Game Recap | EDM 11 WPG 48

Clear your schedule and cancel any appointments previously slated for November 13th, Bomber Nation, as there’s now a green light to begin preparations for another Western Final.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers locked up first place in the Canadian Football League’s West Division with a dominant 48-11 win over the Edmonton Elks in front of 27,159 on a perfect fall Saturday night at IG Field.

Coupled with the Toronto Argonauts’ win over the B.C. Lions earlier in the day, the victory improves the Blue Bombers to 14-2 – the 14 Ws tying a franchise record – but, most importantly, means the club is now just one victory away from a third-straight Grey Cup appearance and will face either the Leos or Calgary Stampeders.

“It means a lot, but it’s not our goal to just get that game here,” said receiver Dalton Schoen, who authored another sensational night with seven catches for 162 yards and three touchdowns. “We’ve got a lot of work left to do and we’ve got to stick with our process and just keep doing what we’re doing right now.

“… Clinching is huge. It’s huge to get to play in front of these fans. That means the world to us as a team. There’s nothing better to play in front of our fans here at home. You guys hear how loud it is when we’re on defence. I love that as an offensive player and I’m sure the defensive guys love it, and it helps them.”

And here’s why what has unfolded recently at IG Field is so important: the Blue Bombers’ home record dating back to near the end of 2018 – now 26-2, including last year’s Western Final.

As Brady Oliveira said afterward: “Homefield advantage is real in Winnipeg.”

So, what exactly does clinching first and playing in front of the fans mean?

“In front of the fans is spectacular, right? God, they serve the team so well,” said head coach Mike O’Shea. “It’s pretty spectacular the way they come out, how loud they get, how much fun they have… it’s neat to watch, it’s neat to be a part of. Making sure we’re playing at home rather than being on the road is always fun… we’ve done it the other way, too.”

The Blue Bombers squished whatever drama the game might have offered early, scoring touchdowns on their first four possessions on a night when all three quarterbacks threw for touchdowns, six different players caught passes and six players carried the ball.

The last time the Blue Bombers had three different QBs throw for a score in one game? Matt Dunigan, Sam Garza and Tom Porras all threw for TDs in a 61-10 over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on October 2, 1993.

In addition to Schoen’s three scores, the Blue Bombers got two TDs from Brady Oliveira – one along the ground and his first career receiving TD – and another from Nic Demski. The defence, meanwhile, limited the Elks to just 261 yards net offence – including just 137 yards passing – while forcing two turnovers.

“It definitely energized us, for sure,” said safety Brandon Alexander of the offence scoring on its first four possessions. “We wanted to go out there and match their energy. They were scoring touchdowns and we wanted to go out there and honour them by getting as many two-and-outs as we can and have fun, for the most part.

“We don’t really look at the clinching part; we just wanted to do what we do as a team. Offence, defence and special teams showed a lot of flashes. We didn’t play a clean, full game, but we showed a lot of flashes in all three phases, and it was clicking very well for all of us.

“Again, we just wanted to go out there and honour each other and that’s what we really did tonight.”

THE BIG MOMENT:

The Elks got off the mat to show a pulse after falling behind 21-1 when Taylor Cornelius connected with Dillon Mitchell for a 59-yard TD to cut the lead to 21-8 in the second quarter.

The Blue Bombers responded with a decisive TD two possessions later as Dakota Prukop – in on a second-and-four situation – connected with Brady Oliveira on a 24-yard strike to put the club up 28-8 at halftime.

THE BIG STAT: 503

Winnipeg scored TDs on four of their five first-half possessions and had 342 yards of net offence by the intermission en route to finishing with 503 on the night. That’s a season high for the offence, and the most since the club had 508 in a 30-9 win over B.C. last October.

BLUE BOMBERS GAME BALLS

Offence: Dalton Schoen, WR: The engraver can get to work engraving his name on the CFL Most Outstanding Rookie Player award – if it wasn’t done already – after what he did tonight: seven catches for 162 yards and three TDs.

Schoen’s three TDs gives him 14 on the season – third most by a first-year player behind only the 18 David Williams had for the Lions in 1988; and the 17 Derrell Mitchell scored for Argos in 1997.

Defence: Adam Bighill, LB: Led all defenders with nine tackles in a night when every defender could be a candidate for a game ball.

Special teams: Marc Liegghio, K: Connected on both his field-goal attempts – from 43 and 37 yards – and his now hit 11 straight.

14 AND COUNTING

The Blue Bombers tied a franchise record with their 14th win of the season. That total was first set in 1960 and matched in 1993, 2001 and now 2002.

MILESTONE WATCH

  • Schoen now has 64 catches for 1,275 yards and the 14 TDs. Only one first-year Blue Bomber receiver has had more yards – Perry Tuttle had 1,373 yards in 1986.
  • Winnipeg has now won seven straight games against Edmonton dating back to 2019, building on the longest win streak against their rivals in history.
  • The Blue Bombers have clinched first place in their division in consecutive years for the first time since finishing atop the East Division in 1992-94.
  • Zach Collaros already had posted career bests in passing yardage and TD passes heading into this game but his numbers Saturday pushed him over 4,000 yards passing for the first time in his career. He’s now at 4,115 yards and the 35 TDs ties him with Tom Clements for third most in a season by a Blue Bombers QB, behind only Khari Jones (46 in 2002) and Matt Dunigan (36 in 1993). He also moved past both Roy Dewalt and Bernie Faloney into 23rd spot on the CFL’s all-time passing yardage list and now sits at 24,279. Next up is Russ Jackson at 24,593.

NOTABLE

  • Nic Demski scored a TD in his sixth consecutive game – the first Blue Bomber to do so since Charles Roberts in September-October of 2006.

NEXT: The Blue Bombers are in Vancouver to face the Lions next Saturday, with a 9 p.m. CDT kickoff.

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