MONTREAL -- It should come as no surprise that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers squad who made their pre-season debut here at Percival Molson Stadium Thursday evening looked like what they were -- mostly rookies, many of whom won't be around when the regular season starts at the end of the month.
Starting seven rookies on offence and five on defence, the Bombers got a total of four field goals from kickers Justin Palardy and Eric Wilbur and a 38-yard third-quarter touchdown run from rookie running back Bloi-Dei Dorzon to defeat the Montreal Alouettes 22-10 before a crowd of 20,005.
Rookie Bombers defensive back Demond Washington had an interception, tied for the team lead in tackles with five and had a solid night of punt and kick returns. He said he dedicated his performance to two former teammates at Auburn University who were slain last weekend at a house-party shooting near the campus.
"It was on my mind all week," Washington said. "Today, it was on my mind. I dedicate this win to those guys."
As is generally the case in these pre-season contests, if you wanted to spend your evening looking for things to keep yourself up at night, there were plenty of them.
For Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice, the problem was a nasty case of dropsies that saw the Bombers putting the ball on the field all game long, although they recovered three of the drops, had two others overturned by a penalty and a review and ultimately were nailed for only one turnover.
Not good enough, said LaPolice. "We've got to protect the football better. That's the thing I was disappointed with," he said.
They'll also have to protect the quarterback better after a night that saw a rookie-laden Bombers offensive line yield five sacks in the first half and six overall.
But with both of Winnipeg's starting tackles -- Glenn January and Andre Douglas -- home in Winnipeg nursing minor injuries, it would be premature and inaccurate to suggest the leaky state of the Bombers' offensive line Thursday night was a function of the off-season departures of guard Brendon LaBatte to Saskatchewan and centre Obby Khan to retirement.
There was a lot more missing than just Khan and LaBatte on this night and it will be up to the Bombers coaches to determine how Chris Greaves fared in place of LaBatte and a combination of Justin Sorenson and Chris Kowalczuk performed in Khan's absence.
"I wouldn't say it's just the offensive line," LaPolice said of the sacks. "I know in one case, the back went the wrong way. And in some cases we held the ball (too long). Until you see the film, it's hard to say."
But there was also lots to like in the game -- and no one more than Bombers DB Washington, who was nothing short of sensational.
With the game only a couple minutes old, he immediately made his presence felt with a devastating hit on Als receiver Brandon London that left London lying on the field for the better part of five minutes before he was finally helped off.
A couple of minutes later, Washington separated another Montreal receiver from the ball, forcing Travon Patterson to put it on the ground with another hard hit. Washington finished the night tied with linebackers Dustin Doe and Terrell for the team lead in tackles with five, and also had a late interception.
And when he wasn't busting up passes and Montreal receivers, Washington was showing a prowess returning punts and kicks. While he was erratic at times as a returner -- fumbling on one return and doing more horizontal running than the Bombers coaching staff will be comfortable with -- he averaged 12 yards on his three returns, which included a 26-yarder.
FIELD NOTES -- The Bombers finish their pre-season schedule next Wednesday at Canad Inns Stadium against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats ... Rookie wide receiver Paul Hubbard was wearing a sling after the game. He could be out for a while.
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