Loss to Esks adds salt to wound Bombers

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

WINNIPEG -- The season that began with huge expectations finished exactly how it began for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers -- not well.

The Blue and Gold felt they had the talent this year to not only get back to the Grey Cup, but win it this time.

Instead, they are going home early after falling 29-21 to the Edmonton Eskimos in the East Division semi-final yesterday at Canad Inns Stadium.

The Eskimos became the first of five crossover teams to win a division semifinal since the rule was instituted in the mid-1990s.

They will meet the Montreal Alouettes Saturday in the East final.

The Bombers, meanwhile, will begin a long off-season that could consist of big changes.

They started out 0-4 and 2-8 before bouncing back with six wins in their last eight games.

Then there was yesterday's flop of a finale, which was only Winnipeg's third loss in its last 11 home playoff games dating back to 1990.

"It's emblematic of a lot of games we had this season, where we were close and we were in, it but we didn't have that final punch that could knock out our opponent," defensive tackle Doug Brown said in the deathly silent Bomber locker-room.

"For the better half of the season, this is where we were -- coming up short."

The Eskimos executed their game plan perfectly yesterday in front of 27,493 chilled spectators.

They started by shutting down the Bombers running backs Fred Reid and Joe Smith.

That forced Winnipeg quarterback Kevin Glenn to take over, but he struggled mightily. He completed only 44% of his passes, and his lone interception was returned 31 yards for a touchdown by Esks defensive end Fred Perry late in the second quarter.

It gave Edmonton the lead for good, at 20-15.

"Fred Perry made a big-time play," Winnipeg linebacker Ike Charlton said.

"That put them over the hump."

Since Glenn and the Bombers offence couldn't move the ball, Ricky Ray and the Eskimos offence started most of their drives near midfield.

"Field position today was huge," Charlton said.

"We were fighting all day."

The Esks, however, were able to deliver the knockout punch because they needed to move only a few yards to score points.

A.J. Harris had touchdown runs of three and one yard for Edmonton, while Noel Prefontaine booted 28- and 23-yard field goals, and two singles.

Forty of the 50 points scored in the game were with the 30 km/h north wind.

Ray completed 27 of 37 passes for 303 yards.


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