December 5, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
It wasn't pretty -- on or off the field -- Wednesday night as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers opened their new Investors Group Field with an error-filled effort inside the stadium that seemed to match the startling number of glitches that went on outside.
By night's end, the club had lost their first-ever game in the new stadium -- 24-6 to the Toronto Argonauts in the first pre-season game of the 2013 CFL season -- and the confidence of some fans who followed the club's transportation plan to the letter only to find the plan itself was deeply flawed last night.
They give no points for style in the pre-season or even, for that matter, for wins. But the games do provide a team a measuring stick and there wasn't much doubt on this night that the Argos -- playing without 16 starters against a Bomber team that had most of theirs -- is a lot further along in pre-season preparations than Winnipeg is right now.
Veteran Mike Renaud basically settled the argument about who will be the Bombers punter this season with an exceptional first half that saw him punt five times for a 44-yard average, while also recovering one of his own punts.
Toss in a Renaud 56-yarder and it seems safe to say the other three punters the Bombers brought to camp to challenge Renaud are now competing for second place.
The Bombers quarterbacks were all shaky.
Starter Buck Pierce got to play just the first three series of the game and went 0-5 with an interception. What's more, for all the talk of the Bombers designing a new offence in the off-season to keep Pierce upright this year, he was belted three times, including twice on the first three plays.
Max Hall took over from Pierce and looked great at first, firing to Chris Matthews for a 32-yard gainer. But that was as good as it got for Hall, who finished out the first half 7-15 for 64 yards and threw an interception to an Argos defensive lineman, of all people.
Veteran backup Justin Goltz took over in the third quarter and threw just two passes, completing both of them for the grand total of 23 yards.
Chase Clement got into the game in the fourth quarter and almost immediately threw an interception. But he bounced back on the next series, throwing a 24-yard completion to Jade Etienne to the Argos' three-yard line. But the drive stalled and the Bombers turned the ball over on downs.
Bombers GM Joe Mack said this week that defensive back Jonathan Hefney's future as a Bomber will be determined only by how he plays, not whether he inhales.
If that's the standard, Hefney's job is safe. The veteran Bombers DB was the best Bombers defender during the first quarter when the starters from last season -- plus newcomer safety Cauchy Muamba -- all played in the secondary. Hefney knocked down a pass, made an aggressive open-field tackle and was generally all over the field.
While head coach Tim Burke has said over and again that last year's starters in the secondary are going to have to fight for their jobs this pre-season, Hefney, Alex Suber, Jovon Johnson and Brandon Stewart all looked head and shoulders above the alternatives the Bombers trotted out after the first quarter last night.
Bombers centre Justin Sorensen fell flat on his face as he came running on to the field during the pre-game introductions...Linebacker Pierre-Luc Labbe was completely fooled on a fake punt by the Argos in the third quarter and might still be wondering this morning why everyone was suddenly running the other way.
CFL commissioner Marc Cohon and former CFL commissioner -- and current UFC Canada director of operations Tom Wright -- were both in attendance Wednesday night. Cohon liked what he saw, Tweeting prior to the game: "Fans Rolling in and r amazed. Modern #CFL starts today."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 13, 2013 D1
Updated on Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 8:03 AM CDT: