November 19, 2018

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Record: 10–8–0

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Winnipeg suffers a whupping

Bombers post worst two opening quarters of the season

Ottawa Redblacks' quarterback Dominique Davis (4) celebrates his touchdown against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the first half of CFL action in Winnipeg Friday, August 17, 2018. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)</p>

Ottawa Redblacks' quarterback Dominique Davis (4) celebrates his touchdown against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the first half of CFL action in Winnipeg Friday, August 17, 2018. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)

After winning four of their last five games and putting some distance between a .500 record, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were delivered a good old-fashioned butt whooping by the Ottawa Redblacks Friday night at Investors Group Field.

The final result was 44-21, with blame for the loss coming from all corners, including an offence that couldn’t generate a rhythm all night and a defence that couldn’t stop much of anything. What likely kept head coach Mike O’Shea up last night was the lack of discipline from his players, who took 13 penalties totalling 80 yards.

Winnipeg’s offence finished with 390 net yards, with 117 of those coming on two deep passes to Darvin Adams for touchdowns. The two scores were the only touchdowns for Matt Nichols, who was pulled from the game late with an elbow injury only to return shortly after.

“I usually wouldn’t ever say anything like this and I probably even shouldn’t but I’m going to: the saddest thing tonight for me was I feel like I give my heart to this city and this team,” Nichols, who went 23-for-35 passing for 291 yards and one interception on his final play, said after the game. “I took some shots tonight, took a big one on my elbow and had to come out for a couple of plays and shook that one off and got booed by the whole stadium that I was coming back out there. That was pretty hard for me tonight.”

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After winning four of their last five games and putting some distance between a .500 record, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were delivered a good old-fashioned butt whooping by the Ottawa Redblacks Friday night at Investors Group Field.

The final result was 44-21, with blame for the loss coming from all corners, including an offence that couldn’t generate a rhythm all night and a defence that couldn’t stop much of anything. What likely kept head coach Mike O’Shea up last night was the lack of discipline from his players, who took 13 penalties totalling 80 yards.

Winnipeg’s offence finished with 390 net yards, with 117 of those coming on two deep passes to Darvin Adams for touchdowns. The two scores were the only touchdowns for Matt Nichols, who was pulled from the game late with an elbow injury only to return shortly after.

"I usually wouldn’t ever say anything like this and I probably even shouldn’t but I’m going to: the saddest thing tonight for me was I feel like I give my heart to this city and this team," Nichols, who went 23-for-35 passing for 291 yards and one interception on his final play, said after the game. "I took some shots tonight, took a big one on my elbow and had to come out for a couple of plays and shook that one off and got booed by the whole stadium that I was coming back out there. That was pretty hard for me tonight."

But it was the Bombers’ defence — a unit that seemed to turn the corner over the past month with some stellar performances — that ultimately did the Bombers in. Ottawa’s offence, led by quarterback Trevor Harris, torched Winnipeg for 493 net yards.

Harris was dominant for a second straight game, following up his 487-yard passing performance in a win over Montreal last week with 361 yards through the air Friday, finding the end zone once. Ottawa punched in three rushing scores, combining for 139 yards on the ground.

"I wouldn’t say that — we prepare to win every single game," said Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill, when asked if the defence’s recent success perhaps made them a bit complacent. "They had a great game plan, executed well and we didn’t execute enough."

With the loss, the Bombers fall to 5-4 and will be in tough next week when they travel to Calgary to take on the 7-0 Stampeders. Ottawa adds to their lead in the East Division with the win, improving to 6-3 and now have a bye after playing nine straight weeks.

Ottawa opened the scoring on their second series, capping off an eight-play, 63-yard drive with a one-yard quarterback sneak from backup quarterback — and former Bomber — Dominique Davis. A successful two-point conversion with a reception from Greg Ellingson made it an 8-0 game for the visitors early into the opening frame.

Winnipeg answered back immediately on their next possession. Heading into the game, Nichols was the subject of heavy criticism among some fans for his modest numbers passing numbers this year.

Nichols, who is 25-11 since taking over as the No. 1 pivot early into the 2016 season, had yet to throw for 300 passing yards in five games since returning from a knee injury. When he connected with Adams for a 45-yard touchdown — bringing the Bombers to within a point, 8-7 — it looked like it could be his night, though it soon became evident it wasn’t meant to be.

A fumble by Harris on Ottawa’s ensuing drive put Winnipeg in prime position to take the lead, giving them possession at the Redblacks’ 39-yard line. But that opportunity would be squandered by a holding call from Drew Wolitarsky that not only wiped out an 18-yard run by Ryan Lankford, who was inserted into the lineup with Weston Dressler out with a lower-body injury, but pushed the ball back and out of field-goal range.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS -</p><p>Winnipeg Blue Bomber #33 Andrew Harris scrambles through the line of scrimmage.</p>

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS -

Winnipeg Blue Bomber #33 Andrew Harris scrambles through the line of scrimmage.

The drive ended with a punt for the Bombers, who then took a no-yards penalty that gave the Redblacks the ball back on their own 32. From there, Ottawa orchestrated an 11-play, 75-yard drive that once again ended with Davis punching the ball in from the one. They would go for another two-point conversion and after the first attempt — a catch out of bounds — was erased with another Winnipeg penalty, Harris hit Ellingson in the end zone to put the visitors up 16-7.

Ottawa went up 19-7 on their next drive after kicker Lewis Ward connected from 41 yards out. The boot was Ward’s 23rd consecutive successful field goal, a league record for a rookie. Ward added to history with another field goal on the next series after another drive stalled deep in Winnipeg’s end, this time from 38 yards, to make it 22-7 at halftime.

The Bombers entered the game with a plus-98 scoring margin over their opponents in the first half. On Friday, Winnipeg put forth arguably their worst performance in the opening two quarters of the season, heading into the break pointless on six of seven drives.

By halftime, Harris had 241 yards through the air, while Winnipeg had a combined total of just 121 net yards.

"Don’t waver. Handle adversity and come out fighting," Chris Randle said was the message at halftime.

Winnipeg was dealt some life in the third quarter after Kevin Fogg returned a punt near midfield and a pass interference penalty by Ottawa secured that position at the 55-yard line. The Bombers then converted a pair of second-and-10s — which were sandwiched between a failed challenge by the Redblacks on what they believed was a fumble by Andrew Harris — followed by a Hail Mary pass to Lankford that just slipped through his fingers steps from the end zone.

That would eventually set up a 13-yard touchdown run by Harris, who appeared to step out of bounds a just short of the end zone. But after video review couldn’t provide definitive proof Harris’s foot had touched the sideline, the call stood and suddenly the Bombers were within striking distance, down 22-14 — bringing the crowd back into the game.

But it took exactly four plays for Ottawa to steal whatever momentum was gained. After moving the ball to their own 42-yard line, Harris found a wide-open Dominique Rhymes for a 59-yard gain before being taken down at the five. Rhymes capped off the drive on the next play with his first CFL touchdown. Another two-point convert, aided by another Bombers’ penalty, made it 30-14 5:12 left in the third quarter.

Right when you thought things couldn’t get much worse for the Bombers — it did.

This time it was a fumble by Nichols, who was struck just as he was delivering a pass, the ball sailing to the right sideline. The Redblacks’ Avery Williams scooped up the ball, scampering 43 yards behind a shield of his teammates all the way to the end zone. Once again Ottawa opted for the two-point conversion and once again they made good on it — 38-14.

When it seemed like the Bombers were down for the count, a glimpse of light appeared in the form of a 72-yard touchdown from Nichols to Adams. With the catch, Adams became the first Winnipeg receiver to eclipse 100 receiving yards in a game this season, bringing his night’s total at that point to seven catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns.

More importantly, it cut the lead to 38-21 with time left for a comeback.

But as was the case all night, with every step forward the Bombers took two back. The final dagger was a 28-yard run up the middle for William Powell, capping off a four-play, 59-yard series.

"It’s just disappointing to lose, whether it’s home or away," said Randle. "It’s a feeling we don’t like to have as a professional. This is what we get paid to do so we’re going to do everything we can to make that right."

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.

Read full biography

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History

Updated on Friday, August 17, 2018 at 11:52 PM CDT: Writethrough

August 18, 2018 at 8:30 AM: Final

8:44 AM: Subhead fixed.

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