It had been 10 months since Joey Elliott took a snap in a game, but the Winnipeg Blue Bombers third-string quarterback said it went fine.
Elliott, who missed most of last season after tearing a knee ligament against Calgary on July 14, led a trio of Bomber quarterbacks with nine completions for 111 yards as Winnipeg opened the CFL pre-season with a 22-10 victory over the Montreal Alouettes on Thursday night.
“It felt good,” he said. “The first pass, getting a completion, I got things rolling after that.
“I’m back 100 per cent, but I’m also still kind of a rookie in this league myself. In game experience, I’m not that high on the totem pole. But I’m trying to learn as much as I can and game action is going to help. Games are really a lot quicker than practice.”
Bloi-Dei Dorzon scored the Bombers’ only touchdown on a 37-yard run while Justin Palardy had three field goals and Eric Wilbur booted two.
Travon Patterson caught a touchdown pass for Montreal, while Sean Whyte had two field goals in a game in which neither offence dominated.
Neither team used its starting quarterback, Anthony Calvillo for Montreal or Buck Pierce for the Bombers, so each coach got a look at his depth at that critical position.
Alex Brink started for Winnipeg and went 7-for-15 for 74 yards. Justin Goltz went in late and was 2-for-6 for 11 yards.
For Montreal, starter Adrian McPherson struggled with one completion in seven passes for only five yards. But Josh Neiswander completed 12 of 24 for 124 yards and Scott Riddle went 5-for-10 for 36 yards. They each threw one interception.
Goltz moved into the No. 3 slot when Elliott went down last season and now the two are battling for that job in camp.
“It’s Buck’s team and we’re all behind him,” said Elliott. “We have three young quarterbacks and if one of our numbers is called, we all try to jump in there and be successful.”
Despite the victory, coach Paul LaPolice was not thrilled with the Bombers’ performance. The quarterbacks were sacked six times, the team took 12 penalties for 94 yards and there were two fumbles, all of which denied the offence any momentum.
“Unfortunately, we were putting the ball on the ground too much,” he said. “We were completing passes and fumbling it.
“The quarterbacks did OK, but we only had one TD and it was on a big play, so we have to execute better. I told the players we can’t be happy with what we did. You’ve got to sustain drives and stay on the field.”
The Bomber’s TD came with Goltz behind centre on a wild third-quarter drive.
An initial stall was remedied as LaPolice called a fake punt and Wilbur’s pass to Anthony Woodson produced a first down.
Glotz then moved the ball to the 37, where Dorzan took the ball down the left side, zig-zagging and breaking tackles until he crossed the line at the 5:01 mark.
Neiswander answered with a drive that produced a Whyte field goal at 8:46 for Montreal’s final score.
Earlier, he had capped his first drive with a seven-yard TD toss.
Montreal coach Marc Trestman said Neiswander played well in spots but showed he needed more work. He also defended McPherson’s weak numbers.
“I was disappointed with the performance of our offence in total,” he said. “We had opportunities we didn’t convert.
“He didn’t perform with the efficiency we wanted, but there are 11 other guys on the field. I don’t want my comments to be misinterpreted. He’s had a very good camp. I hate to put too much emphasis on his performance tonight.”
Announced attendance was 20,005, but there appeared to be fewer at Percival Molson Stadium for a game that most veterans on both clubs sat out and that produced few highlights.
Montreal lost receiver Brandon London to a mild concussion early, as he landed heavily after being hit by Demond Washington while reaching for a McPherson pass. He lay on the field for several minutes, but was able to get up and walk off on his own.
He said later he didn’t have a headache or feel an disorientation, but would need further tests.
Kyle Graves, one of several Canadian quarterbacks in Montreal’s camp who also kicked for Acadia, took over punting duties in the third quarter. He put his first out of bounds in the air, incurring a 10-yard illegal kick penalty. He did the same again later, but ended up with five punts for a 32.8 yard average.
Montreal closes its pre-season schedule with an afternoon game Tuesday in Toronto, while the Bombers return home to face Hamilton on Wednesday.
Notes: At halftime, members of the 1981 Expos were honoured, as Tim Raines, Larry Parrish, Andre Dawson, Wallace Johnson, Warren Cromartie, Bill Lee and others got a big hand from the crowd. A plaque honouring the only Expos team to reach the playoffs was unveiled.
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