Coach Tim Burke summed it up as his Winnipeg Blue Bombers dropped a 24-6 exhibition stinker to the Toronto Argonauts to start their new life at Investors Group Field Wednesday.
“I wish we could have given the crowd a lot more to cheer about,” he said after an offensive output that consisted of two field goals.
Last year’s Grey Cup champions brought their backup quarterbacks and a cast of newcomers to town and still looked confident on the newest turf in the CFL.
The $200-million stadium on the grounds of the University of Manitoba has all the bells and whistles — luxury boxes, fancy concessions and even comfortable seats.
But it didn’t help the Bombers, who struggled offensively behind all four of their pivots, although starter Buck Pierce played only about half a quarter before he was yanked to avoid the blitz.
Max Hall, one of the two newcomers in camp this season to challenge for No. 1 backup, played most of the first half.
“I was able to complete some balls and do some good things,” he said later. “I was happy with it.”
Justin Goltz took over in the second half, the only backup the Bombers retained from last season. The other newcomer, Chase Clement, saw action in the fourth quarter.
Goltz was clearly distressed at opening the new field with a loss, also perhaps at playing second fiddle to Hall, although he didn’t admit it.
“That’s not my decision. I’m not going to comment,” he said.
“It would have been nice to start the stadium off in a little better way. Unfortunately, we didn’t show up tonight.”
The consensus in the locker room was there remains a lot of work to be done and Burke agreed.
The Bombers scored first at their new home. Justin Palardy put them on the board with less than two minutes left in the first quarter with a 34-yard field goal.
But Toronto’s Gerald Riggs had the first touchdown in the $200-million stadium, a 20-yard run at 1:49 of the second to make it 7-3.
Toronto made it 14-3 before the end of the first half after quarterback Zach Collaros hit Trent Guy with a five-yard touchdown pass.
Toronto kicker Anthony Alix extended it to 17-3 at the 4:27 mark of the third quarter.
Jameze Massey brought the Bombers and their fans back to life late in the third with a 91-yard return on a missed Alix field goal attempt.
“I love this stadium, I love it very much” said the CFL rookie, who just turned 23.
“I’m going to try to do that every week. That’s what I do, ‘Mr. Excitement.“’
Brett Cameron, son of Bomber punting legend Bob Cameron, turned it into three points by connecting with a 37-yard field goal, although Cameron is in camp to challenge at punter.
The Argos started the game behind Trevor Harris, the only other backup quarterback retained from last season. They also brought newcomers Mitchell Gale and Josh Portis, who saw action in the second half.
Gale dropped the ball on the last play of the third quarter but picked it up and still managed to connect with Romby Bryant in the end zone for another touchdown to make it 24-6.
A 46-yard Alix field goal near the end of the game was wiped out by a penalty for illegal formation.
The Bombers have been polishing a new offence but said before the game they wanted to keep this one simple. Even though it was only pre-season play, they very much wanted a win to start their life in their new home.
The new stadium is about 12 kilometres from downtown Winnipeg and a good chunk of the crowd hadn’t made it by kickoff time. The Bombers sold 31,500 of the 33,400 seats as of Monday although the announced attendance was only 28,628.
“I have the feeling that people will have to figure out the traffic patterns,” said Burke, who noticed how long it took to fill the stands.
With few roads into the campus, many left early to avoid a similar problem getting home.