By Darrin Bauming (@DarrinBauming)The Winnipeg Blue Bombers came in to Thursday night’s matchup with the winless B.C. Lions with heavy hearts, following the loss of their defensive line coach Richard Harris just two days earlier.
A victory was what the Bombers needed to revitalize a dejected organization, and they earned it — 25-20.
“We were really quiet before the game. We were quiet in our (dressing) room. We were quiet when we warmed up,” said head coach Paul LaPolice after the game.
“I talked about how people are saying you can’t get up for this game. I showed them Brett Favre when his dad passed away, and the game he had and how well he played.”
The first half began as a defensive showdown, with the two teams exchanging field goals to end the first quarter.
Justin Palardy’s 20-yard field goal midway through the second quarter gave Winnipeg a 6-3 lead, but B.C. responded with gorgeous 33-yard Geroy Simon one-handed grab that set up a Jamal Robertson touchdown plunge. Another B.C. field goal made it 13-6 Lions at the half.
The Blue Bombers came out flying in the second, as Buck Pierce hit Clarence Denmark for an 82-yard catch-and-run touchdown down the sideline on the half’s first offensive play, tying the game at 13.
“The thing that really helped us in the second half was that throw by Buck to Denmark. I don’t mean on a football-points level. I just mean on a crowd level, with everyone being excited coming out, it was tremendous,” said LaPolice.
Pierce left the game in the fourth quarter with a strained left calf muscle. Last week’s CFL offensive player of the week finished his day 11-of-18, for 206 yards and a touchdown. Looking towards next week, Pierce’s health status appears not serious.
With the Bombers trailing by one, quarterback Alex Brink came in and worked a masterful 8-play, 75-yard drive down the field, capped off by a 22-yard touchdown. The failed two-point conversion made it 25-20 Winnipeg with 3:29 to play.
“Once we got a little bit of momentum — the quarterback draw was a big play that got us going — and obviously the touchdown to Terrence was huge,” said Brink.
Brink, who came in to the 2011 season as Winnipeg’s No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart, went 4-of-8, for 52 yards and a touchdown.
“Last year I got a taste with a start against (the Lions). I really struggled, so to come back and put that behind me means a lot.”
B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay appeared off the mark trying to catch up in the final minutes, with the sell-out Winnipeg crowd of 29,533 on it’s feet and at it’s loudest so far this season.
Defensive tackle and Richard Harris pupil Dorian Smith had arguably his best outing of the season, amassing two sacks — both at key moments.
“It definitely was (for coach Harris),” said Smith. “I just wanted to make him proud. His wife was here, and I just wanted to do my part. I knew that, somewhere he was watching, and to play my heart out for him.”
Harris’ wife Tamy was presented with the game ball following the win.
The impressive 4-1 Blue Bombers remain atop the East Division, with the Montreal Alouettes (3-1) meeting the third-placed Hamilton Tiger Cats (2-2) Friday night.
The West Division leading Edmonton Eskimos (4-0) visit Canad Inns Stadium on Friday, August 5.