Blue end season with loss to Stamps


CALGARY — Quarterback Zach Collaros didn’t get hurt Saturday night.

Now that the most important thing is out of the way, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers closed out the CFL regular season with a forgettable 13-12 loss to Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium in front of an announced crowd of 19,103.

The game had zero impact on the standings. It didn’t matter what the final result was, either way, the Bombers are scheduled to host the West Division final on Dec. 5 and the Stampeders have their tickets to Regina booked for the West semi-final against the Saskatchewan Roughriders (9-5) next Sunday. But even if you didn’t know that, it was pretty obvious that the game didn’t count for anything as the play was uninspiring until the final two minutes when the Stamps rattled off 13 unanswered points.

Calgary Stampeders' Richard Leonard, left, tackles Rasheed Bailey during the first half. (Todd Korol / The Canadian Press)</p>
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Calgary Stampeders’ Richard Leonard, left, tackles Rasheed Bailey during the first half. (Todd Korol / The Canadian Press)

The result gives the Bombers, who also lost 28-14 last week in Montreal, an 11-3 record in this year’s shortened season while the victory allows the Stamps to stay above .500 and finish at 8-6.

“Our record doesn’t matter now. Nothing matters right now,” said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea.

“We’ll watch the film, make corrections we need to make. There are reasons why we win or lose, like I always say. And after we get done with those corrections, it doesn’t matter what our record is. We’ve got one game to play and we’ve got two weeks to prepare for it. None of that stuff matters now.”

The Bombers let Collaros play four drives in the first half and he didn’t take a single hit. The team’s Most Outstanding Player nominee went 7-of-10 for 73 yards before he was given the rest of the night off for rookie Dru Brown.

Adam Bighill stops Stampeders' Ante Milanovic-Litre during the second half. (Todd Korol / The Canadian Press)</p>
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Adam Bighill stops Stampeders’ Ante Milanovic-Litre during the second half. (Todd Korol / The Canadian Press)

“I felt good. Osh asked me how I felt, how I was seeing things, and I told him I thought I was seeing the coverage well and he made the decision to take me out,” Collaros said.

“They didn’t drag me off the field but you never want to come out of a game, especially when the rest of the guys are out there playing. It’s never easy to do, but I understand.”

One of the few bright spots, for either team, on the night was Bombers running back Johnny Augustine. The third-year back from Welland, Ont., made the most of the opportunity to start as he rushed for over 100 yards in the first half alone. He finished the ballgame with 23 carries for a career-high 148 yards. Augustine, the team’s third-string running back, got the start as Brady Oliveira is nursing an ankle injury and Andrew Harris is still on the six-game injured list.

Augustine is a free agent after this season and has shown that he has no business being a third-string running back in this league. Augustine, who has carried the rock 73 times as a pro, has career yards per carry average of 6.9.

Bombers quarterback Dru Brown hands the ball off to Johnny Augustine during the first half. (Todd Korol / The Canadian Press)</p>
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Bombers quarterback Dru Brown hands the ball off to Johnny Augustine during the first half. (Todd Korol / The Canadian Press)

“Obviously, today, I’m happy with the way I played and it’s that trust factor. I want to be in a position where when they call my name, my teammates and the coaching staff can lean on me and trust me and I hope that I proved that to them today and continue to do that,” said Augustine.

With backup Sean McGuire back in Winnipeg with a groin injury, Brown was the next man up after Collaros. His first play was a quarterback sneak for a first down deep into Calgary territory in the first quarter. The Bombers kept him in for the next play and disaster struck. Brown, a 24-year-old rookie who played college ball at the University of Hawaii and Oklahoma State, dropped back to pass and fumbled the ball as he felt the heat from a blitzing linebacker in Jameer Thurman. Dimeback Javien Elliot recovered and had a 28-yard return that was spoiled by an illegal blocking penalty. The Stamps wasted the turnover by following it up with a two-and-out.

Brown officially took over for Collaros late in the second quarter and didn’t make any major mistakes after the fumble, but overall, he failed to make much of an impact in his professional debut. Brown made some nice plays with his legs as he tucked the ball and ran the ball seven times for 44 yards. As for throwing it, he was quiet, posting a stat line of 7-for-14 for 49 yards.

“He might have had a little trouble with the handle on the ball earlier on, with some of the throws. It didn’t look like it was coming out clean,” said O’Shea.

Stampeders' Luther Hakunavanhu prepares to catch a pass to score a touchdown against the Bombers during the second half. (Todd Korol / The Canadian Press)</p>
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Stampeders’ Luther Hakunavanhu prepares to catch a pass to score a touchdown against the Bombers during the second half. (Todd Korol / The Canadian Press)

“After that I thought he corrected it and I thought he did alright.”

It was a flat performance by Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell who only played the first half. Mitchell completed 7-of-11 passes for 39 yards before Jake Maier took over. Maier didn’t fare any better until he tossed a 57-yard touchdown to Luther Hakunavanhu in the game’s final two minutes. Maier went 10-for-20 for 177 yards and was picked off by Bombers defensive back Mike Jones in the third quarter.

Kicker Sergio Castillo was sharp for the Blue and Gold, drilling four of his five field goal attempts (15, 45, 46, and 50). His lone miss was from 52-yards out. Bombers wideout Kenny Lawler had four receptions for 41 yards and concludes the season as the CFL’s leading receiver with 1,014 yards.

Late in the first half, Bombers star safety Brandon Alexander had a scary collision with teammate Thiadric Hansen while making a tackle on a punt and left the game. O’Shea didn’t provide an injury update after the game.

The Stampeders won the game on a walk-off 27-yard field goal by Rene Paredes.

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

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