VANCOUVER -- Clarence Denmark caught a 37-yard touchdown pass, and Lirim Hajrullahu kicked five field goals as the upstart Winnipeg Blue Bombers thumped the B.C. Lions 23-6 on Friday night.
The Blue Bombers (4-1) moved into a three-way tie for first place in the West Division with Calgary and Edmonton. Winnipeg has already exceeded its entire 2013 victory total.
The Lions dropped to 2-3 as they struggled to deal with a Winnipeg defence that sacked B.C. quarterback Kevin Glenn five times and intercepted two of his passes. The Lions only recorded two sacks on Winnipeg quarterback Drew Willy, who produced decent numbers but had trouble getting his team into the end zone.
Willy completed 18 of 26 passes for 250 yards and one interception along with the TD. Receiver Nick Moore had a strong night against his former B.C. squad, catching seven passes for 99 yards.
Glenn connected on 18 of 31 passes for 232 yards as Winnipeg secured the win with 14 unanswered points in the third quarter. B.C. only mustered a pair of field goals from Paul McCallum.
Willy tried to exert his presence at the beginning of the game as he attempted a long bomb to Denmark on the second play from scrimmage. But Lions defensive back Ryan Phillips knocked the ball down as he and a teammate were applying double coverage.
Hajrullahu put the Bombers on the scoreboard first as he booted a field goal at 6:25 of the first quarter after both teams struggled to get their offences going early. Hajrullahu doubled Winnipeg's lead to 6-0 with a 27-yard field goal just under six minutes later.
Winnipeg threatened to score early in the second quarter as B.C. penalties helped the Bombers advance. But Lions defensive back Cord Parks prevented Romby Bryant from getting his hands on a pass in the end zone, and Adam Bighill stuffed Willy on a quarterback-draw attempt. As a result, Winnipeg had to settle for another field goal, this time from 33 yards out.
The Lions threatened to get in the end zone late in the second quarter. A Tim Brown punt return and Winnipeg face masking penalty on the same play spurred a drive to the Blue Bombers' three-yard line. But Glenn overthrew Manny Arceneaux and the Lions had to settle for an 11-yard field goal, reducing their deficit to 9-3.
B.C.'s defence came up big in the final minute of the second quarter. Thanks to three consecutive completions by Willy and a pass interference penalty on B.C., the Blue Bombers advanced to the Lions 23-yard line. However, B.C. held backup QB Rob Marve on third-and-one, forcing a turnover on downs and setting up a drive that led to an 11-yard McCallum field goal on the final play of the first half to reduce their deficit to 9-6.
Both clubs virtually matched each other's net yardage in the first 30 minutes, with the Blue Bombers earning only one yard more. But penalties proved costly for B.C. in the first half as they committed eight infractions worth 62 yards compared to only four worth 25 by Winnipeg.
The Blue Bombers were able to increase their lead to 23-6 in the third quarter as Hajrullahu booted field goals of 51 and 49 yards and supplied a 63-yard kick-off single before Willy threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Denmark.
The Lions' fourth-quarter comeback hopes were hurt after Glenn was sacked by Bryant Turner. But Lions defensive lineman Alex Bazzie earned some payback by sacking Willy to force a punt with about eight minutes remaining.
Notes: Attendance was 25,321.