By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Zach Collaros wasn’t really surprised by the way his debut with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers ended.
Collaros guided the offence down the field late in the fourth quarter and Justin Medlock booted a 34-yard field goal as time expired for a 29-28 victory over the Calgary Stampeders on Friday.
Could it have been scripted better?
“For kind of the crazy year it’s been, probably not,” Collaros said.
Collaros began his eighth CFL season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but suffered a concussion during the first drive of the team’s season-opening loss to Hamilton on June 13. He was traded to the Toronto Argonauts in late July and never got into a game.
He was shipped to Winnipeg from the Argonauts at the trade deadline on Oct. 9, insurance after Bombers Matt Nichols had season-ending surgery on a shoulder he injured in mid-August.
Chris Streveler was Winnipeg’s starter, but he injured an ankle in Calgary’s 37-33 victory last weekend and wasn’t ready for the rematch so Collaros was tapped.
Collaros completed 22-of-28 pass attempts for 221 yards with touchdown passes to Kenny Lawler and Darvin Adams. He threw one interception.
The victory kept Winnipeg’s (11-7) hopes alive for a home playoff date. If the Stamps (11-6) lose next week to B.C., Winnipeg finishes second in the West Division. Saskatchewan (11-5) ends its season with back-to-back games against Edmonton.
Calgary led 7-0 after the first quarter, 14-10 at halftime and 28-19 after the third.
Nic Demski had a TD run for Winnipeg and Medlock also booted a 29-yard field goal and three converts.
Bombers running back Andrew Harris had a 15-yard run in the nine-play, 37-yard winning drive and finished with 15 carries for 64 yards.
“He was great tonight,” Harris said of Collaros. “He made big throws, made big plays with his feet. Took some shots and got up. He was solid all-around.”
Collaros was sacked midway through the second, with Calgary linebacker Wynton McManis’s helmet hitting the pivot in the shoulder and facemask as he was sliding. The contact drew loud boos from 24,460 fans at IG Field, but no penalty.
Calgary receivers Eric Rogers and Hergy Mayala each caught a pair of touchdown passes from Bo Levi Mitchell, who was 31-of-43 passing for 350 yards with no picks. He also threw a two-point convert pass to Richie Sindani.
“You want the ball in your hands at the end of the game and we didn’t get it done,” said Mitchell, whose offence went two-and-out in its final possession with under 2:30 left in the game.
“That’s on us, that’s on myself. Defence did a great job. They made them punt, gave us a chance to go win the game for them and we’ve got to be better and finish right there.”
Rob Maver had a punt single for Calgary. Kicker Rene Paredes was wide on a 47-yard field-goal attempt, good on one convert and went wide on another convert attempt that Bombers receiver Janarion Grant returned 122 yards for two points.
“The effort’s there. We’ve got to understand that trying hard is not good enough,” Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson said. “So look in the mirror, let’s go ahead and get back to work.”
Mitchell had guided the Stampeders on a methodical 12-play, 81-yard opening drive, mixing up runs and passes and finishing with a 22-yard toss on the run to Mayala in the end zone at 6:54.
Collaros completed his first six passes over two series before throwing a pass out of bounds.
After Collaros was sacked by McManis, Winnipeg punted. Collaros was back in for the next series, but threw an interception to linebacker Nate Holley. The turnover led to Paredes’ wide field-goal attempt.
Demski and Rogers had their TDs late in the first half. A two-point convert attempt pass to Reggie Begelton was incomplete so Calgary led 14-10.
Medlock got the Bombers off on the right foot to open the second half when his 67-yard punt put Calgary at its own six-yard line. The drive ended in a punt and then penalties, giving Winnipeg the ball at the Stampeders’ 25-yard line.
Collaros used his next throw to find Lawler in the end zone for the TD at 3:52 and a Winnipeg 17-14 lead.
Rogers got his second TD of the game with a 10-yard pass from Mitchell, but then Grant took back Paredes’ missed convert attempt.
A scrambling Mitchell found Mayala in the end zone for an 11-yard scoring strike, followed by Sindani’s two-point convert catch to up the lead 28-19.
Collaros did his own scrambling until he found Adams in the corner of the end zone and the veteran receiver kept both feet in bounds for an eight-yard TD catch. Medlock hit his convert to cut the Stampeders lead to 28-26 at 7:12 of the fourth.