Zach Collaros threw two touchdown passes as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeated the Edmonton Elks 26-16 on Friday night to become the first CFL team to clinch a playoff berth.
Winnipeg (9-1) captured its seventh straight victory and improved to 7-0 within the West Division. Collaros finished 15-of-24 passing for 210 yards with an interception to remain the CFL’s passing leader (2,565 yards) but is also tops in TD passes with 15.
This marks the fifth straight season that Winnipeg, the defending Grey Cup champion, has made the playoffs.
Edmonton (2-7) suffered its fifth straight loss and dropped to 0-5 at home this season.
“There’s no moral victories,” head coach Jaime Elizondo said after the game. “I know everybody’s disappointed in the loss, but at the end of the day they made more plays then we did and that’s the difference in the game.”
LISTEN BELOW: Jaime Elizondo
Edmonton’s defence forced a safety at 9:31 of the first quarter, then came up big five minutes later as Trumaine Washington intercepted Collaros in the end zone. The Bombers closed out the opening quarter with a 37-yard Ali Mourtada field goal.
The Elks responded with Sean Whyte’s 34-yard field goal at 11:22 of the second.
Winnipeg took the lead with three minutes left in the first half as a 47-yard completion to Kenny Lawler set up Collaros’s five-yard TD strike to Andrew Harris. But Harris appeared to suffer an injury to his right knee and did not return as Brady Oliveira finished up with 105 yards rushing on 16 carries.
Whyte kicked a 25-yard field cut Winnipeg’s half-time lead to 10-8.
Mourtada converted from 27 and a career-high 43 yards to start the third. Edmonton tied it 16-16 on Taylor Cornelius’s 11-yard TD toss to Shai Ross. Backup quarterback Dakota Prukop added the two-point convert.
Rookie Cornelius got the start as incumbent Trevor Harris was a healthy scratch, completing 17 of 29 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown.
“Jaime (Elizondo) did a great job tonight getting me in a rhythm; that’s just who he is,” Cornelius said.
LISTEN BELOW: Taylor Cornelius
Moments after Elks defender Aaron Grymes couldn’t hang on to an easy interception opportunity, Collaros hit Rasheed Bailey on a 48-yard completion before finding him on a five-yard scoring strike six minutes into the fourth.
Mourtada cemented the win with a 23-yard field goal with 50 seconds remaining.
Winnipeg hosts the B.C. Lions next Saturday, while Edmonton has a bye week before hosting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Oct. 29.