O’Leary: The trickle down effect of Matt Dunigan’s 713-yard game
Twenty-six years later, Matt Dunigan looks back on his record-breaking day on the job and still marvels at not only what happened but how it happened.
“It’s really crazy when you start looking at the numbers that we put up that day,” he said from his home in Destin, Fla. while looking back at his 713-yard passing game. He set the single-game passing record on July 14, 1994 in a 50-35 win over Edmonton.
A consummate teammate, Dunigan has said numerous times that while his name sits next to that record, it wouldn’t have happened without the effort of his teammates. His 713 passing yards get the headline, but there were a number of remarkable feats within that game, including receiver Alfred Jackson’s seven-catch, 308-yard, four-touchdown performance.
“A.J. (Alfred Jackson) didn’t have a catch in the first quarter and he only had one in the fourth quarter,” Dunigan said. “He did the majority of his damage — although the one in the 4th quarter was an 88-yarder — he did most of his damage in the second and third quarter.”
In the 1994 Bombers’ episode of Remote Reunion driven by Kubota, the players enjoyed watching the recently dug up footage of the game together. The game wasn’t aired on TV, so for the players it was their first time seeing it — it came from a VHS copy of the scoreboard footage — since they’d stepped off the field that night in Winnipeg. Throughout the episode, the players marveled at Jackson’s speed.
“It’s probably my favourite game I’ve ever played in,” fellow Bombers receiver David Williams told CFL.ca’s Brodie Lawson. “Sh– was just magic.”
Dunigan was blown away by Williams’ line: 10 catches for 240 yards. That’s a single-game season-high for a player most years in a CFL season.
“(Williams) goes 10 for 240 and that’s a big day and he’s not even talked about because of AJ’s day. It was just ridiculous,” he said.
“When you can go catch 10 passes at 240 yards and you don’t even get mentioned? (Expletives) was balling,” Williams, a 2018 Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductee, told his former teammates to rounds of laughter.
Jackson was relatively quiet in the re-watching of this great game. He didn’t have to say much, as his play was still doing the talking for him all these years later. Among his four touchdowns in the game were 55- and 88-yard receptions.
“I just think they had no answer for us,” Jackson said. “They couldn’t stop the run, the pass, our o-line played well. It was one of those magical nights we had. I don’t think any defence in the CFL could have stopped us at that point.”
“It turned out to be one of those games where we took what the defence was giving us,” Dunigan said.
“They weren’t going to let the Geralds (Gerald Wilcox) beat us on the outside, so we had one-on-one matchups outside and we just pushed the ball down the field.
“It was A.J. and David Williams that stepped up to the plate and we started pushing the ball to them. In order for that to happen you have protection, you have to have a defence cognizant of the run game, and certainly we had all the pieces to make that work.”
“I just think they had no answer for us. They couldn’t stop the run, the pass, our o-line played well. It was one of those magical nights we had. I don’t think any defence in the CFL could have stopped us at that point.”
— Former Bombers’ receiver Alfred Jackson
The Bombers were happy to have it come together for them. They’d lost the 1993 Grey Cup to Edmonton and had lost their 1994 season-opener to BC. Edmonton came into town in Week 2 and Winnipeg had all of the motivation it needed.
“I just remember the thought process going into that ball game, this is the time. I’m going to spit it out of my mouth and we’re going to get our first win of the season and put it on Edmonton,” Dunigan said.
“It doesn’t put a ring on your finger but it certainly felt good to have the day that we did.”
The players enjoyed watching this game and true to a common trend in all of the videos in this series, they still had their critical hats on when they watched it. They all played a part in a history-making night, but almost all of them saw minor errors and opportunities for more.
“You enjoy watching AJ fleece the (Edmonton) DB and get him fired,” Dunigan said.
“Twenty-six years later it’s fun to watch, going back. Even to this day it’s like we’re in the film room, thinking, ‘What the hell are you thinking? You left a lot out there.’”
There may have been bits and pieces left here and there, but Dunigan and the Bombers’ offence feasted that night against their rivals.