WINNIPEG — Running back Nic Grigsby’s three touchdowns gave the Winnipeg Blue Bombers a come-from-behind 36-28 win over the Ottawa Redblacks Thursday, spoiling the expansion team’s CFL debut.
Demond Washington’s 96-yard kick return for a third-quarter touchdown was also huge for the Bombers, who trailed for most of the game.
With three first-quarter touchdowns, the Redblacks jumped into an early lead. But after that, the Bomber defence pretty well shut them down for most of the game.
Quarterback Drew Willy and Winnipeg’s offence had trouble cashing in on their chances until Grigsby gave them their first lead at 12:28 of the final quarter with his third touchdown.
The game marked the return of Ottawa to the league it left in 2006 due to money troubles.
That, plus Winnipeg’s win in its season opener, put a few more fans in the seats with a count of 27,553 and they were deafening when the Redblacks had the ball.
CFL commissioner Mark Cohon was on hand for the occasion.
“I think we have a great franchise in the Ottawa Redblacks,” said Cohon, who started working to bring Ottawa back into the league shortly after he became commissioner in 2007.
“When we did that deal, to where they are today, it’s a much stronger league and they’re very happy to be part of something that is growing. And I think they’re one of the big reasons why there’s a lot of excitement this year around the league.”
Running back Chevon Walker justified the pre-season hype he received with two Ottawa touchdowns and Dobson Collins had the other. Brett Maher had two field goals and a single on a miss.
Lirim Hajrullahu had three field goals for the Bombers.
Unlike last week, when they opened their season against the Toronto Argonauts, there was no early Bomber scoring drive. Willy went two and out.
Instead, Burris took advantage of midfield position on his first possession to set up Ottawa’s first touchdown on a four-yard run by Walker to make it 7-0.
He followed it about two minutes later with a 58-second drive and 26-yard pass to Collins and the Redblacks took a 14-0 lead.
Up to that point, the Bomber offence hadn’t managed to get out of their half of the field.
Willy finally connected with Nick Moore for 51 yards to get in scoring range on a six-play 73-yard drive with about four minutes left in the first. Grigsby carried it the last yard to get the Bombers on the board. But Ottawa wasn’t finished and Walker caught an eight-yard pass to make it 21-7 before the quarter ended.
The Redblacks stalled in the second with penalties (eight to Winnipeg’s four in the first half) and trouble handling Winnipeg’s defence.
Winnipeg narrowed the gap with Grigsby’s four-yard run for his second touchdown of the night.
Hajrullahu’s 47-yard field goal as the half ended made it 21-17 and he hit with a 16-yarder just over four minutes into the second half to bring the Bombers within one.