Blue Bombers edge Eskimos for first win
Winnipeg, MB (Sports Network) - Alex Brink bounced back from a shaky first half and threw for nearly 300 yards as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers earned their first victory of the season with a thrilling, 23-22, win over the Edmonton Eskimos in their home opener Thursday at Canad Inns Stadium.
Brink, making his second start of the season in place of starter Buck Pierce, was picked off twice in the early going, but finished with 294 yards through the air on 26-of-38 passing and one major.
Chad Simpson rushed for 73 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries, while also catching five passes for 49 yards.
Justin Palardy buried a pair of field goals, including a go-ahead, 27-yarder midway through the fourth quarter that put the Blue Bombers on top for good.
Edmonton got a single on its next possession to make it a one-point game and forced the Blue Bombers to punt on their ensuing possession to set up a final drive.
Steven Jyles found Nate Coehoorn for 19 yards on a do-or-die 3rd-and-10, then hit Cary Koch for 13 yards to move deeper into Winnipeg territory.
Jyles then scrambled for 13 yards, but he fumbled the ball just before his knees hit the turf and Jovon Johnson recovered for the Blue Bombers (1-4) to seal their first victory of the season.
"The guys found a way to win at the end," said Winnipeg head coach Paul LaPolice. "We had an effort play that stripped the ball out."
"It was the biggest play of my career," said Jake Thomas, who made the strip on Jyles' fumble. "I am not the fastest, but if I can get a decent angle, I was hoping I could track him down."
Jyles went 16-for-30 through the air for 244 yards and two majors, while Hugh Charles added 76 yards on 15 carries.
Fred Stamps hauled in four passes for 91 yards and a touchdown, but the Eskimos (3-2) were unable to complete the season sweep of the Blue Bombers.
Both offenses struggled in the early going as a single from Winnipeg marked the only scoring in the first quarter.
After an Edmonton single tied things early in the second, Grant Shaw drilled a 45-yard field goal to give the Eskimos a 4-1 lead.
Edmonton then took advantage of a turnover to register the game's first major when Brink was hit as he threw and his pass fluttered through the air before being intercepted by Donovan Alexander to set the Eskimos up with possession in Winnipeg territory.
A 20-yard run from Charles moved the Eskimos down to the 25-yard line, and Jyles then found Koch wide open in the back of the end zone for a major to give Edmonton an 11-1 lead.
The teams then exchanged field goals late in the second, but a mental gaffe after Grant Shaw's 25-yard field goal proved costly.
The Eskimos were charged with an objectionable conduct penalty after the kick, setting the Blue Bombers up with excellent field position.
After Brink found Cory Watson for 25 yards, he heaved a pass toward the end zone and Chris Matthews was on the other end for a 40-yard touchdown as time expired to send the Blue Bombers into the locker room facing a 14-11 deficit.
The Eskimos wasted little time building their lead in the third as Lyles found a wide-open Stamps for a 47-yard major, Stamps' first of the year, to restore their 10-point advantage.
The Blue Bombers lost yards on consecutive plays to stall a drive late in the third, but Winnipeg was able to recover its own punt after it was blocked.
Simpson then moved Winnipeg down to the four-yard line with a 20-yard catch- and-run before capping off the abbreviated drive a play later with a touchdown run to bring the home team back within 21-18.
In the fourth, Edmonton was forced to concede a safety to make it a one-point game, and Winnipeg took advantage of good field position later in the fourth to set up Palardy's go-ahead field goal.
Edmonton defeated the Blue Bombers 42-10 on July 13...Edmonton owns a 92-80-3 advantage dating back to 1949...Watson, who led the team in catches (69) last season, played his first game of the season and finished with seven catches for 66 yards...Matthews entered the game leading the CFL in receiving yards with 366. He finished with three catches for 52 yards and a touchdown...Before the game, the Blue Bombers honored former assistant head coach Richard Harris, who passed away suddenly a year ago Thursday at the age of 63.