By Darrin Bauming (@DarrinBauming)
It was a somewhat disappointing end to an era in Winnipeg sports.
Despite dropping a critical 27-22 decision to the Toronto Argonauts, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers recorded their seventh-consecutive regular season sell-out at home Friday night — the first time they’ve done so in the 58-year history of Winnipeg (now, Canad Inns) Stadium.
It was also the Blue Bombers’ final regular season game at home, as the football club surpassed 260,000 tickets sold in 2011, breaking their single-season attendance record by averaging 29,532 fans per game — nearly 800 more than their 1985 record of 28,739. The Blue and Gold move into their brand new digs on the University of Manitoba campus for the 2012 season.
Watch post-game reaction:
A first quarter Justin Palardy field goal from 12-yards out opened the scoring — but that’s where the wheels fell off, as Toronto piled up 24 unanswered points in the second quarter, and lead 24-6 at the half.
It was a debt Winnipeg could not repay.
Bombers’ quarterback Buck Pierce left the game with an apparent leg injury midway through the second immediately after tossing a pick-six to Toronto’s Byron Parker. Parker’s 50-yard return set a new Canadian Football League record for career interception touchdown returns with nine over his seven-year career bouncing between the CFL and NFL.
In familiar fashion this season, Winnipeg returned in the second half with momentum on their side, as well as Alex Brink under centre, dominating with 12+ minutes of third quarter offensive possession and adding 16 points via three Palardy field goals and a 45-yard Greg Carr touchdown from Brink.
Toronto kicker Noel Prefontaine missed a 56-yard attempt midway through the fourth, keeping Winnipeg within two. However, running back Cory Boyd took over on the Argo’s next possession, amassing 47 of Toronto’s 70-yards on a drive Prefontaine capped, making it 27-22 Argos.
“They hang around the game,” said head coach Paul LaPolice of the 5-12 Argonauts. “They made some plays. You can’t turn the ball over and give them seven points, give them short fields. You got to get sevens when you get opportunities. So, that’s why we lost.”
There is still an opportunity for Winnipeg to celebrate victory at Canad Inns Stadium before the historic facility is retired, as the Blue Bombers will host either the East Semifinal on November 13 or the East Final on November 20, depending on the outcome of the Montreal Alouettes’ final two games vs. Calgary and at B.C.
Winnipeg wraps their regular season on November 5 at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.
- The status of Buck Pierce’s leg injury is unknown, and will be reassessed on Saturday.
- Pierce finished 16-of-27, for 219 yards and a TD.
- Alex Brink went 5-of-11, for 50 yards and an interception.
- Winnipeg defensive back Johnny Sears was ejected after a late hit on a sliding Steven Jyles in the fourth quarter. Toronto linebacker Jason Pottinger was also ejected for entering the field during the resulting skirmish. Jyles is suspected to have suffered a concussion.
- Winnipeg running back Chris Garrett had another great outing, with 159 rushing yards on 20 carries.
- Winnipeg wideout Greg Carr put up 122 yards and a TD on 7 receptions.
- Toronto’s Cory Boyd became the second Argonaut in history to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in consecutive seasons with 91 on the ground vs. Winnipeg.
ChrisD.ca video/Darrin Bauming