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This article was published 15/6/2018 (896 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Thursday night’s game between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Edmonton Eskimos was the earliest start to a regular season in league history. Mother Nature, not to be outdone, made it one of the longest games, too.

After two lengthy weather delays, totalling two hours and 55 minutes, the Bombers were able to outlast the lightning and weather an early storm from the Eskimos offence. But they couldn’t escape heartbreak, falling 33-30 in a rain-soaked affair at Investors Group Field.

"We certainly had control of the game for a lot of the second half and just lost it near the end," said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea. "Ran out of gas, maybe. But I thought it was a good battle. That’s something good to build on but none of the players are happy."

Edmonton trailed the entire second half until the final minutes of the game, when Eskimos quarterback, and reigning league most outstanding player, Mike Reilly, orchestrated a 14-play, 90-yard touchdown drive. Reilly, who finished the game 32-for-46 for 408 yards, one touchdown and one interception, capped off the series with the second of two one-yard rushing scores on the night. The touchdown was set up by a pass interference call by Anthony Gaitor, giving Edmonton the ball near the goal line.

"It’s two heavyweights going at it, and it just comes down to who made the last play and they made the last play," said Bombers running back Andrew Harris, who collected 77 rushing yards on 14 carries. "That pass interference at the end there, you know, guys trip over their feet and it’s a tough call. At the end of the day we fought hard and battled back and I’m proud of the group."

Still trailing 30-28, the 33-year-old Reilly connected with receiver Nate Behar for a successful two-point conversion to tie the game.

"He was just being Mike," said Bombers receiver Adarius Bowman, who spent seven years with the Eskimos before signing with Winnipeg in the off-season. "There’s not much negative you can say about the guy, but I wanted to beat him."

Following a two-and-out by Winnipeg on the ensuing drive, Edmonton turned a solid field position into a game-winning field goal from kicker Sean Whyte, who split the uprights from 44 yards out with just eight seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The Bombers tried one last-ditch effort, but came up short with an incomplete pass.

"We've all got stuff to work on," said Bombers left tackle Stanley Bryant. "We let this one go, we should have won, but we’ll get better."

Winnipeg got contributions from all three phases, even if the numbers surely won’t flatter the defence. In total, Winnipeg surrendered 487 yards to Reilly and Co., who took an early 10-0 lead, including a 101-yard touchdown pass to Eskimos receiver Derel Walker just 3:26 into the game.

"There was a lot of stuff to learn from as a defence — definitely wasn’t good enough. We did what we could to put ourselves in a position to win but we clearly need to do more," said veteran corner Chris Randle, who appeared to have strong coverage against Walker prior to the touchdown, but slipped backwards just as the ball was reaching its target. "At the end of the day I’ve got to make that play — I ain’t never had that happen to me before."

The offence, led by rookie quarterback Chris Streveler, who was just the second player in the last 24 years to make a start in Week 1 straight out of college, impressed after a slow start. Streveler was intercepted on the Bombers second drive following a two-and-out to open the game, but showed an impressive display of maturity for a 23-year-old by rebounding on his third series.

The eight-play, 75-yard drive ended with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Weston Dressler, who paced all Bombers receivers with four catches for 73 yards, cut the Eskimos lead to 10-7 late in the first quarter.

"I felt like I was starting to settle in there once we kind of got it going. Obviously, at first, we made some plays… but I felt as the game went on, personally, I got into the flow of the game and settled in," Streveler said. "It’s kinda crazy because with everything being kind of new, it seems like every single rep I can learn something new. As the game’s going on, I feel like I’m still learning and it’s the same thing with practice. Every rep I take, I really have to learn."

Streveler, who finished the night 15-for-28 for 178 yards and three touchdowns, also connected with the end zone on strikes to Darvin Adams (23 yards) and Drew Wolitarsky (20 yards). The offence finished with 315 yards, including 137 on the ground.

After the game many players admitted the two delays made it difficult to find a proper rhythm. But none used it as an excuse and all vowed to be better next week. After all, the Bombers carried much of the momentum throughout the game, and were especially invigorated by a pair of plays from defensive back Kevin Fogg.

After returning to the field at the end of the second weather delay following the Adams touchdown with 1:24 left in the second quarter, Fogg returned a missed 45-yard field goal from Whyte back 110 yards to give the Bombers a 20-19 lead at halftime. He’d come up big again, this time early in the fourth quarter, when he put an end to a threatening drive by Edmonton with a diving interception in the corner of the end zone.

"It was good. It was fun," Fogg said. "But none of it means anything because we didn’t win."

Indeed, after five hours and 42 minutes, making it the second-longest game in CFL history behind the "Fog Bowl" in the 1962 Grey Cup, it wasn’t meant to be for the Bombers. They’ll get a chance to rebound next week, when they travel to Montreal Week 2 to take on the Alouettes Friday night.

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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