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This article was published 25/10/2019 (497 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Two weeks to learn a playbook and get on the same page with your new teammates.
It’s not exactly a recipe for success for a professional quarterback.
But that’s all the time Zach Collaros had to get accustomed to life as a Winnipeg Blue Bomber before he found himself as the team’s starting quarterback.
Throw in the fact Collaros hadn’t played a game in 114 days and his debut on Friday night at IG Field against the Calgary Stampeders had the potential to an ugly one.
But it wasn’t. Instead, it was a script that would have even been too good to be true for a Hollywood movie.
Collaros threw two touchdown passes and an interception while completing 22-of-28 passes for 221 yards in a 29-28 comeback win over Calgary. The Bombers had the ball at their own 46-yard line with two minutes left while trailing 28-26. Collaros calmly led them on an eight-play, 38-yard drive to set up a game-winning Justin Medlock field goal as time expired.
"Felt really good to get a win, man," Collaros said postgame. "Those guys deserve it in there. They prepare so hard. We all did. Any time you can get a win in this league, you got to enjoy it because it’s tough to do."
By no means was Collaros perfect, but he showed poise in the pocket and displayed the decision-making of an eight-year CFL veteran. You can only imagine what the win meant to him as Collaros hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since Sept. 30, 2018. Collaros was asked if he could have pictured a better debut than that.
"Probably not. For kind of the crazy year it’s been, so yeah," said Collaros, who’s on his third team since season. "My pap, who passed away last year, came to every single one of my games my entire career. High school, college, CFL, I don’t know how many miles him and my grandma put on their car to see it, so he was definitely watching tonight."
There were concerns with how Collaros would look after such a long layoff, but the more important concern was how he’d hold up after getting hit again. Collaros had two concussions with the Riders last year and opened the season with another one when he was hit in the head by Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence on the third play of the game in the season opener.
There was an ‘Uh oh, not again’ moment in the second quarter when Collaros took off for a seven-yard run before sliding. As Collaros glided across the turf, Calgary linebacker Wynton McManis came down and drilled the quarterback with his shoulder. It looked like there was some contact to Collaros’ helmet, but there was no flag on the play. Thankfully, the hit didn’t become the next chapter of Collaros’ bad luck with injuries.
After the game, Collaros was able to laugh about the close call.
"Learn how to not slide like that," said the quarterback when asked what was going through his mind on the play. "I pulled the ball down and it’s like you’re just kind of in no-man’s land sometimes. I think it would’ve been worse if I tried to run the guy over. I don’t know what to do."
Collaros was solid from the start. On the opening drive, he converted on two second-and-long passing attempts to pick up first downs before the drive was stalled by a procedure penalty by offensive lineman Jermarcus Hardrick. On the next possession, Collaros orchestrated a nine-play, 51-yard drive that ended with a field goal. The Bombers had the ball in scoring position, but nobody was open in the end zone and instead of forcing a pass that wasn’t there, Collaros threw it away.
But the play everyone will be talking about came in the fourth quarter. Trailing the Stamps 28-19, the Bombers had the ball on Calgary’s eight-yard line. Collaros took the snap, began to run forward, but didn’t see a hole, so he changed his mind and ran backwards 15-yards to avoid Calgary defenders before tossing a perfect pass to the back corner of the end zone to Darvin Adams for a highlight-reel touchdown.
After the game, Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea wouldn’t commit to Collaros being the team’s starter come playoff time.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.