SCOTT TAYLOR, MyToba.ca
Photos by JEFF MILLER, MyToba.ca

So what took so long?

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers didn’t get their first lead until the third quarter and didn’t score the eventual winning touchdown until there was 2:47 remaining. Still the Bombers overcame a shaky evening in a strange uniform to beat the hapless Montreal Alouettes 24-16 at Investors Group Field on Friday night.

The Bombers trailed 6-1 at the half and were down 16-14 with less than three minutes to play when Nic Grigsby found a gigantic hole in the left side of the Alouettes line and ran 26 yards for the game-winning touchdown as the Bombers opened Week 9 in the CFL by improving to 6-3 on the season.

The Alouettes, meanwhile, gave it a pretty great effort for 57 minutes, but still fell to 1-7 behind third-string (maybe fourth-string?) quarterback Jonathan Crompton.

Crompton replaced poor Alex Brink to start the second quarter and appeared to gain confidence as the game went on. Signed as a free agent earlier this season after being released by Edmonton, Crompton looked a lot better than Brink and a little bit better than injured No. 1 quarterback Troy Smith.

This was an odd game right from the start. The Bombers came out wearing their new Reebok “signature uniforms” and for the first time since the 1930s had absolutely no gold anywhere in the jerseys or pants.

Then they proceeded to stink the joint out in front of 29,881 at IGF as the Bombers collected a total of three first downs in the first half.

Of course, they say it’s not how you start, but how you finish and the Bombers finished pretty well.

Winnipeg had 10 first downs in the fourth quarter, put up 16 points and came back to win by eight.

Of course, it didn’t hurt the Bombers in the fourth quarter when Als DB Billy Parker made a solid defensive play to knock down a pass, the Bombers challenged (really, it’s stupid to allow a challenge on a defensive play that’s judged subjectively, but that’s the CFL) and had pass interference called on the Als. (Why are there officials at all?) The call completely changed the game and the Bombers came back from 16-14 down to win going away.

Interestingly, Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea has said publicly that he doesn’t like the pass interference challenge and yet on Friday night he used his challenge to go on a fishing expedition, lucked out and won and now he has three successful challenges in his pocket this season. Be careful what you say you dislike.

To be fair, however, Montreal had a chance of its own late in the game when Crompton threw a long pass and there was clearly interference on the play. Sadly for the Als, head coach Tom Higgins didn’t challenge. Instead, he challenged two plays later on a play that was never close to being interference.

Higgins was a play late and a dollar short and as the former head of CFL officials, you would have thought he knew how it worked.

It’s hard to imagine Higgins will be head coach in Montreal much longer. His team has now lost six straight and what we saw on Friday night was as good an effort as that team can muster and yet it still lost by eight, simply because it folded when the chips were down.

The Bombers, meanwhile, maintained their composure when things looked bleak. They were down 6-1 at the half and 13-8 after three quarters and yet outscored Montreal 16-3 in the final quarter to keep pace in the dominant CFL West.

Bombers quarterback Drew Willy finished the game 14-for-23 for 200 yards no touchdowns and one interception while Crompton went 18-for-29 for 266 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions — two of them in the final two “drives.” Mo Leggett had all three Winnipeg interceptions.

Grigsby scored Winnipeg’s only offensive touchdown and finished with 73 rushing yards on 10 carries after being benched in the third quarter. The other Winnipeg major resulted from a blocked Sean Whyte punt. Winnipeg’s Don Unamba recovered and took it into the end zone at 1:01 of the third quarter.

The Bombers play again next Sunday in Regina. It’s the Labour Day Classic and it’s absolutely a guarantee that next week’s game will be a much bigger challenge than Friday night’s win.