The Winnipeg Blue Bombers opened their season at home against the Ottawa Redblacks, a team that they had not faced in 1056 days!
After unveiling the 2021 Grey Cup Championship Banner the teams hit the field to find out if the 2022 Bombers would be as dominant as the previous year’s iteration, or if Ottawa, under their new quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli could improve upon their 3-11 record from 2021.
While Masoli would have a chip on his shoulder, as he lost in both the 2019 and 2021 Grey Cups to Winnipeg, and would throw in this game for 380 yards completing 24 of 34 passing attempts, Ottawa would come up short. However, the Ottawa Redblacks would not leave the Winnipeg Blue Bombers without some hard conversation to have following their Week 1 win.
In an interview after the game Head Coach, Mike O’Shea would say,
“I’d rather have the two points and have a lot of hard conversations coming up than not get the two points.”Quote via Ed Tait
So what happened for the Head Coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to have to partake in some hard conversations following the win?
For those that watched the game, it started off fairly well. Receiver Jaelon Acklin would drop a long pass on the second passing attempt by Masoli. However, Acklin was wide open. And when I say ‘wide open,’ I mean about as open as some of the sections of seating in stadiums in the pre-season games (not naming any names – rival province to the west of Manitoba). The saving grace on that play was not Winnipeg’s historic defense that held teams around 13 points on average in 2021, but rather that Acklin would drop the pass. The theme of Redblack receivers being wide open would be one that continued for the duration of the game.
Other areas that fans were watching that will likely be a part of these ‘hard conversations,’ would be the play of backup quarterback Dakota Prukop and the play of kicker Marc Liegghio who handled all the kicking duties for Winnipeg,
While Prukop was listed as the number 3 quarterback, there was very little doubt that he would handle the short-yardage situations for Winnipeg, which he did. But he did not handle them with excellence. After one of his initial plays that saw Prukop scramble and make a beautiful shovel pass under pressure to Brady Oliveria, Prukop’s play would be suspect at times.
The first play of the second quarter would see Winnipeg line up for a field goal on 3rd and 2 on Ottawa’s 40 yard-line. The snap itself was decent, the hold, not so much. In fact, the ball would go right through the hands of holder Dakota Prukop. To his credit, Prukop was able to grab the ball and run for a first down. Yes, Prukop was brought in for his ability to run the ball, but that was not the type of running play Winnipeg hoped to see him in.
In the fourth quarter, Prukop would get a chance to run the ball again, this time on a designed quarterback sneak, on a short-yardage play, but Prukop ended up losing a yard. This time his saving grace was that the Ottawa defense had lined up offside, and Winnipeg received another set of downs as aresult of the penalty.
However, Prukop would bring himself some redemption as he scored a mid-fourth-quarter touchdown on a quarterback sneak, with 6:10 remaining in the game to give Winnipeg a 16-14 lead.
The second area that will likely be part of the conversations to follow was the work of kicker Marc Liegghio. Handling all the kicking duties for Winnipeg Lieghio was not bad. But the question coming into this year would be if Liegghio could hold onto his kicking duties, something he was not able to accomplish in 2021 with his sporadic performances. That led the Bombers to acquire kicker Sergio Castillo late in the season who would be vital to Winnipeg winning the 2021 Grey Cup, going five for five in that game.
Marc Liegghio was not terrible in this game, going two for two on field goal attempts (both being between 20-29 yards) but it was the play after Prukop scored the go-ahead touchdown that will bring about some of those hard conversations as Liegghio missed the point-after (which should be a gimme). Missing that point-after would position the Ottawa Redblacks within striking distance, where a field goal could now win the game.
Sure enough, Ottawa would get within field goal range and make it, taking the score to 17-16 Ottawa. Yet, Liegghio would hit the game-winning field goal, putting the Bombers up 19-17 with six seconds remaining.
What must be noted is that in the final drive, Winnipeg starting quarterback Zach Collaros would get taken out of the game after running for a first down with 1:33 remaining on the clock. In his place, Dru Brown came in (listed as the number 2 quarterback) and went three for three accumulating 51 yards, which put the Bombers in field goal range. https://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/liegghio-hits-late-field-goal-to-lift-blue-bombers-to-19-17-win-over-redblacks-1.5942915
What should not be lost in all of this is that the win against Ottawa was Winnipeg’s tenth straight win at home, a massive improvement from when IG Field opened.
Will the Bomber’s defense be better? Will Prukop continue to be the short-yardage quarterback? Will Liegghio still handle all the kicking duties? Will Collaros be starting on Friday, June 17th when Winnipeg plays Ottawa again, this time in Ottawa?
All of this we will find out after some hard conversations the Bombers are sure to have this week.
For more post-game analysis, of this game, you can listen to Bonfiresports live or after the fact. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UqCUEkenCo