'Not what we're about'

Mike Kelly said the skirmish between the Bombers and Argos should not have happened during the Hall...

Mike Kelly said the skirmish between the Bombers and Argos should not have happened during the Hall of Fame Game. (Sun Media File)

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

Mike Kelly apologized to football fans across the country for Saturday night's fourth-quarter brawl between his Bombers and the Toronto Argonauts.

The head coach said the skirmish at Canad Inns Stadium should not have happened during the Hall of Fame Game, when Canada's football legends were being honoured.

"That's unacceptable," Kelly said of the melee, which resulted in four ejections. "That's not what this league's about, and it's not what we're about. And I apologize for that."

On the other hand, he loved every last punch!

TURNING POINT

The way Kelly sees it, the brouhaha just might be the moment that turns his struggling team's season around.

He told his players exactly that during an impromptu team meeting on the field after the fists had stopped flying.

"It could be (the turning point)," Kelly said yesterday. "Sometimes those solidifying things do something to a group, where you finally say enough's enough.

"And I think that's where we are right now. This group really, really rallied around each other (Saturday) night, and it was good to see."

The Bombers, thanks to some solid play from quarterback Michael Bishop, jumped out to a 29-9 lead over the Argos and held on for a much-needed 29-24 triumph.

The Blue and Gold are in third in the East Division at 4-8, four points back of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (6-6) and two behind the B.C. Lions (5-7), who hold down the third and final playoff spot in the East thanks to the crossover rule.

The Bombers, who snapped a three-game losing streak, host the Edmonton Eskimos (6-6) on Friday in the first of six critical tilts down the stretch.

Thanks to Saturday night's chippy victory over the Argos, who fell into the CFL basement at 3-9, several Bombers feel there is new life on Maroons Road.

Bishop, who earned his third win in eight starts after a week in which there were reports he wanted to quit after an argument with Kelly, looked like a different man.

Forget the fact that more conventional offensive tactics and a revamped receiving corps resulted in more yards and points than usual; the way he took control of the game is what impressed his coaches and teammates.

When Kelly assembled and addressed the team after the brawl, Bishop spoke as well. After Kelly gave his post-game address, Bishop followed suit.

"He stepped up a little bit as a demonstrative leader," Kelly said. "I saw him do some things that I haven't seen him do yet this year. He's finally taking some true ownership, and I'm looking forward to more of that."

Bishop, who completed 23 of 31 attempts for 312 yards and two touchdowns, had several run-ins with Argos defensive tackle Adriano Belli, but the Kissing Bandit failed to get under his skin.

'KEPT BATTLING'

"He had my face mask, and he told me he was going to punch me," Bishop said. "I didn't think he was going to do it, but he did.

"From that moment, the competitiveness and everything comes out and you want to get back in it, but I knew he was trying to get in my head. For a second he thought he did, but I kept my composure and kept battling."

While the victory will keep frustrated Bombers fans at bay for a week, it by no means was a thing of beauty nor a sign that everything is fixed. They beat the CFL's new worst team by five points at home.

"We're still 4-8," Kelly said. "I don't think we're going to feel that good about ourselves. You certainly feel a little bit better, but I don't think there's going to be a cockiness that overtakes us or anything.

"We just hope that this is something we can build on."

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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