Recurring nightmare for Bombers

Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce (left) and linebacker James Green walk off the field after...

Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce (left) and linebacker James Green walk off the field after losing to the Lions during the, CFL's 99th Grey Cup game at BC Place in Vancouver, B.C., Nov. 27, 2011. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

TED WYMAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:20 AM ET

A recurring nightmare continues for Blue Bombers nation and a new one is just starting for Odell Willis.

The Blue Bombers defensive lineman will forever be left to wonder what might have happened if he had just been able to hold onto the ball.

It's not remotely fair to pin the Blue Bombers loss in the Grey Cup on one player or one play, but if Willis had managed to squeeze the football for an easy interception and likely touchdown, it could have all been so different.

Willis looked like he started to run before securing the ball after Lions QB Travis Lulay gave him a fourth-quarter gift, and he wound up dropping it.

If the Bombers had scored, it would have been 24-16 for B.C., but instead the Lions went on a long drive and got a touchdown of their own to make it 31-9.

A valiant late comeback by the Bombers was too little, too late and Winnipeg's ridiculous Grey Cup drought had reached 21 seasons.

The final score was 34-23 and it was appropriate as the Lions were the better team for the most part.

But the Bombers had a glorious chance on their fingertips and simply couldn't grasp it.

• • •

As disappointing as this is for Blue Bombers fans, it has been a remarkable year for Winnipeg sports. It will be looked back upon fondly for decades to come. The return of the Jets, the constant sellouts at the MTS Centre and Canad Inns Stadium and the Bombers coming close to winning the Grey Cup all added up to something special. Once fans get over the disappointment of the Bombers losing to a better team on its own field, they'll remember this season for the success that it was. From 4-14 to a spot in the Grey Cup? You have to applaud the Bombers' remarkable turnaround ... It's also worth mentioning that the Bombers were the least experienced team in the CFL this season and still came within spitting distance of a Grey Cup. If Joe Mack can keep this team together, it has a chance to be very good for a long time ... Even before his non-interception, Willis had already hurt the Bombers with a 15-yard penalty for a horse-collar tackle and an offside. The team has always accepted his offside penalties as long as he's getting sacks. Lately, that hasn't happened ... The Lions going from 0-5 to winning the Grey Cup has to give hope to all CFL teams for the future. The old adage, "It's not how you start, but how you finish," fits the Lions' season to a T. Sadly, it works for the Bombers too, in reverse.

• • •

Brian Williams of TSN better watch out. After he inadvertently called Angelo Mosca "Angela" during the pre-game show, he's likely to get a cane upside the head ... The Joe Kapp-Mosca fight during a CFL alumni luncheon will be on top-10 lists for years to come. How often do you get to see two 73-year-olds tossing haymakers over a 48-year-old grudge ... With five straight losses in Grey Cup games, the Bombers are starting to make the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings look good ... Shocking to see Paul McCallum hit the upright on a field goal try, even from 48 yards out. That's how automatic the guy has been this season. Bombers kicker Justin Palardy actually had the better day, going three-for-three, but got lucky with one of his kicks bouncing through off the post ... The Bombers were 0-10 this season when losing the turnover battle. There was only one turnover Sunday, but it was a Buck Pierce interception, and not surprisingly the Bombers lost. Still trying to figure out what possessed Pierce to throw that ball into tight coverage ... The Bombers gave it a hell of a go at the end but they lived dangerously all season with slow starts and eventually that catches up to you ... The Lions made sure Bombers RB Chris Garrett was a complete non-factor, which put more pressure on Pierce and the receivers. They made a few big plays, but a lot more two-and-outs ... The CFL's most outstanding defensive player Jovon Johnson got beaten deep a couple of times, but came through in a big way on special teams, with a couple of big punt returns to keep the Bombers in the game.

• • •

Nice tribue to Richard Harris, the former Bombers assistant coach who passed away suddenly in the summer. The Bombers desperately wanted to win the Grey Cup to honour his memory and even though they fell short, their hearts were clearly in the right place ... Not sure what was called or who won the coin toss, as Rod Black talked all the way through it. People who placed prop bets must have loved that ... Jamie Boreham had an up and down game for the Bombers. The punter and kickoff specialist may have saved a touchdown with his tackle on Lions returner Tim Brown on the opening play. Later he shanked a punt that netted only six yards and finally, he flubbed the onside kick at the end, booting it only six yards. The Bombers recovered but it's only legal if it goes 10 yards. Boreham was devastated after the game ... The teams had to be separated before the opening kickoff and James Green of the Bombers tangled with Solomon Elimimian of the Lions after the first play. It was a nasty football game all around ... The Lions came out on fire and never trailed. Up 11-0 after the first quarter, the closest the Bombers ever came was five points (14-9) early in the third quarter. The only times the Bombers really seemed to have momentum were when they put up a pair of field goals in the second quarter and a pair of touchdowns when it was too late in the fourth ... You have to credit the Bombers D with keeping them in the game. The Lions had great field position for much of the first half but only came away with one TD in three trips to the red zone ... If you didn't think Buck Pierce was brave, or crazy, or both, witness his first run of the game, which ended with Korey Banks separating him from his helmet ... Pierce had receivers open twice in the end zone in the second quarter but misfired. If the Bombers hadn't had to settle for field goals there, it could have been a different outcome ... Kind of fitting for Winnipegger Andrew Harris to be the outstanding Canadian against the team he worshipped as a kid. His touchdown run early in the game really set the tone for the Leos ... You just have to feel for Doug Brown. A guy with that much talent, heart and class truly deserved to hoist the Grey Cup in his career at least once.


Videos

Photos