Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–6–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mistakes sink Blue and Gold

Stamps take advantage to steal win from Bombers

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Stampeders' running back Jon Cornish ran roughshod over the Bombers defence Saturday, including this straight-arm escape of Demond Washington.

JEFF MCINTOSH / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Stampeders' running back Jon Cornish ran roughshod over the Bombers defence Saturday, including this straight-arm escape of Demond Washington.

CALGARY -- Winnipeg Blue Bombers backup QB Max Hall was unrepentant Saturday about the interception he threw in the Calgary Stampeders end zone late in the fourth quarter that snuffed out a potentially game-winning Bombers' drive that had penetrated to the Calgary five-yard line.

Under pressure, Hall lobbed a pass into the end zone that was picked off by Calgary defensive back Dee Webb with less than six minutes to play in the game, setting the stage for what was a late Calgary comeback and a 23-20 Stamps victory at McMahon Stadium that ended Winnipeg's pre-season at 0-2.

"I was going to the right spot, we just missed that block. If we make that block, I probably throw the touchdown pass and we'd be celebrating. It is what it is -- I got hit as I let it go," said Hall.

"So yeah, I wish I could have it back. But we had a protection on, we should have made that block and I should have been able to make that throw... But it's pre-season football. And I thought other than that, I made some pretty good throws. If one play goes differently, I thought I played a great game."

Hall, who entered the game in the fourth quarter in relief of Brian Brohm, who relieved starter Drew Willy in the third quarter, finished the night 3-for-7 for 29 yards and the interception.

Brohm was 4-for-7 for 62 yards and a TD, while Robert Marve, who played the final two series of the fourth quarter, finished his night 2-for-4 for 24 yards.

*  *  *

THE Bombers started slowly against Calgary -- that was especially true of the defence.

The Stamps had a four-play, 52-yard touchdown drive on the opening series of the game and were back in the Bombers end zone two series later after a six-play, 59-yard drive.

'I feel like we just started slow. And I really have no idea why'

-- Bombers defensive tackle Bryant Turner

Both of Calgary's feature QBs -- Drew Tate and Bo Levi Mitchell -- picked apart the Bombers defence in the first quarter and Calgary running back Jon Cornish was running at will, putting up 52 yards on just four carries in the first quarter, including a 32-yarder on the opening drive.

"I feel like we just started slow. And I really have no idea why," said Bombers defensive tackle Bryant Turner. "I feel like we did the same thing last game against Toronto too, just started slow.

"As for the defensive line, I feel like when we're feeling good and playing loose like we do in practice, we're really good. But we were really uptight to start this game. We started loosening up in the middle and the end of the game and you could just see the difference, it was a big difference."

*  *  *

BOMBERS linebacker Graig Newman was taken to a Calgary hospital with what appeared to be a serious leg injury, but Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea had no further details on Newman's condition -- other than that he is one tough customer.

"He went to the hospital. Leg injury -- he was in a bit of pain. But he was very calm though, just said, 'Hey, this hurts,' " said O'Shea. "He's a tough guy. We'll see -- I won't get a report until (Sunday) sometime."

Newman tweeted from his personal account Sunday: "Thank you everyone for the support and love. In these low times you can really count on friends and family to pick you up #I'llBeBack"

Newman sustained the injury in the third quarter. Television replays showed the player's right leg bend at a sickening angle. The loss of Newman for an extended period would be a serious blow to the Bombers, who were counting on him to play a big role this season in defensive co-ordinator Gary Etcheverry's hybrid defence. Newman was also expected to provide non-import talent on a team sorely lacking in it.

Newman, who spent the last two seasons in Saskatchewan, was signed by the Bombers as a free agent in February.

'This is worse -- absolutely. We had a chance to win it and we made enough mistakes that it didn't allow us to win'

-- Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea, comparing losses to Toronto and Calgary

*  *  *

WHILE some head coaches think pre-season losses are no big deal, O'Shea -- who has made a top priority of trying to instill a winning culture in Winnipeg -- is not one of them.

After proclaiming himself "hollow" and "empty" after a pre-season loss to Toronto last Monday, O'Shea said he felt even worse about a three-point loss to the Stampeders that saw Calgary kick a pair of field goals in the final two minutes.

"This is worse -- absolutely. We had a chance to win it and we made enough mistakes that it didn't allow us to win."

After spotting Calgary a 14-0 first-quarter lead, O'Shea said he liked the way his team battled back and took a 20-17 lead late into the fourth quarter. "We were a little flat in the first half. So for the guys to respond coming out of halftime and move the ball offensively, I'm very pleased. I'm happy for the guys on offence. They needed to do that for their own confidence."

*  *  *

WHILE the Bombers kicking game was pretty good, their return coverage -- particularly on kickoffs -- was abysmal at times.

Calgary had returns of 52 yards (to open the game) and 54 yards, not what you'd expect from a team led by a rookie head coach who took pride in his special teams as a former special-teams coach and special-teams player.

O'Shea wasn't happy about his special teams -- but also not overly concerned. "They weren't very good. But there's no reason to panic just yet. We were still rolling a number of players through on special teams that wouldn't necessarily be in those spots.

'They weren't very good. But there's no reason to panic just yet'

-- O'Shea, on the Bombers' special teams

"That's not to give them an excuse why they shouldn't make those plays, but when we get down to a smaller roster and our guys are set and playing beside each other, it will be better."

*  *  *

BOMBERS starting quarterback Drew Willy played the first half and the first series of the second half and put up some decent numbers -- 14-for-23 for 172 yards -- despite having not much in the way of support.

Willy was under siege the entire first half and was sacked three times. His receivers also dropped at least three catchable balls.

To his credit, Willy was not pointing fingers after the game. "We had a tough time moving the ball and too many drives that stalled. We'd get a couple first downs but it was just like the first game -- we need to get touchdowns on the board. Singles and field goals aren't going to win you a lot of games.

"We need to get better and make sure all 12 guys out there are doing what they're supposed to be doing... We're not happy about this, but there was a ton of great effort out there. I liked the way we fought."

O'Shea said he was impressed by what Willy showed in some difficult circumstances. "Drew's a quiet leader. He's not that guy that's ripping on these guys. He understands mistakes happen and he will make some, too. "It's unfortunate we had those (mistakes) in the first half because I think we could have had a different result."

O'Shea said he also liked what Brohm showed in engineering an impressive touchdown drive on his first series. "He's pretty calm in there. He's calm and collected and he looks like a professional out there."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @Paul Wiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 16, 2014 C3

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