CALGARY — Zach Collaros is going back to where he started his CFL season, but wearing enemy colours.
“You could tell, honestly, we just weren’t on the same page. (Mitchell) lost his eyes, he didn’t trust the guys a little bit. Ultimately, your quarterback has to be better than theirs and ours has to be a lot better than theirs. That’s the way we win a lot of games and it just didn’t happen.”
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers employed a one-two quarterback punch of Collaros and Chris Streveler to beat the Calgary Stampeders 35-14 in Sundays West Division semifinal.
A Roughrider to start the season, Collaros was traded twice and arrived in Winnipeg on Oct. 9 via the Toronto Argonauts.
A one-point deficit isn’t insurmountable, but the problem was the Stampeders just couldn’t do anything on offence. They couldn’t even stay on the field, and that put the defence in the unenviable position of having to repeatedly try to contain a dangerous, well-rested Bombers offence.
“Odd? I dont know if its odd,” the 31-year-old pivot said. “It just so happens were going back to the place I started the year at.
“It is what it is. Things happen. I was fortunate enough a month ago that I was traded there at the deadline to this great organization with these great teammates.”
The Blue Bombers (11-7) finished third in the West Division behind the Roughriders (13-5) and Stampeders (12-6).
The Edmonton Eskimos (8-10) crossed over from the West to beat the Montreal Alouettes 37-29 earlier Sunday in the East Division semifinal.
Trailing 14-8 at halftime, the Bombers scored 27 unanswered points, including 20 in the fourth quarter, in front of an announced 24,278 at chilly McMahon Stadium.
Morning snowfall halted and gave way to partly cloudy skies at kickoff with a temperature of minus-14.
Collaros completed 11 of 21 pass attempts for 193 yards and one touchdown pass in his second straight start as a Bomber.
Streveler had taken over as Bombers starter when Matt Nichols went down with a shoulder injury in August.
Streveler was sidelined in Winnipegs regular-season finale with an ankle injury, but he returned Sunday to lead the Bombers in rushing with 82 yards including a 24-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“This guys a warrior. Toughest guy in the league,” Collaros said. “For sure in a game like tonight, it definitely helps. Im sure it will help moving forward. Just the threat of that.
“Just the (opposing) team having to spend extra time for his abilities and for some of the things we do offensively, it definitely helps.”
Ultimately, the Stampeders’ 2019 season is done. There’s an argument that after a tough off-season of change, even hosting a home playoff game was an accomplishment for a young squad.
Nic Demski and Darvin Adams scored touchdowns and Justin Medlock kicked four field goals for Winnipeg.
Reggie Begelton scored two touchdowns for the host Stampeders, who had appeared in three straight Grey Cup games and won last year in Edmonton.
“Sometimes in football its, are you better than the man across from you?” Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson said. “Tonight we definitely were not.
“The reality is when you dont play well in the playoffs, youre one and done. Youre out. Just so happened to be a little earlier this year.”
Stampeder quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was without his favourite target — injured receiver Eric Rogers — and struggled completing just 12 of 28 pass attempts for 116 yards.
“Didnt execute when we had to,” Mitchell said. “Me and the receivers being a little bit off some things route-wise, yardage-wise, distance-wise. Didnt have my stuff today.”
The Bombers had the advantage of playing Calgary three straight games — twice to end their regular season — and also ended the season on a bye week for extra semifinal prep.
Added Mitchell: “They did a good job switching up some of their coverages. Stuff theyve been running all year, they did a great job lining up that way and then dropping into a different zone.”
Streveler ranked second in Bomber rushing with 726 yards behind CFL rushing leader Andrew Harris (1,380), who totalled 57 yards on the ground Sunday.
“They put out the story that Shreve had a broken foot and whether or not thats actually true, it doesnt really matter,” Mitchell said. “He came out and balled out.
Early in the fourth quarter, Justin Medlock kicked a 42-yard field goal to put the Bombers up 18-14, and then the wheels fully came off.
“You could see they had plan to, as far as the weather, just trying to run the ball in different ways and they did a good job of that.”
CALGARY — Leading into the Western Semi-Final at McMahon Stadium, there were questions of whether or not Chris Streveler would even play in the game at all.
He was battling an injury and even missed a day of practice. But when game day rolled around, the 24-year-old was dressed and in the lineup.
“(Mike OShea) said the other day, if you have anything left to give, nows the time to give it.” Streveler said after the team’s win. “If you can be out there, youve got to be out there. Thats the bottom line and thats just what it comes down to.”
In the first half of the game, Streveler was used in his usual short yardage situations. He had a three-yard rush on second and one early in the first quarter and a seven-yard QB sneak late in the second quarter. But that was all the backup pivot was used for in the first 30 minutes.
Heading into the second half down by six, offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice changed his strategy and Streveler became more involved.
On Winnipeg’s first touchdown drive of the day, Winnipeg had both Collaros and Streveler in on the action at QB. Collaros completed two passes on the drive while Streveler had runs of three, four and seven yards to set up Nic Demski‘s 33-yard score.
And that was the first of many scores for the Bombers in the final two frames of the game. Justin Medlock added two field goals, Collaros tossed a 71-yard touchdown strike to Darvin Adams and Streveler ran in the game-sealing major score late in the fourth quarter.
“Im not sure how much was different in the second half, it was just execution,” Collaros said after his team’s win on Sunday. “Being able to run the football, being able to stick a guy like him (Chris Streveler) in the game and run the football, Andrew (Harris) running the football. I dont think I got sacked tonight, our offensive line played amazing. Not just in the run game but in the pass game as well so, it was a complete team game.”
Collaros finished the contest completing 11 of 21 passes for 193 yards and a major score through the air while Streveler tallied 13 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Streveler’s 82 yards was a game-high in rushing yards, even among running backs.
“In a game like tonight, it definitely helps,” Collaros said when asked about using both pivots’ skill sets to win a football game. “We were just talking about it in the locker room, whatever we need to do to win, were going to do and were all in for that.
“It definitely helped tonight and Im sure itll help moving forward. Just the threat of that, just the team having to spend extra time for his (Streveler) abilities and some of the things that we do offensively, it definitely helps.”
The Bombers now get ready to take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Western Final on Nov 17 in Regina.