Call it exciting. Call it entertaining. Call it showing championship pedigree. Call it whatever you want; I will call it a win in the biggest game of the year!
There was no doubt heading into this game that it was a big one. The winner of the game was going to essentially capture the West Final – more on that in a second. BC played like they knew that from the first snap. As for Winnipeg, it took them until the second half to really understand and play to the magnitude of the game.
With both clubs having 2 games remaining after their match up; and both clubs entering the game 11-4 this was set to have massive playoff ramifications. Whoever would win this tilt all but guaranteed themselves hosting the Western Final. The math was going to be simple. Whoever emerged the winner would only need to either win 1 of their remaining 2 games to host the Western final, or need the other team to lose 1 of their remaining 2 games. Put another way; for the winner not to host the Western Final they would need to lose their remaining 2 games while the other team won their remaining 2 games.
Nothing is guaranteed in the CFL; just ask the 2007 Bombers. Nevertheless, for the remainder of the season Winnipeg will be on a bye this week; then host Edmonton; then play in Calgary. BC will go to Hamilton; and then host Calgary; and end on a bye. Looking at the schedule I do not see much chance that Winnipeg drops their last 2 game.
I have to believe that Edmonton will be looking ahead to 2024 and trying to find out who stays and who goes. They may play a bunch of players that do not get regular playing time and use the rest of the season as an evaluation. Right now, Calgary is still in the playoff hunt chasing Saskatchewan, but by the time they meet Winnipeg they too may be in an evaluative spot.
On the other hand, BC will go to Hamilton; a team that has clinched a playoff spot…but also a team that could push for hosting the Eastern Semi-Final. With the Grey Cup in Hamilton this year you know they want to be hosting that Eastern Semi-Final. Calgary may or may not be out of it when they play BC…1 week before they play Winnipeg. Tell me a situation where Winnipeg loses its next 2 games and BC wins its next 2 games! To be fair, if Winnipeg would have lost, I would have little confidence that they win the next 2 and BC loses the next 2 for Winnipeg to springboard past them. That s why the Winnipeg at BC game was so huge!
If the Game Ball was handed out in the first half BC would have had a ton of players in contention! You would have to look at their receivers and you would have to consider Vernon Adams who was moving the ball at will. But unlike the CFL that likes to consider players for awards that do not show out the complete time (cue Nathan Rourke who only played 10 games in 2022 and was up for a CFL award) I do not hand out awards for partial stints.
That is why I simply cannot give my game ball to Zach Collaros. Do not get me wrong, he ended with a pretty good stat line. Yet, Collaros had 3 turnovers. Feel free to debate in the comments which ones were his fault…I will go fist. I blame him for the INT and I blame him for the third turnover. To me, instead of eating it, it looked like he was trying and dink and dunk throw. I will not blame him for the one where he spun right into coverage…that one gets a pass from me.
Somebody who should be in the conversation is Brady Oliveira. Look, it is not his fault that he was not used heavily in the first half. Yet, when his number was called, both as a rusher and a receiver he was money! And the guy is set to make some more history!
Take a look at the statistics and you have any number of players that could have won.
How about the defense?
There are certainly some options there. While I did not add all the defensive statistics, Willie Jefferson had 3 knockdowns as well! Winnipeg only allowed 6 points in the second half! Credit to Hall and the Bombers’ defense for making the much needed adjustments.
But here it is. While he did not jump off the page, I am giving my Game Ball to Adam Bighill and the reason is simple. In the last number of weeks we have seen the CFL call “spearing” penalties when defensive players – often middle linebackers – come over the top in short yardage and lead with their helmet. That is a move that Bighill has performed over and over. Yet, and do not let this be lost, on the BC short yardage play that Winnipeg stopped Bighill was certainly in on the stop but he used a different method! Consciously or not (and I believe that he is a smart enough player that it was consciously) Bighill did not lead with his helmet – which would in all likelihood been called a penalty and extended BC’s drive – but rather used a different technique and stopped BC!
This is a hard one this week. Had the game ended after the the first half, there would have been a slew of Bombers that could have “won” the award. Some might even want to give the award to Castillo for missing the field goal; but the reality is that the snap was high and away. Sure, fans only look at the end result but there are three parts to a successful field goal; the snap, the hold, and the kick. If the snap or the hold are off the kick is impacted.
But this week I have to give the Jock to the CFL. I am done hearing about player safety when week after week when we see questionable head shots. I do not care if you are a Lions fan or a Bombers fan, there were some calls that probably could have and should have gone both ways. Talk is cheap!
If the CFL really cared about player safety they would start to set a precedent. Sure, it would be a steep learning curve for players, but Bighill showed that players can handle it. I do not want to hear one more word about player safety until the CFL starts flagging every marginal head shot! If the on-field officials do not catch it the Command Centre better. What are they there for anyway?!
For talking the talk but not walking the, CFL you get the Jock!
Watch all the highlights and let me know in the comment section – wherever you are reading this – who you would have given the Game Ball and Jock to.
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