Bombers new boundary halfback — was doing some puffing of his own last night, but it was from being out of breath instead of, well, other causes.
First, Washington intercepted an Anthony Calvillo pass in the first quarter and ran it back 46 yards, setting up the Bombers first touchdown at Investors Group Field a couple plays later — a three-yard TD reception by receiver Chris Matthews from QB Buck Pierce with two minutes to play in the opening frame.
And then, with the Bombers trailing 23-20 early in the third quarter, Washington gave the Bombers their first lead at the new stadium, returning a Sean Whyte punt 80 yards for a TD.
An unfortunate first
The first Bombers offensive play at Investors Group Field will have to go down as a Buck Pierce interception to Montreal defender Geoff Tisdale at the Winnipeg 40-yard line. Making matters worse, three plays later the ball was in the Bombers endzone, with Montreal running back Chris Jennings getting the honour of scoring the first TD at IGF on a three-yard run just three minutes into the game.
Another unfortunate first
The first Bombers punt at IGF, a 40-yarder by Mike Renaud just two minutes after the Jennings TD, landed in the hands of Als returner Tyron Carrier, who promptly returned it 78 yards for a touchdown to make the score 14-0 for Montreal just five minutes into the game.
What about Buck?
It wasn’t pretty, but then a Buck Pierce game seldom is. The Bombers’ QB threw a pair of interceptions in the first half — and a third one was dropped by a Montreal defender. Pierce settled in briefly in the second half, turning the tide early in the third quarter when he found receiver Jade Etienne alone downfield on a 65-yard catch and run. Pierce then punched the ball into the endzone one play later on an eight-yard bullet to receiver Clarence Denmark. But it all sputtered in the fourth quarter as the Bombers were outplayed on offence and defence by the Als.
So, like, Buck’s still healthy, right?
You bet. He came up hobbling slightly after his second interception in the first half and he took a few late hits from a Montreal defence that had obviously been instructed to hit him every time they could — and sometimes when they couldn’t.
Montreal sacked him three times, all in the second half, but by night’s end, Pierce was still standing on his own two feet.