One week after suffering a disappointing 29-10 loss to the Calgary Stampeders in a game in which they failed to score a point in the second half, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers dug deep and defeated the Toronto Argonauts 33-25 Thursday night in front of 25,008 football fans at Investors Group Field.
"It was a dog fight for four quarters," said Winnipeg quarterback Matt Nichols. "It took four complete quarters to win this one. All three phases contributed. It was a complete team win. It was great especially for a lot of young guys on this team to play in a game like that and come away with a win. That's what this league is all about. It's going to be tough battles like that each and every week and we found a way to win."
Nichols completed 20-of-36 pass attempts for 228 yards.
It took just 14 seconds for the home team to put points on the board. Ryan Lankford took the opening kickoff from former Bomber Lirim Hajrullahu and went 104 yards for a touchdown.
"It gets guys fired up," said Lankford. "Anytime that I can get an opportunity to fire the team up, or just make my play regardless if that's running the kick back or catching a one-yard pass - that's really what I'm trying to do. Just do my job and put my team in position to win the game."
Hajrullahu was six-for-six in the field goal kicking department for the Argonauts.
Justin Medlock was good on his four attempts for Winnipeg which included a 55-yarder with 66 seconds left in the first half.
The Bombers gained 91 hard fought yards on the ground - 81 of those by Andrew Harris who recorded a pair of short touchdown runs.
"It felt really good to find the end zone," said Harris. "The biggest thing was just getting traction with the running game. We were chewing up yards early in the first quarter. It felt like we were able to run inside and outside. Anytime you get the running game going it just opens up so much more for the offense."
The Winnipeg defense came up big late in the fourth quarter forcing a turnover on downs with 1:41 left on the clock when Toronto had the ball at the Blue Bombers 20-yard line.
The Argos, who trailed by eight points, did get the ball back with 58 seconds left.
TJ Heath sealed the Bombers second win of the season when he picked off a Ricky Ray pass on second and 10 from the Toronto 40-yard line.
"We finished that game," said Blue Bombers defensive end Jamaal Westerman. "It could have went either way in the fourth quarter or the second half of the game. The defense held and the offense did what they had to do to finish that game."
Winnipeg's next game is Friday, July 21st in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions.
photos courtesy Merle Peters