WEATHER ALERT

Bombers’ perfect run ends with OT loss to Als

Missed field goals prove costly in defeat

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ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ quarterback Zach Collaros is tackled by Montreal Alouettes’ Mike Moore during the first half of their game on Thursday.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers bid for a perfect season is officially over. And it couldn’t have been halted in more dramatic fashion.

Trailing 20-17, in overtime, Bombers kicker Marc Liegghio had a chance to tie the game with a 37-yard field goal. The snap was clean, but the kick wasn’t, the ball clanging off the upright and out to seal a victory for the Montreal Alouettes in front of 31,053 at IG Field.

It was Liegghio’s chance for redemption after he shanked a 32-yard field-goal attempt with no time remaining that would have secured a Bombers win. Montreal’s David Cote had put the pressure on after connecting on a 43-yard field goal on Montreal’s only series in overtime.

“The one before overtime, I just didn’t give myself a chance and it didn’t look good coming off my foot. Then the one at the end there, in overtime, I thought I hit it well, it felt good off my foot, but, obviously, the outcome wasn’t what I wanted it to be and just move on,” Liegghio said after the game. “Obviously, it doesn’t feel the best, you know, to not hit a game-winner. But just move onto the next one and that’s what pro football is. It comes with its ups and downs and that’s how the pros go further. You wash it and move onto the next one.”

The loss dropped the Bombers to 9-1 on the season, one game short of the franchise record of 10 wins to start a year, a mark set back in 1960. It also ended Winnipeg’s home-field winning streak at 13 games.

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Blue Bombers’ Deatrick Nichols and Demerio Houston try to tackle Montreal Alouettes’ Jake Wieneke during the first half of their CFL game on Thursday.

The Bombers remain in first place in the West Division, with the B.C. Lions (6-1) and Calgary Stampeders (5-2), both of which play this weekend, not far behind. Winnipeg enters its first bye of the season next week.

“Yeah, I’ve cancelled all their plane tickets home. Everyone’s going to stay here and grind,” head coach Mike O’Shea said, tongue firmly in cheek, when asked if the loss might change the way the team approaches the bye. “No, there’s nothing like that. It’s not punishment, we lost one game. What I need them to do is not punish themselves. I need them to move on very quickly and make sure they have a bye week that they can relax and get refreshed so they come back in a good frame of mind and ready to go.”

The Alouettes improved to 3-6 with the win and snapped a two-game losing streak, which included a 35-20 loss to the Bombers at home last week. It also moved Montreal into sole possession of second place in the lowly East Division.

“Didn’t make enough plays to win the game,” added O’Shea. “I thought that first quarter was pretty tough. I thought all three phases managed to make some big enough plays to contribute and then at times we made mistakes and didn’t make plays. It’s one loss, really. That’s all it is.”

The first quarter began much the same way as last week, with a defensive battle, leaving neither side able to get into scoring range. Time of possession was nearly identical, with the Bombers having a slight edge, 7:37 to 7:23, while the Alouettes led in first downs (4 to 2) and total yards (55 to 49).

Zach Collaros suffered two of his five sacks against in the opening quarter, with Montreal’s Mike Moore and Michael Wakefield getting to the Bombers pivot behind the line of scrimmage. Willie Jefferson registered his fourth sack — and first since Week 6 — to stall an Alouettes drive near midfield, in what was the only time the Bombers could get to Trevor Harris for a loss of yards.

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Blue Bombers’ Dalton Schoen scores a touchdown against the Montreal Alouettes during the first half.

The Alouettes were the first to hit the scoreboard, orchestrating a seven-play, 59-yard drive that was capped off with a one-yard quarterback sneak touchdown by former Bomber Dominique Davis. Davis, who played three seasons in Winnipeg, celebrated the score — and the 7-0 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the second frame — by throwing the football at the “W” logo emblazoned on the wall at the end of the north-side end zone.

That seemed to wake up the Bombers, who evened the score minutes later, with Collaros connecting on a 27-yard pass to rookie Dalton Schoen to make it a 7-7 game. Collaros dodged a pair of would-be tacklers, on what appeared to be a sure sack, before bursting out of the pocket and hitting an open Schoen on the run.

The touchdown was Schoen’s eighth of the season, putting him in a tie with B.C. Lions’ Dominique Rhymes for most in the CFL among receivers. It was also vintage Collaros, making something out of nothing, extending a play with his legs and hurting his opponent with his patience and arm.

Collaros finished 21-of-27 passing for 251 yards and one touchdown. Harris completed 18 of his 27 passes, for 213 yards. Winnipeg had the edge in total offensive yards, 329 to 276.

“Hats off to them, Montreal has done a good job,” Collaros said. “For us, offensively, we need to be better, we need to execute better. We say it every week. Again, hats off to them. Not the way that you want to go into a bye week. But we got to use it to rest up and finish strong.”

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ kicker Marc Liegghio punts to the Montreal Alouettes during the first half.

It’s not easy to beat the Bombers, and it’s even more difficult when you make critical errors. The Alouettes were in prime position to take the lead late in the second quarter, but Cote hit the right upright on a field-goal attempt from 20 yards, resulting in no points and leaving it a 7-7 game at halftime.

Cote would make up for the gaffe in the third quarter, clicking on a 43-yard field goal to put the Alouettes up 10-7 with eight minutes remaining in the frame. The Bombers answered back with a field goal of their own, with Liegghio connecting on a 45-yarder to tie the game, 10-10, through three quarters.

That would set up a thrilling fourth quarter, one that began with the Bombers looking as if they might pull away for good, only for the Alouettes to claw their way back.

“It’s just such a CFL game. There’s always going to be things that you don’t expect and there’s always going to be maybe an upset that people think wasn’t going to happen. We’re just thankful to come out with a win,” Harris said. “Obviously, I know that they’re probably kicking themselves, feeling they should have won with that missed field goal late, but we’ve been there as well so we feel their pain.”

The quarter wasn’t two minutes old before Oliveira scampered 19 yards to paydirt to give the Bombers their first lead of the game, 17-10. Oliveira was touched by three separate Alouette defenders on the score, putting an exclamation point on a 10-play, 100-yard drive.

Collaros was a perfect 6-for-6 passing on the series, including a 25-yard pass to Greg Ellingson two plays before Oliveira’s touchdown. For Oliveira, it was his third score of the season and second in as many games, as the 24-year-old finished the night with 84 rushing yards on 15 carries.

The Bombers appeared to be in the driver’s seat from there, following up Oliveira’s touchdown with another series that entered into Alouettes’ territory. But facing a second-and-6 from Montreal’s 38, Collaros faced heavy pressure from the Alouettes front, leading to Wesley Sutton forcing a fumble that was recovered by the visitors.

The turnover proved costly for the Bombers, as the Alouettes marched down the field to tie the game, with Davis adding another quarterback-sneak touchdown. The score came after three failed attempts by Davis to punch the ball into the end zone, but on the third try — a third-and-1 from Winnipeg’s 2 — Bombers’ Donald Rutledge Jr. was called for offside, giving the Alouettes a new set of downs.

“Yeah, I mean, if you see facemasks over the line, it’s offside. We talk about those things all the time,” Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill said. “We talk about being disciplined and playing clean and being off the white in those one-yard situations. We’ve seen so many other teams make those mistakes, and we talk about it so we don’t have to make that mistake but, unfortunately, we did. That was a play that came back to bite us. That was a critical moment that we needed and we didn’t get.”

Davis scored on the very next play, and, adding insult to injury, the Alouettes No. 2 quarterback celebrated by jumping into the stands, where he took a couple shots from some unpleased fans.

That set up some late-game fireworks that ultimately extinguished the Bombers shot at remaining perfect. Winnipeg will take the next week off before returning to practice for a Week 12 matchup against the Stampeders at IG Field on Aug. 25.

Jeff.Hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

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