THE CANADIAN PRESS
WINNIPEG — Drew Willy likes to shine in the fourth quarter.
And for the fourth time this season, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback guided his team to a late-game victory, the latest a 24-16 win over the Montreal Alouettes on Friday.
Nic Grigsby ran 26 yards for a touchdown with just over two minutes left to lift Winnipeg’s record to 6-3, while Montreal (1-7) has now lost six straight games.
“I definitely enjoy playing in the fourth quarters,” Willy said. “I just try to stay calm, cool and collected. I wish we would have played better in the first half.”
Willy completed 14-of-23 pass attempts for 200 yards, no TDs and one interception as Winnipeg ended a two-game losing streak.
The teams didn’t give the 29,881 fans at Investors Group Field much to cheer about in the first half, with Montreal taking a 6-1 lead into the break. But the second half was a see-saw battle with several lead changes.
Grigsby capped off a six-play, 74-yard drive for the Blue Bombers that was helped when the Alouettes were called for pass interference.
He finished with 10 carries for 73 yards, but was unavailable to reporters right after the game as he was selected for a random drug test.
Winnipeg defensive back Maurice Leggett intercepted Montreal quarterback Jonathan Crompton with 1:44 left in the game, a pick upheld despite a challenge for a pass-interference call.
Bombers kicker Lirim Hajrullahu then booted his third field goal of the game from 16 yards out to make it 24-16 at 14:07.
Leggett had another interception _ his third of the game _ that he took to the end zone with 36 seconds left, but it was wiped out by a Bombers penalty.
Alex Brink started at quarterback for Montreal, but Crompton replaced him in the second quarter.
Alouettes head coach Tom Higgins told reporters the day before the game that all three of his QBs would get some playing time.
Tanner Marsh went in the game in his usual short-yardage situation.
“It’s tough tonight,” said Crompton, who was 18-of-29 for 266 yards, with no TDs and three interceptions. “No one in this locker-room really wants to lose this game. We didn’t think we were going to lose this game.”
“That’s the good thing about this team, we always feel we can win every week. We’ve just got to come back and correct it and go from there.”
Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said there was no doubt on the sidelines that the team could come out ahead on the lead changes.
“They came out and they decided they wanted to get after it in the second half,” O’Shea said of his players. “Special teams sparked it, they got it going.”
The first touchdown of the game was scored early in the third quarter when Bombers defensive back Don Unamba blocked a Sean Whyte punt.
Winnipeg defensive back Derek Jones scooped the ball up at the one-yard line and ran in for the TD at 1:01 for the 8-6 lead.
After Montreal went two and out on the next series, Whyte’s punt was returned 65 yards by Troy Stoudermire to Montreal’s 14-yard line.
Willy then threw an incomplete pass and ran short on the following play, leaving Hajrullahu to attempt a 21-yard field goal.
The ball hit the upright and Winnipeg retained its 8-6 lead with 11:05 left in the third quarter.
Montreal was denied on third down with two yards to go and turned the ball over with just over six minutes in the quarter, but the Bombers couldn’t do anything with the gift.
It was all running back Tyrell Sutton in the Alouettes’ first touchdown drive.
Crompton threw a pass to Sutton that he took down the sidelines for a 71-yard gain. He also ran for six yards and caught an 11-yard pass before he was hurt and went to the sidelines for a few series.
The Als took the spot Sutton got them to at Winnipeg’s five-yard line and ended up scoring with quarterback Tanner Marsh’s one-yard run at 13:28 for the 13-8 lead.
Hajrullahu then booted field goals from 22 and 24 yards to give Winnipeg the 14-13 lead with 9:12 to go in the game.
But Montreal regained the lead after an eight-play, 61-yard drive capped by Whyte’s 21-yard field goal with 4:18 left.
Whyte made three field goals and one attempt hit the upright.
With 2:37 left and Winnipeg facing third down, Montreal was called for pass interference, leading to Grigsby’s TD.
“You just have to show resilience as a team and make sure that you continue to chip away at the opposition and make sure that you’re doing the simple things right,” Winnipeg offensive lineman Glenn January said.
“I think that we shot ourselves in the foot several times with fumbles and dropped balls.”
The Bombers will be tested in their next two games, back-to-back tilts against Saskatchewan in the Labour Day Classic and at home the next week in the Banjo Bowl. Montreal hosts Ottawa and then Hamilton in the East Division’s tight race.