Bombers Own Second Half, Beat Argos
WINNIPEG, MB. – The Toronto Argos led the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 22-20 at halftime on Thursday night. But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
The Bombers offence got its act together in the second half and the defense took control of the game as Winnipeg outscored Toronto 13-3 in the final 30 minutes and beat the visiting Argos 33-25 in front of a loud crowd at Investors Group Field.
“We want to start faster and we’ll find a way to make that happen,” said Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols. “In the end we found a way to make adjustments and got things rolling. We put up points when we needed to and we made big plays. Our focus before every game is not to give the ball away and we didn’t give it away tonight.
“The guys knew that every possession we had was going to be important. You’re never going to play 18 prefect games and after last week’s loss, we knew that. The guys did a great job not giving up tonight and playing hard right to the end.”
Thursday night’s first half was not about offence. Instead, it was all about special teams.
The Bombers Ryan Lankford ran the opening kickoff back 104 yards for a touchdown to give Winnipeg a quick 7-0 lead, but the Argos got a big return of their own with 4:37 left in the opening quarter when Martese Jackson returned a Justin Medlock punt 78 yards for a touchdown to make the score 10-7 Toronto.
Interestingly, Jackson had a lot to do with a bit of CFL controversy later in the game. With 5:43 left in the second quarter, Jackson, took a kickoff back 109 yards for a touchdown. However, the officials called a phantom illegal block on Toronto’s Llevi Noel. Noel’s non-block was not a penalty (the Bombers player simply tripped and fell) and it cost a Winnipeg woman named Karen Kuldys, $1 million, in a TV sponsorship contest — the Safeway/Sobeys $1,000,000 Touchdown To Win contest in which $1 million is given away if two kickoffs are returned for touchdowns in one game. Kuldys did win a $25,000 Home Entertainment system, but that’s a long way from $1 million.
Regardless, a four-yard touchdown run by Winnipeg’s own Andrew Harris and two field goals by the amazing Justin Medlock along with five field goals from Toronto’s Liam Hajrullahu, the teams went to the break with Toronto in front by two.
However, in the second half, the Bomber defense shut down Ricky Ray, Hajrullahu was held to one field and the Bomber offence got rolling.
Hajrullahu kicked a 35-yard field goal with 8:14 left in the third quarter after Toronto’s long, opening drive. But that was it for the Argos.
The Bombers had a long drive themselves and eventually answered with a two-yard touchdown run by Harris. In fourth quarter, Medlock booted field goals of 24 and 27 yards (he kicked a 57-yarder in the first half) and not only had he booted his 28th consecutive field goal, but he gave the Bombers enough to improve to 2-1-0 on the season.
Of course, the victory wasn’t a lock until T.J. Heath picked off a Ricky Ray in the dying minutes to put it away. It was Heath’s league-leading fourth interception of the season.
“We wanted to get this win in front of the fans,” said Heath. “We worked hard for this. We’re proud of what we did tonight, and getting this win for our fans was important.”
Nichols finished the game with 20 completions on 36 attempts for 228 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He finished strong, especially after going nine-for-20 for 97 yards in the first half.
Harris was the star, however. He carried 17 times for 81 hard-fought yards and two touchdowns. He caught two passes for 13 more yards. Meanwhile, Bombers receiver Weston Dressler caught seven passes for 109 yards and passed Bombers Hall of Famer James Murphy and moved into 26th place on the all-time CFL receiving-yards list.
Ricky Ray finished the game 27-for-46 for 330 yards but with no touchdowns and two interceptions. The Argos offence didn’t score a touchdown – Jackson’s punt return and six Hajrullahu field goals got the Argos all of their 25 points.
They had no rushing game to speak of: 30 yards on 12 carries by three different backs. And the leading receiver was Winnipegger Anthony Coombs. The U of M grad caught eight passes for 94 yards while S.J Green caught five for 85.
This was a game that was about Harris’ hard work, the Bombers defense having a great second half and Justin Medlock’s automatic leg. It was a classic CFL game.
The Bombers play again next Friday night, July 21 in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions. Game time is 9 p.m. on TSN.
Scott Taylor, MyToba Sports
Photos – Jeff Miller for MyToba Sports