October 14, 2016 - 11:41 PM
VANCOUVER - Down by 10 late in the fourth quarter, Matt Nichols could sense a familiar calm on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' sideline.
"There's just no sense of panic," said the veteran quarterback. "We've played in so many of these games this year. We just feel like we're going to make the plays to win in the end. Having that confidence in those situations is half the battle."
The Blue Bombers took advantage of the sloppy B.C. Lions to score 13 points over the game's final three minutes, including Justin Medlock's seventh field goal of the night with 14 seconds to go Friday, to pick up a crucial 35-32 victory in the CFL's West Division.
"We faced a lot of adversity," said Winnipeg running back Andrew Harris. "We stuck it out and stuck together."
With the victory, the Blue Bombers (10-6) moved past the Lions (9-6) for second in the West Division standings and won the season series between the clubs after last weekend's equally wild 37-35 victory over B.C. in Winnipeg.
Calgary (13-1-1) is dominating the division, but the runner-up will host the West semifinal, and the Blue Bombers now own the tiebreak with the Lions, although B.C. has three games remaining in the regular season to Winnipeg's two.
Both the Blue Bombers and Lions have already qualified for the post-season. B.C. is in for the 20th straight year, while Winnipeg made the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
The Lions turned the ball over an eye-popping six times Friday, with quarterback Jonathon Jennings throwing three interceptions, the last of which by Kevin Fogg led to Nichols' 10-yard touchdown toss to Clarence Demark to knot the score 32-32 with 2:27 left in the fourth.
Lions kick returner Chris Rainey fumbled the ball on the ensuing kickoff and the Blue Bombers recovered before milking the clock from there to set up Medlock's winning boot.
"Definitely one of the craziest games I've ever played in," said Nichols, who finished 27 of 38 passing for 301 yards with one throwing TD, one rushing touchdown and two interceptions. "Both teams had to fight the entire game. Luckily our guys made the big plays at the end that made the difference."
Jennings threw two touchdowns to go along with his three picks, winding up 22 of 29 for 327 yards.
"We're up by 10 with a couple minutes left, then we're up by seven with the ball in our hands," said Jennings. "I can't do stuff like that. It's just unacceptable."
Lions backup quarterback Travis Lulay ran in one B.C. touchdown, while Rainey and Shawn Gore caught the other two. Richie Leone was good on 3 of 5 field goals for the Lions, but came up short on a 62-yard effort that would have set a CFL record as time expired.
"Every win's sweet," said Harris, who had 153 yards on 20 touches against his former team. "I'm not going to say one's sweeter than another."
Tied 22-22 after three quarters, Lulay ran the ball in from eight yards out with just over 10 minutes to go in the fourth to give his team a seven-point lead in the see-saw affair.
Leone then hit his third field goal of the night from 37 yards out to make it 32-22 before the Blue Bombers jumped on a series of B.C. blunders to secure an unlikely win.
"It was going to come down to who makes the mistakes at the end and who capitalized on them," said Nichols. "That's exactly what this game came down to."
Note: Blue Bombers safety Taylor Loffler had two interceptions, including one on a trick play off Lions running back Jeremiah Johnson, and forced a fumble that he also recovered. T.J Heath had the other pick for Winnipeg. ... Lions safety Mike Edem had both of B.C.'s interceptions. ... Winnipeg is off next week before a home-and-away set with Ottawa to wrap up the regular season, while B.C. hosts Edmonton next Saturday and then closes out its schedule with back-to-back games against Saskatchewan.
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News from © The Canadian Press, 2016