Blue Bombers sunk by interceptions, curse of Marc Liegghio in loss to Hamilton (& 11 other thoughts)

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were defeated by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Saturday afternoon by a score of 29-23 at Tim Hortons Field. Below are my thoughts on the game.

The curse of Marc Liegghio

Marc Liegghio, who was unceremoniously dumped by Winnipeg after training camp this season, garnered revenge against his former team in Steeltown. The Western product was perfect on the day as he connected on two field goals and three converts for Hamilton, while Sergio Castillo, his replacement in Winnipeg, missed a convert and a 48-yard field goal attempt.

Castillo’s early convert miss was extra costly as Tyreik McAllister returned it 126 yards for a two-point score, creating a three-point swing. In all, the kicking game and poor special teams coverage cost Winnipeg six points on Saturday, which ended up being the difference in the final score.

Liegghio missed a few costly kicks during his tenure in Winnipeg but he’s done a nice job since joining the Ticats, connecting on 84.8 percent of his field goal attempts. He’s a solid kicker whose misses somehow always overshadowed his best moments with the Blue Bombers. Everybody talks about his miss from the Grey Cup against Toronto, yet nobody seems to remember his 55-yard field goal to win last year’s Labour Day Classic.

Castillo’s been reliable for Winnipeg this season but there may have been some karma at work given how Liegghio was treated near the end of his tenure in Bomberland. He was a young player who struggled at times on an otherwise dominant team, which made him an easy target for criticism from fans and the media.

The 26-year-old got the last laugh on Saturday as he beat his old team, making their road to first place in the West Division that much tougher. I’m not sure if Liegghio owns any voodoo dolls or ouija boards but I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that he’d placed a curse on his old club. It would certainly explain the result, which was a surprise for everyone.

Two half Zach

Zach Collaros carried his red-hot hand from the Banjo Bowl into Saturday’s game as he threw for close to 300 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Hamilton was forced to make a number of changes to their secondary due to injuries this past week and Winnipeg appeared ready to take full advantage.

The same couldn’t be said in the second half as Collaros struggled mightily, throwing three interceptions. The first pick came on a brilliant play by Malik Carney, who dropped unsuspectingly into coverage from his defensive end spot. The second interception came on a throw into double coverage that Collaros never should have attempted, while the third occurred when Collaros was off the mark of a short throw to Brady Oliveira, who slipped on the play.

“I just forced the last two there, obviously, but the first one they did a good job. They ran a good call and I gotta locate the ball better, understand that they’re playing a zone pressure rather than a man,” Collaros told 680 CJOB postgame. “They didn’t play I don’t think any man coverage in the second half.”

Nic Demski and Dalton Schoen had huge performances despite the loss, both finishing with well over 100 yards. Demski was especially good as he recorded six catches for 137 yards and a touchdown as he closes in on the first 1,000-yard season of his career. However, he caught only two passes in the second half, both of which covered relatively short distances.


Winnipeg’s defence struggled tremendously in the first half as Hamilton’s receivers routinely found space in the secondary and the pass rush failed to contain Taylor Powell, who isn’t known for being particularly mobile. It appears offensive coordinator Scott Milanovich made an effort to get Powell in space this week and it worked well against the Blue Bombers, who missed the presence of injured defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat.

Tim White set up the club’s first touchdown with a 52-yard run, while he, Terry Godwin II, and Sean Thomas-Erlington made catches of 20-plus yards. Hamilton had 21 points by halftime with 19 of them coming as a direct result of their offensive success.

“I thought we couldn’t get off the field defensively,” said head coach Mike O’Shea. “There was a couple of times where [Powell] scrambled around and completed those balls and then there’s some times where we were probably a little soft in coverage and didn’t come up and challenge the ball as hard as we should have.”

Winnipeg’s defence didn’t step up in a big way until late in the third quarter when Evan Holm made an interception in the end zone, bringing down a ball that was intended for Tim White. It was perfect coverage from the second-year halfback, who anticipated the route and kept inside leverage as White broke towards the middle of the field.

Kyrie Wilson made a brilliant play midway through the fourth quarter when he caused a fumble after blitzing off the edge, though it was one of the only times Winnipeg managed to pressure Powell effectively. The club rarely generated a pass rush without sending extra defenders, which is part of what allowed Hamilton’s receivers to find so much space downfield.

Calm down, Kenny

Kenny Lawler initially appeared to secure a high pass from Zach Collaros in the second quarter, though it was ruled an incompletion. The veteran receiver was irate with the call and began screaming at the official before a teammate intervened to calm him down. Head coach Mike O’Shea challenged the ruling on the field, though it was upheld upon review.

Lawler has been critical of the CFL’s officiating numerous times after games in Winnipeg this season. The 29-year-old is a fiery competitor, though he’ll have to find a way to remain calm when interacting with officials on the field. At this rate, he’s bound to take a penalty for objectionable conduct anytime now.

The two-time West Division all-star didn’t take long to exact his revenge as he burnt Lawrence Woods III on a double move for a 25-yard touchdown on the very next play. He finished the game with three catches for 41 yards and the score.

Return to sender

Janarion Grant’s absence continues to hurt the Blue Bombers as Jamal Parker generated only 63 yards on seven returns. Winnipeg’s cover units also struggled as Hamilton generated 118 yards on seven attempts not including McAllister’s big return following Sergio Castillo’s missed convert.

Winnipeg is ranked first in net offence and net defence and part of the reason why is their average field position has been poor over the past two months. Kudos to the offence and defence for being able to overcome most of the club’s recent shortcomings on special teams but the Blue Bombers still need to get all three phases cooking for the playoffs.


There’s little doubt that Chad Kelly will be the East Division’s nominee for Most Outstanding Player this year and though some pundits seem to believe he’s a shoo-in to win the award, I still think he’s behind Zach Collaros despite the latter’s poor second half in Hamilton.

Kelly has thrown for 2,881 yards, 18 touchdowns, and nine interceptions this season, which is solid but far from dominant. He’s played two fewer games than Collaros, though he will presumably be on a pitch count over the final third of the season as the Argos have already clinched first place in the East Division.

Collaros has thrown for 3,480 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions this season. Unlike last year when the Blue Bombers had a handful of meaningless games at the end of the regular season, it appears likely that Collaros will be under centre as the club remains in a battle with the B.C. Lions for first in the West Division.

It’s possible that Kelly will go on a tear over the next month or that Collaros will hit a slump. However, as of now, the only reason anyone would cast their ballot for Kelly over Collaros is voter fatigue, as Collaros has been named the league’s M.O.P. in both of the last two seasons. The only player to win the award in more than two consecutive years is Doug Flutie, who won it four straight times from 1991 to 1994.

Common sense

Kudos to TSN’s Duane Forde for suggesting that the CFL should adopt a system that would allow Brady Oliveira and Nic Demski to both be finalists for the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian award. As it stands, only one will be eligible for consideration at the division level, much less the league level.

The players who most deserve consideration for the award this year are Oliveira, Demski, Edmonton quarterback Tre Ford, Saskatchewan receiver Samuel Emilus, B.C. defensive lineman Mathieu Betts, B.C. linebacker Boseko Lokombo, and Calgary linebacker Cameron Judge, all of whom play in the West Division. It doesn’t seem fair that only one will be nominated for the league award in November.

Though he started the year as a backup behind Tunde Adeleke, it wouldn’t be surprising if Stavros Katsantonis was the East Division’s nominee for Most Outstanding Canadian. The former fourth-round draft pick made six tackles, one interception, one pass knockdown, and one sack on Saturday as he continues to establish himself as a ballhawk in Hamilton’s defensive backfield.


Winnipeg got a late first down near the goal line on a two-yard run from Brady Oliveira, which set up a one-yard touchdown plunge from Zach Collaros on the following play.

Upon replay, it was clear Collaros never had possession of the football on his handoff to Oliveira. He bobbled the shotgun snap from Chris Kolankowski but managed to awkwardly redirect it to his running back, who secured it after it initially bounced near his shoulders.

The bobble wasn’t noticeable at live speed but it’s clear the play was almost a disaster. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a shotgun handoff executed by a quarterback who never had possession of the football.


The Hamilton Tiger-Cats published a shocking depth chart on Friday when they listed franchise left tackle Joel Figueroa as the team’s fifth-string fullback. Veteran guard Brandon Revenberg was moved to his place protecting Taylor Powell’s blindside, a move that was even acknowledged on TSN’s broadcast.

After the first offensive play of the game, Figueroa trotted out onto the field and took over at left tackle where he remained for the rest of the first half. This is just the latest example of the depth chart deception that makes a complete mockery of the game. Any team who lies about their depth chart so blatantly should be levied a hefty fine.

This type of tomfoolery disillusions bettors, who the league is desperately trying to attract, confuses fans, and makes their television partner look foolish. TSN pays approximately $50 million annually to be the exclusive broadcast partner of the CFL. For that kind of money, the network deserves accurate information.

Hall of Fame

Congratulations to John Bowman, Solomon Elimimian, Josh Bourke, Lloyd Fairbanks, Larry Crawford, Jacques Dussault, and Larry Smith on their induction into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, the ceremony for which took place at halftime of Saturday’s contest.

It was great to see so many legends honoured for their remarkable achievements, though it would have been nice if their remarks had been confined to the pregame show. It’s awkward when a big play takes place midway through an interview with an individual who is talking about something that’s entirely unrelated.

Next up

The Blue Bombers (10-4) will be on their second of three byes next week, giving them a chance to rest up ahead of their final four regular season games. Winnipeg will then return to the field on Friday, Sept. 29 to host the Toronto Argonauts (11-1) at IG Field with kickoff scheduled for 8:00 p.m. EDT.

The Argos no longer have anything to play for in the standings as they wrapped up the East Division with their win over the Montreal Alouettes on Friday, however the game will serve as Andrew Harris’ much-anticipated return to his hometown as well as a Grey Cup rematch. Given the way in which this season has played out thus far, it wouldn’t be surprising if the two teams met again in the big game this year.

I spoke with Kelly after Toronto’s win at Percival Molson Stadium and he appears excited for the opportunity to visit Winnipeg at the end of the month.

“It’s gonna be a tough battle, especially in their house,” he said. “It’s gonna be loud, they obviously have shown they can win at any time and they’ve got a great all around team. They returned a lot of guys (from last year), so it’ll be a tough game for sure.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.