REGINA – It has mismatch written all over it. A heavyweight vs. flyweight, a muscle-bound behemoth kicking sand in the 98-pound weakling’s mug.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders, 7-1, meet the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 1-7, in the 51st Labour Day Classic and nobody — especially the Vegas bookies who have made the home side 14½ point favourites — expects the visitors to exit with a win.
Justin Goltz will make his third pro start at quarterback for the Bombers after a couple of years standing on the sidelines as the third or fourth stringer. And he expects to hear it from the Rider faithful from the moment he exits the tunnel in the pre-game to the final gun.
"I’ve kinda enjoyed flying under the radar in situations like this in the past," said Goltz. "This is a pretty strong fan base. I’m pretty sure they’ve done their research and I’m sure they’ll have some good material for me.
"They’re pretty fierce, man. They’ll come after you in any shape or form, whether it’s verbally, physically… as they should. That’s what you want in a fan base, especially in the CFL where it’s a fan-driven league and we pride ourselves on having great relationships with the fans. This is arguably one of the best fan bases in the league — I feel like Winnipeg’s is very similar — and they’re diehard, they care about their team and they’re going to let the other team know about it."
Critical for the Bombers if they are to have any hope of winning the Labour Day Classic is a decent start — Winnipeg was down 17-zip to Hamilton last weekend after the first quarter before falling behind 24-0 in the second half. The Bombers also managed just 11 first downs and 214 yards net offence. Most of all, head coach Tim Burke and his coaching staff have implored the Bombers to man up and at least show some fight in this one.
And that’s especially critical now in the face of the number of changes management has already made to the roster in the past couple of weeks.
"From a defensive point of view I want to see better effort early in the game," said Burke. "I want to see more passion out of them. Offensively, we need to have better execution. Our offensive line has got to block better and it would be nice to get the running game going first and that would help the passing game. I thought our special teams played really well last week and for us to get just a little bit better there would be great."
Asked what a win would do for the Bombers, Burke grinned:
"It would be a fun bus ride back," he said. "For the veteran guys it would do a lot. Any win would help, obviously. For the younger guys, I doubt if they understand the magnitude of this game."
Will they when they come out of the tunnel?
"I think," Burke added, "they’ll get it figured out pretty fast."