By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Greg McCrae showcased his versatility and value in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 24-11 victory over the Calgary Stampeders on Friday.
The second-year running back/receiver recorded a 68-yard catch-and-run touchdown and returned a missed Rene Paredes’ field goal 102 yards to help set up a Bombers’ field goal.
“Like I’ve been telling you guys for a while now, Greg McCrae is a dog, man,” Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros told reporters.
“He can play running back. He’s starting at one of the most important positions in our offence (slotback) and he played running back at school. To be able to do that is pretty amazing. And then stick him out there after (returner Janarion Grant) went down. Not surprised at that return one bit.”
McCrae finished with two catches for 73 yards and also had three carries for seven yards.
“I believe I’m a very versatile player,” said McCrae, who admitted to being tired after his long return. “I believe the coaches believe that, too.
“I’m just grateful and blessed that they see me that way and allow me to go out there and perform at a high level like this.”
McCrae wasn’t the only Bomber to come up with some big plays at key times.
With the game tied 11-11 late in the third quarter, Winnipeg defensive back Demerio Houston intercepted Calgary quarterback Jake Maier to register his third pick of the season.
Collaros then engineered a seven-play, 54-yard drive capped by Rasheed Bailey’s touchdown with 1:37 remaining in the third to give the team its first lead of the game.
Winnipeg then capitalized on Paredes’s missed 47-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth. McCrae’s 102-yard return led to Sergio Castillo’s 17-yard field goal and a 21-11 lead.
Castillo was also good on field goals from 47 and 12 yards out, keeping him a perfect 11-for-11 this season. It extended his active streak to 21 consecutive field goals from last Sept. 16.
The victory in front of 30,561 fans at IG Field bumped up Winnipeg’s record to 4-1. Calgary fell to 1-3.
Collaros completed 20 of his 28 pass attempts for 231 yards with two touchdowns.
Maier was 14-of-25 passing for 122 yards with one interception.
“You can’t win with 122 yards passing. It’s just not going to work,” Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson said. “And then we’ve got to find ways to push the ball down field, but that takes protection as well as seeing and design and winning one-on-one matchups.
“They’ve got a good defence, I’ll give them credit, but we have to be better. We have to be more explosive. Can’t win with that production passing the ball.”
Jamieson Sheahan added a punt single for Winnipeg.
Calgary got a touchdown off a three-yard run by Dedrick Mills, who finished with 14 carries for 97 yards. He had seven carries for 74 yards in the first quarter.
“(The Bombers) changed some things up on their defence and tried to box us in and stuff like that, so the holes weren’t really opening up anymore,” Mills said of the fall-off in the second half.
Paredes made one field goal from 30 yards. Winnipeg conceded a single on a punt by Cody Grace.
“We played a pretty decent first half,” Maier said. “Second half, we came out and they made a few plays that gave them a lot of momentum.
“Me turning the ball over in that situation wasn’t great, so I’m always going to put it on my shoulders and take responsibility for what happens to us as an offence. That’s always how it’s going to be — good, bad or ugly. First half was very competitive, the second half wasn’t. It’s on us offensively.”
Paredes put the first points on the board with his 30-yarder 4:09 into the first quarter.
Mills notched his three-yard TD run at 11:42 to go up 10-0, but Winnipeg got a point as time expired when Sheahan’s punt hit the goal line pylon for a single.
The Bombers then gave the visitors a point by conceding a punt single four minutes into the second quarter for the 11-1 score.
The energy in the stadium improved after Castillo connected on his 47-yarder at 11:40, then McCrae got behind coverage and scored his touchdown with a minute and a half to go in the half.
After both teams traded punts and couldn’t find the red zone, Houston intercepted Maier.
Winnipeg ensured its victory with a 15-play, 99-yard drive that used up almost 10 minutes on the clock and ended with Castillo’s 12-yarder at 13:03.
The Stampeders have now lost their last seven games in Winnipeg. Calgary’s last win at IG Field — a 29-10 victory — was on July 7, 2017.
The Bombers travel to Ottawa to take on the Redblacks in a July 15 afternoon game. The Stampeders are in Saskatchewan to face the Roughriders the same night.