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Blue Bombers blitz B.C. Lions 43-22 in battle of CFL unbeatens

Winnipeg QB Zach Collaros tosses for 288 yards, 3 TDs
B.C. Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke (12) is sacked by Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Willie Jefferson (5) during the first half of CFL football game in Vancouver, on Saturday, July 9, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The first head-to-head meeting between two of the CFL’s stingiest teams turned out to be a high-scoring affair. With both sides unbeaten entering Saturday’s contest at BC Place, the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers blitzed the host B.C. Lions 43-22.

Winnipeg quarterback Zach Collaros passed for 288 yards and three touchdowns, while Janarion Grant ran back the game’s opening kickoff for a major to give his team an early 7-0 lead.

Dru Brown added a quarterback sneak for a major, as well as stepping into the end zone late in the fourth quarter. Marc Liegghio also chipped in with three field goals for the Blue Bombers, who have now matched their 5-0 start from their Grey Cup-winning 2019 season.

In their first loss of the season, the Lions (3-1) got two touchdown receptions from Dominique Rhymes and one from Josh Pearson. First-year starting quarterback Nathan Rourke went 16-for-25 in the air, passing for 278 yards with two interceptions. Michael O’Connor took over under centre for the Lions late in the fourth quarter, for his first action of the young season.

The Blue Bombers’ dominance began with the first play of the game, Grant’s 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

The Lions’ opening drive was halted when Jackson Jeffcoat picked off a pass intended for Keon Hatcher. That set up a nine-play drive that was topped off by Zach Collaros’ 12-yard pass to Dalton Schoen deep in the end zone.

The Bombers pushed their lead to 21-0 as the first quarter ended, after Brown finished off a 77-yard drive with a one-yard quarterback sneak.

The Lions ran into penalty trouble to start the second quarter. Pinpoint passes by Nathan Rourke to James Butler and Dominque Rhymes moved the ball to midfield before a sack by Willie Jefferson brought Stefan Flintoft onto the field for the first punt of the game.

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After a 45-yard Liegghio field goal late in the second, the Lions responded, igniting the home crowd. Rourke capped off a two-play touchdown drive with a 66-yard bomb for Josh Pearson’s first career CFL touchdown reception. Winnipeg’s next drive was stalled by back-to-back offensive penalties before Rourke hit Rhymes in the end zone from 36 yards out.

The Blue Bombers added a late field goal, and took a 27-14 lead into the dressing room at halftime.

Winnipeg added to its lead in the third. Liegghio split the uprights again from 46 yards, then Collaros hit Schoen in the end zone for the second time, pushing the lead to 37-14.

Early in the fourth, Rourke connected with Rhymes for his second touchdown of the game, and Jevon Cottoy caught a pass in the end zone for a two-point convert. Winnipeg logged its third touchdown when Collaros connected with Greg Ellingson from 15 yards.

FOOT NOTES: B.C. Linebacker Bo Lokombo left the game late in the first quarter with an elbow injury, and did not return … Winnipeg will host the CFL’s only other unbeaten team, the 4-0 Calgary Stampeders, next Friday at IG Field … The Lions have a bye week … Family Day festivities on Saturday included a mascot football game at halftime.

Carol Schram, The Canadian Press

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