Call it a completely out-of-character and baffling performance by a Winnipeg Blue Bombers squad which has consistently served up Oscar-worthy work over the past few seasons.

And as opening night performances go, the Blue Bombers’ 2024 debut in a 27-12 loss to the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League’s season opener in front of 30,140 at Princess Auto Stadium would best be summed up as a sloppy, mistake-filled disappointment.

Too early to panic? Absolutely. It’s June and it’s Week 1. But it’s not too early to wonder, to raise eyebrows and ask some hard questions after an effort that was so, well, un-Blue Bomber like.

Not to be overlooked here would be a deserving tip of the chapeau to the defending Grey Cup champion Alouettes who punched out a ‘W’ in the league’s toughest venue, where the Blue Bombers had been 37-3 in their last 40 dating back to the fall of 2018.

Make that 37-4 now. The loss also means the Blue Bombers are 0-1 and are under .500 for the first time since September 28, 2018.

“Just not good enough,” began defensive end Willie Jefferson afterwards. “Not good enough from the offence, defence and special teams. We’ve just got to be better. That’s not Winnipeg Blue Bombers football. Next week we’re going to be better.

“We know this isn’t our MO. Now it’s on to Ottawa (next week’s opponent). That’s it. Period.”

More on the Blue Bombers home-opening loss from our view from the press box…


The Bombers entered the opener with 11 projected starters having not taken a single snap in the two preseason games, including Zach Collaros, with the thinking being the club wanted to enter the campaign as healthy as possible.

Naturally, then, there would be a question of potential rust forming on the squad heading into the first game that mattered. And, frankly, it was very, very evident early and then in a theme that would continue throughout the rest of the evening.

The Blue Bombers turned the ball over three times leading to 10 Alouette points, took five penalties totalling 65 yards, saw Sergio Castillo miss two of three field goals and a convert – more on that later – were burned for a 76-yard flea-flicker touchdown and saw the offence manage just 284 yards net offence.

“I don’t know that I had them prepared well enough for this one,” said head coach Mike O’Shea. “Missing that step, missing a bit of that football sense as we went along… I think I could have done a better job of getting them ready. Those last bunch of practices in training camp probably could have been a little different.”

Asked specifically about the rust narrative, he added:

“There’s a bit of that for sure. I don’t think the veteran group needs to play. I don’t know that I’d change that idea, especially with the six days in between (the final preseason game and the opener). Montreal had the same six days. I just think I could have done something differently ahead of that to make sure these guys were a little bit more prepared.

“The guys that missed training camp are going to be a step behind regardless. They’re going to missing a few of those fast-paced details that click when you’re finely tuned.”

A number of players in blue and gold stand together while waiting for the huddle to breakThe Bombers' offensive linemen size up their opponents in the first quarter. (Winnipeg Football Club)


The Blue Bombers offence was prolific a year ago, featuring the league’s leading TD passer in Collaros, the leading rusher in Brady Oliveira, two 1,000-yard receivers in Dalton Schoen and Nic Demski as well as the dynamic Kenny Lawler.

The thinking heading into the opener was that this attack, for all its success over the last few years, still had another gear.

On Thursday night, they couldn’t find first gear for long stretches.

Collaros finished the night 20-of-33 for 209 yards with one interception tossed in the end zone, Oliveira managed 38 yards on 11 carries and the offence did score a touchdown until there were just 68 seconds left on a one-yard Johnny Augustine run.

Unfortunately, the news gets even worse, as Lawler looked to have suffered a hand injury in the first half and did not return to the game. O’Shea didn’t have an update afterward.

“It’s not up to our standard. It’s disappointing. Frustrating… all those things, especially to not play well in front of our home crowd,” said Collaros. “I don’t want to take anything away from them. When we were moving the ball there, we took turns shooting ourselves in the foot – an inexcusable interception from me as we crossed the (Alouettes) 40-yard line that took points off the board. I’ve got to be better for our guys.

“It’s a long season. We’ve played a lot of ball together. Getting back in the flow of things, we’ve got to be better. At the end of the day, it’s about execution. We can make every excuse in the book – I’m not going to. I’ve got to play better for us, that’s it.”

a player in a blue and gold uniform reaches out and wraps around a quarterback who has the ballWillie Jefferson (5) gets an arm around the Allouettes' quarterback, Cody Fajardo, in the second quarter. (Winnipeg Football Club)


Castillo met with reporters post-game and, for a man who never complains, he spoke out about the new micro-chips the CFL has inserted in the footballs and how it is affecting the flight of kicks. It’s an issue that has already been broached with the league during training camp and the preseason.

“I’m 60 percent to 50 percent with the chips in the balls on a good day,” he said. “I’m praying a Hail Mary every time I’m out there. I guess it doesn’t affect when the quarterbacks throw it, when punters (kick it) because it spins.

“But when Jams (Jamieson Sheahan) kicks his Aussies (end over end or sidewinder kicks) it gets a whole other line. It’s a trajectory issue. If you look at my balls, I get a nice little draw like I wish I had in my golf game. Instead, I have this rowdy hook.

“I hit them clean. That’s the frustrating part. Look at every miss – I look at Osh and I’m like, ‘I hit them clean.’ You go through my practice film, and I hit them clean. That’s very frustrating.”


The Blue Bombers were training 21-6 in the fourth quarter and the belief was – based on their past success – a comeback might have been in the offing. But that was killed when Cody Fajardo connected with Tyson Philpot for a 76-yard flea-flicker score that put the visitors up 27-6.


It’s all ugly, frankly. But the Blue Bombers scored only 12 points at home after winning their last seven in south Winnipeg by double-digit margins.

NEXT: Blue Bombers hit the road to the nation’s capital and a matchup with the Ottawa RedBlacks on Thursday, June 13, 6:30 p.m. CT at TD Place.

This story originally appeared at and is republished here with permission.