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Bombers receiver makes spectacular CFL debut

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It truly is special when a game lives up to its hype, and Friday’s affair between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Calgary Stampeders didn’t disappoint.

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It truly is special when a game lives up to its hype, and Friday’s affair between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Calgary Stampeders didn’t disappoint.

It was the Battle of the Unbeaten, with the Bombers and Stampeders entering the game with unblemished records. At a combined 9-0, it was the second-most dominant collective record ever to collide in the CFL, with only a 1961 matchup between Hamilton (4-0) and Edmonton (7-0) besting this night.

It would be the Bombers who proved victorious, earning a 26-19 win that included some major fireworks in the final moments. Winnipeg improved to 6-0, the first season they have started 6-0 since 1960, keeping them in sole possession of first place in the West Division.

The Stampeders dropped to 4-1. Calgary has lost five straight games at IG Field, a stadium where Winnipeg has won 12 straight.

The Bombers hit the road for the next three games, beginning in Edmonton on Friday. Before we look too far ahead, let’s take a look at Friday’s win with the latest edition of 5 takeaways.

 

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS It’s going to be difficult to sit Carlton Agudosi after Friday’s performance. Above, the Winnipeg Blue Bomber celebrates his second-half touchdown Friday at IG Field.

1) We have to start this column with a tip of the hat to the home crowd. On a hot and muggy day, with the humidex hitting as high as 36 C, nearly 30,000 fans were on hand to take this one in. And, oh boy, were they loud.

I watch and listen to the TSN feed every game and do so usually with little disruption. Well, the home crowd was so loud that I was unable to hear the game through my headphones.

It was an incredible atmosphere, the kind that supports the club’s claim of having the best fans in the CFL. It didn’t ever stop, either, lasting from start to finish, and on a few occasions forcing the Stampeders to call a timeout or take a time-clock violation.

Head coach Mike O’Shea and the players commented after the game how powerful the home faithful were, and it wasn’t the usual platitudes often spewed about the paying public. Credit to those that showed up and showed out, there’s a reason the Bombers have lost just once in their last 23 games at home.

 

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Give yourselves a hand, Bombers fans.

2) It was another solid performance by the Bombers bend-but-don’t-break defence. While opposing teams might get close to the end zone, rarely do they get in.

Three times the Stampeders found themselves in the red zone, and twice inside the Bombers’ 10-yard line, only to leave with a combined 10 points. The first trip resulted in an early touchdown, set up by a rare fumble from Janarian Grant during a punt return.

Twice in the second half the Bombers stopped the Stampeders yards away from the end zone, including opportunities of first-and-goal at the seven- and four-yard lines. Calgary settled for a 14-yard field goal, and then, despite needing only two yards on two attempts, had a pair of passes go incomplete for a turnover on downs.

Stampeders QB Bo Levi Mitchell was limited to 187 passing yards, completing just 43 per cent (12-of-28) of his throws. Mitchell had one final attempt to tie the game on Calgary’s final drive, but a bobbled ball by Kamar Jorden – one of several drops by Stampeders receivers on the night – was ultimately intercepted by Demerio Houston to seal the game.

 

3) I can’t imagine a better CFL debut than the one receiver Carlton Agudosi put forth. Agudosi was on the receiving end of both Bomber touchdowns, plays in which he used every last bit of his 6-6, 220-pound frame.

After spending much of the 2021 season on the practice squad, Agudosi was cut out of training camp this season but opted to stay in Winnipeg for the chance to be called up.

He was added to the practice roster on June 30, and only activated to the playing roster this past week following an injury to Brendan O’Leary Orange. Agudosi caught six passes for 70 yards, with the two scores, and had a 38-yard catch wiped out on a questionable offensive pass-interference call.

It’s going to be difficult to sit Agudosi moving forward. When you consider the other new weapons on offence, including receivers Greg Ellingson, who had 11 catches for 152 yards and now leads the CFL in receiving with 518, and rookie Dalton Schoen, who is ninth (357), my earlier concerns about not having a bonafide playmaker just seem silly now.

 

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS The Blue defence bent, but refused to break.

4) It was a slow start to the season for quarterback Zach Collaros and the offence. But the last two games have shown signs that Winnipeg’s attack is starting to hit its groove.

After a dominating display in a Week 5 win over the B.C. Lions, the offence, though not as stellar against the Stampeders, came up big when it mattered most. Collaros is starting to make a case for consecutive most outstanding player awards, finishing with 315 yards on 27-for-38 (71 per cent) passing, with a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Bombers dominated the time-of-possession battle, 37:15 to 22:45, meaning they were sustaining drives and keeping the defence off the field. The offence also rose to the occasion at key moments, including a touchdown drive late in the first half that gave the home side momentum before the break and another series late in the game for the eventual game-winning score.

If Winnipeg can figure out its run game – it was another tough night for the ground attack, totalling a combined 45 yards – I don’t see many opposing defences besting them anytime soon.

 

5) For a team that prides itself on its special teams play, it wasn’t a great showing by these often unsung heroes.

While Marc Liegghio has been fairly consistent with his punting, his place-kicking continues to be wildly inconsistent. Liegghio connected on field goals from 48 and 17 yards, but missed a 36-yarder late in the third quarter, a miss ultimately negated by an unnecessary contacting-the-kicker penalty on Calgary’s Charlie Moore (the Bombers would go on to score a one-yard TD by No. 2 QB Dru Brown).

Liegghio also botched a single-point convert on the late score, leaving the Bombers with a seven-point lead instead of eight. That was his fourth missed convert of the season, all of which have left his team in tight situations on the scoreboard.

The Grant fumble was also costly, though I’m not sure you can blame anyone but the returner on that one. The cover team was also saved by a holding penalty, which wiped out what would have been a 63-yard punt-return TD by Peyton Logan early in the fourth frame.

A tough night on special teams didn’t end up burning the Bombers, but given how proud a group they are, I’m sure it’s lit a fire for an improved effort this week against Edmonton.

Jeff.Hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS QB Zach Collaros and the offence are rolling now after a slow start to the season.
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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Updated on Tuesday, July 19, 2022 10:07 AM CDT: Corrects typo

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