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Unbeaten Blue Bombers win a 35-28 thriller over Stampeders

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill, left, brings down Calgary Stampeders running back Ka'Deem Carey during first half CFL football action in Calgary, Saturday, July 30, 2022.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY — Zach Collaros kept his composure in a back-and-forth game to keep his Winnipeg Blue Bombers undefeated.

Although Winnipeg trailed at four different times during Saturday's CFL game, the star quarterback found a way to lead the Blue Bombers (8-0) to a 35-28 victory over the Calgary Stampeders (4-2) at McMahon Stadium.

“That’s Zach Collaros for you,” said receiver Nic Demski, who returned to action after missing the past four games with an ankle injury and caught a pair of touchdown passes from Collaros. “He was MOP (Most Outstanding Player) last year for a reason and he’s making a great case for himself this year as well.

“When he (Zach) looks you in the eyes and you know it’s your time, that just means the world. I love him leading this team and he does a great job of doing it.”

Collaros completed 22 of 30 passes for 270 yards and also threw a pair of touchdown passes to Dalton Schoen.

“He’s so smart and you couple that with his athleticism and his vision,” said Winnipeg coach Mike O’Shea, who commended Collaros for staying calm under pressure to keep drives alive. “He’s got unreal vision that allows him to do those things, for sure.”

With Winnipeg trailing 28-25 in the fourth quarter, Collaros engineered a seven-play, 70-yard drive that he finished by throwing a 25-yard pass to Schoen in the end zone.

“We were kind of scrambling to get up and get set,” said Collaros when asked to describe his game-winning TD. “Dalton was telling me all game, ‘Hey, I think I can slip this guy.’ I threw it and I was kind of worried a little bit … that the safety was going to make a play. I didn’t really see the catch, but I’m sure he made a great fundamental catch.”

Marc Liegghio kicked two field goals and a single for the Bombers, who will look to keep their winning streak alive when they travel to Montreal to face the Alouettes next Thursday.

Ka’Deem Carey ran for a pair of touchdowns for the Stampeders. They were the first two rushing scores that the Bombers’ defence had allowed this season.

“Unfortunately, they made more plays,” said Calgary coach Dave Dickenson. “It was back and forth. We had our chances, but we didn’t get any stops. We didn’t make the plays.

“I’m not down at all on our players. I know they love to play the game. We’ve got to play better, but I’m not down on the team at all. I just feel like our group will rise up and get better and that’s what we need to do.”

Following his team’s second straight setback to the defending Grey Cup champion Blue Bombers, Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell admitted that Winnipeg is the better team right now.

“That’s what I would say at this moment,” said Mitchell, who completed 21 of 32 passes for 219 yards. “I don’t think they will be at the end of the season. Hopefully that’s where we’re climbing to. If you lose to a team two times in a row, they’re better than you. That’s just the facts.”

Rene Paredes kicked five field goals for the Stamps, including one from 53 yards out, which was the longest of his career.

The Stamps jumped out to an early 6-0 lead thanks to a pair of field goals — from 25 and 38 yards — by Paredes.

Led by Collaros, the Bombers responded with a 10-play, 70-yard scoring drive that Demski finished off by catching a four-yard touchdown pass in the end zone with 33 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

After Paredes opened the second quarter with his record-setting field goal, Demski responded with a 10-yard touchdown catch to put the Bombers back on top.

Paredes then booted his fourth field goal of the game, this time from 38 yards out, before Liegghio responded with a 12-yarder of his own with just 37 seconds remaining in the first half.

The see-saw battle continued as Carey ran for a two-yard score at 6:43 of the second quarter to cap off a five-play, 67-yard drive.

Undeterred, Collaros drove the Bombers 81 yards downfield over eight plays and finished things off by tossing a 26-yard strike to Schoen in the back of the end zone.

Carey responded with another two-yard run across the goal line that punctuated a seven-play, 64-yard drive to give the Stamps a 25-24 lead.

Following a 59-yard single by Liegghio early in the fourth quarter, the Stamps went on another lengthy drive, but had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Paredes.

The Bombers didn’t settle for three points on their next drive as Collaros hooked up with Schoen once again for the game-winning score.

Liegghio added a 40-yard field goal to secure the victory for the Bombers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 30, 2022.

Laurence Heinen, The Canadian Press