Adarius Bowman made his former team pay early, while quarterback Chris Streveler was just about perfect as the Bombers took care of the Edmonton Eskimos 33-13 on Friday night in pre-season action.
Starting quarterback Matt Nichols connected with Bowman for a 15-yard touchdown in his first game as a Bomber, while the Blue and Gold never looked back to pick up a ‘W’ in their first exhibition game of 2018.
Taking his first snaps in the three-down game, Streveler seemed like he could do no wrong in his pursuit of a backup quarterback job, completing his first eight passes for 132 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown by Myles White to put the game out of reach, punctuating an eye-opening performance in front of an excited crowd at Investors Group Field.
Streveler finished the game 10-for-10 with 140 yards and a touchdown in his CFL debut, while Nichols exited in the first half after completing seven of 13 attempts for 107 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
With most of the Eskimo starters omitted from the depth chart, including top two quarterbacks Mike Reilly and Kevin Glenn, Zach Kline failed to take advantage of his first ever start, completing just three of 11 passes including an interception.
Running back Jordan Robinson was a bright spot for the second straight week, returning a punt 98 yards to open the scoring, marking his second touchdown in as many weeks.
Now head coach Jason Maas will try to find some positives as he gets his club ready for the rematch in the regular season opener on June 14, while the Bombers still have one pre-season game remaining in BC.
Bombers fans received an early scare when Nichols exited the game with an apparent injury to his non-throwing hand following a sack. Nichols would return, but not before the Eskimos would strike with Robinson’s second touchdown of the pre-season, an electrifying 98-yard punt return.
After a second straight two-and-out to open the game, the Bombers’ offence settled in with a little help from reigning Most Outstanding Canadian Andrew Harris. Harris moved the sticks twice, once on a reception and once on a six-yard run, setting up a 15-yard touchdown by Bowman.
Bowman would finish with two catches for 46 yards in his debut, while another big name playing his first game with the team, Adam Bighill, checked in with a pair of tackles.
A promising Bombers drive stalled just outside the 20-yard-line when Nicholas Taylor sacked Nichols for an eight-yard loss. Justin Medlock‘s 38-yard field goal gave Winnipeg a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter.
Soon after, Nichols made his first mistake of the pre-season when his pass intended for Bowman floated up on him and into the hands of Taylor, who continued his strong game with a 51-yard interception return. A roughing the passer penalty kept the offence on the field, but the Kline couldn’t take advantage, while Sean Whyte‘s 37-yard field goal attempt veered wide.
Medlock’s second field goal of the game, this one from 34 yards out, extended the Bombers’ lead to six points, and with that Kline’s first half was finished after completing just two of his seven passing attempts for 48 yards and an interception.
Danny O’Brien came into the game and completed two of his passes, and Whyte made no mistake on his second field goal attempt from 46 yards out to pull the Eskimos back to within three.
The Bombers switched back and forth between Streveler and Ross, but the latter struggled to get anything going. Ross completed just one pass on eight attempts for eight yards, while Streveler completed three quick passes to set up an 18-yard touchdown romp by Canadian back and 2017 combine star Johnny Augustin.
Augustin had a nice night running the ball for the Bombers, finishing with 81 rushing yards on eight carries along with a major.
After taking a 20-10 lead to the locker-room, Streveler was back in the game and able to maintain his early success, completing three more passes and eventually setting up a 25-yard field goal by Felix Menard-Briere to make it 23-10 Winnipeg.
While the Eskimos switched back and forth between Kline and O’Brien, with the former helping set up a 51-yard field goal by Whyte, the Bombers blew the game wide open shortly after. Streveler continued to plead his case for the primary backup job, connecting with Myles White for an impressive 80-yard catch-and-run and extending Winnipeg’s lead to 30-13.
Menard-Briere’s field goal with 25 seconds left made it 33-13 Winnipeg. Both he and Medlock finished 2-for-2 on field goals.
O’Brien had the best night of the Esks’ quarterbacks, completing nine of 14 attempts for 57 yards in his bid for the third-string job. Eli Jenkins did enter the game late but completed his only pass for a loss of six yards, adding a 12-yard run at the end of the game.
After a breakout performance last week, Shaq Cooper was far less involved, carrying the ball once for minus-three yards and adding a short reception.
Outside of Robinson’s touchdown, the Eskimos were able to muster very little in their final tune-up before the regular season. Winnipeg had a 22-9 margin in first downs and an even more impressive 412 yards to Edmonton’s 151. Penalties were also an issue for Maas’ club, with the Eskimos racking up 101 yards on 12 infractions.
Of course, many of the Eskimos playing in Friday night’s contest will not be in the starting lineup when they kick off the season on June 14 in the exact same place, against the exact same team.
While the Eskimos’ attention shifts to two weeks from now, the Bombers are back in action Friday when they travel to BC for one last tune-up against the Lions.