Eskimos lose to Bombers by single point
By GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency
|Bombers running back Chad Simpson fumbles the ball while being tackled by Eskimos linebackers J.C. Sherritt (left) and T.J. Hill in Winnipeg on Thursday night. (Brian Donogh, QMI Agency)
On the eve of the London Olympics, there was a classic gladiator grudge match going on in front of a sold-out crowd of 29,533 at Canad Inns Stadium Thursday.
A moment of silence for former Winnipeg Blue Bombers coach Richard Harris, held on the anniversary of his fatal heart attack, was as quiet as it got in the old building's 2012 home-opener, which was originally intended to be the unveiling of the new stadium — had it been finished.
Instead, an 0-4 Bombers squad found their first victory of the season, 23-22, on familiar territory against an Edmonton Eskimos team that came in sharing the top of the standings.
Leading by three to open the final frame, Eskimos punter Burke Dales conceded the safety to make it a one-point game before Winnipeg took a 23-21 lead on a 27-yard field goal by Justin Palardy.
But Edmonton answered back with a 27-yard reception by Fred Stamps into Winnipeg territory, which turned into a 48-yard punt single to trail by one.
With just over one minute remaining, Steven Jyles found Nate Coehoorn on third-and-10 before getting the ball to Cary Koch for a first down.
But he fumbled the game away while scrambling for a first down to mark Edmonton's fifth-consecutive loss in Winnipeg.
Jake Thomas forced it, while Jovon Johnson recovered.
It started like it ended, a defensive battle out of the gates with Winnipeg taking a 1-0 lead on a 57-yard punt single by Renaud Williams that counted as the only point of the opening quarter.
Dales tied things up 20 seconds into the second with a 65-yard punt that bounced into the end zone to tie the score 1-1, before Grant Shaw put Edmonton ahead 4-1 with a 45-yard field goal with just under 10 minutes left in the half.
Edmonton got the ball back after defensive end Shawn Lemon hit Alex Brink's arm mid-delivery, leading to an interception by defensive halfback Ronnie Prude, who was making his first CFL start.
Prude then forced one of his own on a corner blitz that was picked off by Eskimos safety Donovan Alexander.
Jyles finally broke the offensive drought with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Cary Koch — who had both of Jyles's TDs at that point — deep in the end zone to lead 11-1 with three and a half minutes left in the half.
Brink then took matters into his own hands, or feet, rather, with a 17-yard run that set up a 26-yard field goal by Justin Palardy, before Shaw knocked in a 25-yarder to lead 14-4.
But Brink found league-leading receiver Chris Matthews on a 40-yard bomb next to Prude with zeroes on the clock to trail by four at halftime.
After nine full quarters of play, two minutes and 56 seconds into the season, Stamps recorded his first touchdown on a 47-yard connection to lead 21-11.
Lemon then put the squeeze on Brink with a sack that pushed the Bombers out of field-goal range, only to have Hugo Lopez deflect a Renaud Punt that was touched by teammate Mike Miller before being scooped up by Jeremy McGee, who set his Bombers up 24 yards from the end zone.
Simpson turned a short catch into a 20-yard gain that set up his own four-yard touchdown run to trail 21-18 heading into the fourth.