By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Willie Jefferson was proud the Winnipeg Blue Bombers showed their all-round skills with a 45-0 blanking of the B.C. Lions on Saturday that clinched first place in the West Division.
The defending Grey Cup-champion Bombers earned touchdowns on offence, defence and special teams, including defensive end Jefferson intercepting Lions quarterback Michael Reilly and running 39 yards for a touchdown.
“That’s the type of ball that we want to put on display – three phases of football, giving it all we got for our fans and for the CFL to see,” said Jefferson, who rolled in the end zone and strutted with the football as his teammates celebrated and fans cheered.
It was Winnipeg’s eighth straight victory and boosted the club’s record to 10-1 in front of 23,750 fans at IG Field, where the team will host the division final on Dec. 5.
It’s the first time the Bombers will host a divisional final since 2011, and the first West final since 1972. They also spent time in the East Division.
“All it is is a ticket to play that game,” Winnipeg quarterback Zach Collaros said, keeping to the team’s demeanour of downplaying the achievement. “We still have some football left to be played, obviously, and our goals are still ahead of us.”
The loss dropped the Lions to 4-6 and extended their losing streak to four games.
Reilly was asked if the Lions have hit rock bottom.
“I hope so,” he replied. “I mean, if it gets worse than this, that’s obviously not a good thing. So I can’t answer that because time will tell, but hopefully it is.”
Reilly was 15-of-31 passing for 131 yards and one interception. He was sacked four times.
The last time the Bombers held an opponent scoreless was Oct. 13, 2018, in a 31-0 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Winnipeg.
Collaros played for the Riders in that game and didn’t have fond memories.
“I can remember that trip was not a fun trip,” Collaros said with a laugh. “So, yeah, definitely feels better to be part of the winning team in a shutout.”
On Saturday, Collaros was 16 for 20 for 267 yards with three TD throws and no interceptions. He was replaced by Sean McGuire midway through the fourth quarter.
Kenny Lawler caught TD passes of 14 and five yards and Rasheed Bailey added another with a 17-yard reception. Kicker Ali Mourtada was good on six converts and Marc Liegghio booted a single. The Lions conceded two singles.
Second-year Bombers running back Brady Oliveira, making his fourth start this season in place of injured Andrew Harris, scored his first career TD on a two-yard run in the third quarter. The Winnipeg-born 24-year-old finished with 17 carries for 65 yards.
With 2:05 left in the game, Janarion Grant returned a punt 63 yards for a major.
Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea agreed when asked if it was the team’s most complete game of the season.
“Yeah, I’d say so,” he said. “It was nice to see the special teams get going. They’ve been working hard and to get rewarded like that, that’s good for them.
“But yeah, all three phrases played very well. Defence was, obviously, exceptional again.”
Lions placekicker Jimmy Camacho missed a 46-yard field-goal attempt.
“(Reilly’s) going to tell you he needs to play better, and there’s a whole bunch of other guys that need to play better and coach better and all that stuff – with me at the front of the line,” B.C. head coach Rick Campbell said.
Winnipeg led 15-0 after the first quarter, 16-0 at halftime and 30-0 after the third.
Lawler stretched up for his 14-yard TD catch in the end zone at 5:38 of the first.
B.C. conceded a single on the following kickoff and Winnipeg led 8-0.
Bombers receiver Darvin Adams burst down the field for a 52-yard catch-and-run, with B.C. defensive back Marcus Sayles (a former Bomber) making the TD-saving tackle. The drive ended with Bailey’s 17-yard TD reception in the end zone at 11:10.
Reilly marched the Lions down to Winnipeg’s 39-yard line late in the first quarter, but a dropped pass by Bryan Burnham and a knocked-down pass attempt halted the drive. Camacho then missed his field-goal try.
The Lions continued to start drives deep in their own end and had to concede a punt single with 1:51 left in the half to give Winnipeg a 16-0 lead.
Oliveira’s TD run at 7:11 ended a 10-play, 88-drive that was aided by a pass-interference penalty on B.C., and one for roughing the passer that was unsuccessfully challenged by Campbell.
Lawler’s second TD at 1:57 of the fourth quarter came after a B.C. turnover on downs.