By Jim Bender, The Canadian Press
Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros unleashed a long bomb to show that he had solved the Edmonton Elks’ defence in the second half of a 28-14 win Thursday.
After Winnipeg was held to six points in the first half, Collaros threw a sudden, 70-yard strike to a wide-open slotback Nic Demski for a 16-7 lead in front of 28,512 fans at IG Field.
“For us to be able to pick ourselves up in the second half was huge,” said Collaros, who completed 20 of 24 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception.
“I thought we really set the tone, physically, and with some big plays we were able to separate. We took care of business in the end.”
The Blue Bombers, who were upset by the Ottawa Redblacks last week, improved to 5-2.
Winnipeg hasn’t lost two regular-season games in a row since the end of 2021.
The desperate Elks extended their losing streak to seven straight.
Collaros also threw a six-yard touchdown pass to slotback Rasheed Bailey.
Backup quarterback Dakota Prukop added a two-yard touchdown run.
Placekicker Sergio Castillo converted two of three convert attempts and kicked field goals of 46 and 21 yards.
“It’s always good to win at home and that’s what you’re supposed to do,” Collaros said. “Our crowd was amazing. For us to be able to pick ourselves up in the second half was huge.
“I thought we really set the tone there early on and with some big plays, we were able to separate.
“The defence played extremely well all night long and we were able to take care of business there at the end.”
The Blue Bombers also scored a safety touch when Edmonton quarterback Taylor Cornelius was called for grounding the ball in the end zone.
Cornelius completed 17 of 29 passes for 220 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown toss to wide receiver Dillon Mitchell, but was intercepted twice.
“I thought we played a better game than what we’ve shown in the past,” Cornelius said. “It’s still not the result that we want, by any means. I mean, they’re a good football team, but we feel like we have the guys in our locker room to do special things and we’re still not there yet.”
Edmonton’s Dean Faithfull kicked field goals of 28 and 30 yards and added a convert. Punter Jake Julien added a 54-yard single.
Cornelius ran rampant in the first half, but was stymied in the last two quarters.
“They were just bringing a lot more zero blitzes and things like that to make us get the ball out of our hands quick,” said Cornelius, who finished with 57 rushing yards.
“And there were different stunts and things like that up front.”
The Elks were encouraged by a 6-6 score at halftime.
“We’ve just got to play a complete game,” said Edmonton defensive lineman Jake Ceresna. “There were a couple of plays out there defensively that we’d like to have back, but we’ve just got to go look at the film, correct that and make sure that we don’t make the same mistakes going forward.
“Every one of our games this year, we’ve been in the game at halftime. It really seems like the end of the third quarter, start of the fourth quarter that games go bad, so we’ve just got to look at ourselves in the mirror and fix that.”
After missing the first six games of the season while suspended due to immigration issues, Bombers wide receiver Kenny Lawler caught seven passes for 93 yards, including one circus catch, in his season debut.
“It’s a credit to him that he stayed in shape and stayed with it,” Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea said. “It’s not easy. The emotional roller-coaster, the strain on his head, wondering when this was going to happen and just trying to stay with it.
“I would imagine you’d find some sanity in training hard, making sure you are ready when that chance comes.”
Castillo missing a 45-yard field-goal attempt late in the first half snapped his streak of 13 made this season, and 23 straight going back to last season.
He also missed a convert attempt.
Winnipeg heads into a bye week before hosting the B.C. Lions on Aug. 3. The Elks are at home to the Lions on July 29.