WINNIPEG – The new and improved Winnipeg Blue Bombers we were promised all off-season have finally arrived.
After a lengthy weather delay, the Bombers roared out to a fast start and never looked back, dominating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 37-11.
The game, which was supposed to start at 7:30, kicked off just after 10 p.m. thanks to persistent lightning and rain, and it became clear very quickly that one team handled the delay a lot better than their opponent.
CJ Roberts got things started, picking off a dreadful pass from Jeremiah Masoli and taking it 17 yards to the house.
After a quick stop, a great punt return from Kevin Fogg put the Bombers back in business, and Clarence Denmark was welcomed back to Winnipeg with a 12-yard touchdown catch.
Hamilton looked to respond but Masoli fumbled, leading to a third Bombers touchdown in the opening frame, this time a perfect pass from Matt Nichols to Thomas Mayo.
By the time the first half was over, the Ticats were staring down the barrel of a 34-0 deficit.
In their last game, Hamilton rallied from 31-7 down to beat the Eskimos. No such comeback would happen on this night, as both teams looked like they couldn’t wait to get out of IGF and go to bed.
Much was made before the game about the Bombers’ depleted receiving corps, but it turned out to be a total non-factor: Denmark came off the street to catch seven balls for 69 yards and a score, Mayo caught seven passes for 84 yards and a TD while Kris Adams came back and caught a pair of passes for 37 yards.
Matt Nichols strengthened his hold on the starting quarterback gig, putting in a 23/31, 246 yard, two TD performance.
It wasn’t just the offence getting it done: they were given a short field a number of times thanks to a blocked punt, numerous strong returns from Fogg (including a TD called back for the second time this year) and the D forcing six turnovers.
The fans that stuck out the rain gave all-time great Milt Stegall a full-throated ovation at haltime, as the receiver took his spot on the Bombers’ Ring of Honour.
“I understand some fans had to leave, but I just want to thank all you fans for sticking around and continuing to support me like you have throughout my 14-year career,” Stegall told the crowd. “It’s truly and honour and I am humbled by this.”
The Bombers bucked a few trends with the win: they beat Hamilton at Investors Group Field for the first time in five tries, snapped a six-game home losing streak overall and have now won back-to-back games for the first time in over two years. They will try to make that three in a row when they visit Toronto next Friday.