Demerio Houston has a new football for his mantle after his first professional interception for a touchdown was the difference on Friday night.
Houston’s 45-yard interception return on the final play of the third quarter gave the Blue Bombers the lead for good as Winnipeg held off the Calgary Stampeders 19-18.
With the Blue Bombers trailing 12-9, Houston stepped in front of Calgary quarterback Jake Maier’s pass intended for Marken Michel with Winnipeg kicker Segio Castillo’s extra point making it 16-12.
“I just saw the back flare out and from film study, you know if it’s flat then it’s always going to be a curl coming behind and I just trusted my instincts and jumped in and made a good play and took it to the house,” said Houston, who leads the CFL with seven interceptions. Nobody else has more than four.
After the game, Houston was still tightly clutching the football he made the big play on, saying that it was coming home with him.
Blue Bombers coach Mike O’Shea said it was the pick-me-up his team needed.
“It certainly turned the tide for us. Gave guys a lot of energy on the sidelines, and I think we needed that spark,” O’Shea said. “Well read, great break, sure hands, finish it off in the end zone. Lots to like about that.”
Castillo made four field goals in the defence-first victory as Winnipeg (8-2) won its fourth straight.
Blue Bombers’ quarterback Dru Brown finished 17-of-27 for 171 yards, starting in place of the injured Zach Collaros.
Maier’s 11-of-24 pass attempts for 190 yards for Calgary (3-7) and the pick to Houston.
Kicker Rene Paredes went 6 for 8 on field goals to provide all the scoring for Calgary. The veteran came into the game with 18 straight field goals made, but missed his third kick of the game to end the streak at 20.
Maier has been picked off 12 times on the season compared to just eight touchdown passes, which includes none over the past four games.
“It just seems to be one of those years for me. I don’t feel like I make a ton of mistakes, but when they do happen, they happen to be pretty tragic,” said Maier. “I keep working my ass off to fix that, and I understand risk and reward on certain plays and certain decisions, so I take full accountability for that. "
After Paredes’s 36-yard field goal got Calgary back to within a point at 16-15, back came the Blue Bombers with Castillo nailing his fourth field goal of the night, this one from 42 yards out.
The Stampeders again closed to within three points halfway through the fourth quarter on Parades’ sixth field goal of the night. This one was from 33 yards out late in the fourth quarter.
Calgary had a chance to go ahead when Parades lined up for a 50-yard attempt with under two minutes to go, but the attempt came up short.
“I was really proud at the way we came off a short week, playing such a great opponent, that everybody showed up with that sort of commitment level,” said Stampeders coach Dave Dickenson. “But the negative is the confidence isn’t there. So until you get confidence, you just don’t play with that same swagger.”
Neither team was able to produce an offensive touchdown.
It appeared Maier had a touchdown pass in the third quarter when on a second down, he found a wide open Luther Hakunavanhu at the five-yard line. However, it went off the receiver’s hands and fell to the turf, setting up yet another field goal.
“Team loss. Everybody probably has a play they went back,” Dickenson added. “Good teams find ways to make plays, and the teams that aren’t winning, they find ways to lose, and we found another way to lose.”
The Hakunavanhu drop came in Calgary’s longest drive of the game midway through the third quarter in which after starting at their own 12, they drove down to the Winnipeg 11 with Michel’s 45-yard grab being the big play.
Instead, the Stampeders had to settle for an 18-yard field goal, briefly giving Calgary a six-point lead at 12-6.
The score was 6-6 after the first half.
The Stamps were inches away from taking a 9-6 lead late in the second quarter but Paredes’s 45-yard attempt hit the right upright. His first miss since July 7 at Winnipeg.
The Stampeders (3-7) head to Toronto on Friday to try and knock off the Argonauts (7-1) for a second time this season.
The Blue Bombers (8-2) return home where they’ll play host to Montreal (5-3) on Thursday.