Blue Bombers implode

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

TORONTO -- Inexperience ruled the day at Rogers Centre.

Unfortunately for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, it was the wrong inexperience.

ARGONAUTS 31 BOMBERS 27

Toronto Argonauts backup quarterback Michael Bishop, in for the struggling Damon Allen, threw two touchdown strikes in the final 7:27 to propel the hosts to a come-from-behind 31-27 victory over the Bombers in the CFL's East Division semifinal.

The Bombers, back in the playoffs for the first time since 2003, looked like they were going to be 60 minutes away from playing for the Grey Cup in their own park on Nov. 19. They had a 27-17 lead and all the momentum when Argos coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons made the gutsy call to replace Allen with less than eight minutes to go.

It ended up being a brilliant move by Clemons, but he definitely got some help from the Bombers, who turned the ball over twice in the final seven minutes.

"We had the team to go to the Grey Cup," said Bombers linebacker Barrin Simpson, who had a game-high 10 tackles. "But we were in the process of getting experience and learning how to win.

"In the playoffs, if you make those mistakes, inexperienced mistakes, you'll lose the game. We made the mistakes."

Bishop's 77-yard touchdown strike to Arland Bruce III came after veteran Winnipeg defensive backs Anthony Malbrough and Kelly Malveaux bounced off Bruce while trying to tackle him at the same time at the Bomber 30-yard line.

Two plays later, Bombers running back Charles Roberts, who finished with 30 carries for a whopping 179 yards and two touchdowns, fumbled on his own 33-yard line.

Two plays after that, Bishop, who had thrown only one playoff pass in his career before yesterday, converted the fumble into a 15-yard touchdown toss to R. Jay Soward with 5:49 to go.

Bombers quarterback Kevin Glenn, making his first playoff start, marched his team to Toronto's 26-yard line with 46 seconds remaining, but Argos safety Orlondo Steinauer picked him off to propel the Argos into Sunday's East Final against the Montreal Alouettes.

"You're trying to make a play," said Glenn, who whipped his helmet into the metal bench when he got back to the sideline. "If I had a string on it, I probably would've pulled it back."

Bombers rookie head coach Doug Berry wouldn't say that his team blew it, instead choosing to praise the Argos.

"Football is a game of momentum, and it doesn't change very often," he said. "When you have it, you need to hold on to it. And we weren't able to hold on to it in the fourth quarter. Toronto got it back and did great things.

"... We're not the team that we need to be. If we were, we'd have won this game."

Malbrough, one of 19 Bombers making their playoff debuts yesterday, was also beaten on Soward's touchdown and Allen's 23-yard strike to Michael Palmer in the second quarter.

"It's so frustrating, especially if you give up two touchdowns like I did," Malbrough said. "That's what makes it even more frustrating. We were close. We were right there."

The Bombers trailed 14-6 at the half in front of only 26,214 spectators, but they exploded for three consecutive touchdowns in the third quarter and the first four minutes of the fourth -- one- and 11-yard runs by Roberts and Glenn's 27-yard toss to Chris Brazzell.


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