Bombers nipped by Eskimos in epic CFL opener

The Canadian Press
Judy Owen

WINNIPEG–You wouldn’t think a field-goal kicker would have the greatest focus at 1 a.m. but Sean Whyte did.
The Edmonton Eskimos’ 10-year veteran booted a 44-yard field goal with eight seconds to go to lift his team to a 33-30 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers early Friday in the longest continuous game in CFL history–and second-longest overall.
“I felt like I was going to go to sleep at one point,” Whyte said of the game that ended at 1:18 a.m. (CDT) after two weather delays because of lightning.
“[But] once you get out in that situation, the adrenalin’s flowing so much–all the soreness, stiffness, the whole day kind of just vanishes and it’s all about that one play,” he noted.
Kickoff at Investors Group Field was at 7:38 p.m., and the total of the two delays was two hours and 58 minutes.
The total time of the game was five hours and 40 minutes.
Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly ran in a pair of one-yard touchdowns, including one with 1:22 to go after Winnipeg defensive back Anthony Gaitor was called for pass interference and the ball placed on the one-yard line.
Reilly got in on his second try, then connected with Nate Behar on a two-point convert to tie it 30-30.
Overall, Reilly completed 32-of-46 pass attempts for 408 yards with one touchdown strike (a 101-yarder to Derel Walker) and one interception.
He rushed 11 times for 43 yards.
“It was crazy for sure,” Reilly said of the on-and-off action.
The longest game in CFL history was the league’s 50th Grey Cup in 1962, nicknamed the Fog Bowl because fog caused the championship in Toronto between Hamilton and Winnipeg to be suspended on Dec. 1 with 9:29 left in the fourth quarter.
It was finished the next day and the Bombers won 28-27.
In Thursday’s game, the first delay lasted 84 minutes after play was stopped with 8:41 left in the second quarter with Edmonton ahead 17-7.
It re-started at 9:55 p.m., but lightning started flashing across the sky again and the game was stopped with 1:24 remaining in the second with the Eskimos up 19-14.
After a further 94-minute delay, the game continued at 11:52 p.m. Halftime was cancelled.
Attendance at Investors Group Field was announced at 25,458 but only a few thousand remained until the end.
Reilly said the second delay was the hardest because players’ bodies are prepared and used to playing for about four hours.
He explained some players may take medication such as anti-inflammatories or pain-killers that last a certain length of time.
“I could feel my body tighten up, feel my back and my legs tightening up,” Reilly admitted. “At that point it’s just a mental grind.
“I thought both teams did a great job of fighting through it.”
Bombers’ rookie quarterback Chris Streveler had a memorable pro debut.
Filling in for starter Matt Nichols, who’s out four-six weeks with an injured knee, Streveler threw touchdown passes to Weston Dressler, Darvin Adams, and Drew Wolitarsky.
The Crystal Lake, Ill. native finished 15-for-28 for 178 yards with two interceptions.
“With the weather delays, I don’t think I ever imagined it going like that,” said Streveler, who was the first rookie to start a Week 1 CFL game since Anthony Calvillo in 1994.
“It stings to lose it like that.”
The University of South Dakota grad experienced a range of highs and lows–all in the first quarter.
He was sacked on his first play, intercepted on his fourth one, but threw his first CFL touchdown to Dressler at 9:03 of the first to close Edmonton’s lead to 10-7.
Winnipeg went ahead 20-19 on a 110-yard touchdown by defensive back Kevin Fogg as time expired in the second quarter.
Whyte went wide right on a 45-yard field goal attempt and Fogg took the ball all the way down the field.
But on a two-point convert attempt, Streveler was intercepted by Eskimos’ safety Neil King.
Whyte and Bombers kicker Justin Medlock exchanged field goals and Winnipeg held a 30-22 lead early in the fourth.
Fogg then intercepted a Reilly pass in the end zone intended for D’haquille Williams, but Edmonton caught the break with Gaitor’s penalty that set up Reilly’s second TD.
In other Week 1 action, Saskatchewan beat Toronto 27-19, Calgary doubled Hamilton 28-14, and B.C. downed Montreal 22-10.
Ottawa had the bye.