CALGARY — On a night when almost nothing went right for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, in a season almost nothing has gone right, Will Ford’s performance at McMahon Stadium Saturday stands as a shining exception and, perhaps, a reason for Bombers fans to hope.
The running back — who has toiled most of the past two seasons in the shadow of feature tailback Chad Simpson — had a coming-out party, rushing for 156 yards on seven carries — including a 70-yard first-quarter romp — and returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.
It was all sweet vindication for Ford, who fumbled on the opening play from scrimmage against B.C. a week ago to gift-wrap the Lions an easy TD en route to their 53-17 win at Investors Group Field.
While the final result on the scoreboard here was similarly lopsided — a 38-11 Calgary win — there was no doubt this time around Ford was very much at least trying to be part of Winnipeg’s solution, instead of still more of the problem.
"We still lost. So I’m still down," Ford said after the game. "But I made a promise to myself to come back and have a better game. I put the team in a bad position last week and I just want to help this team win at the end of the day.
"We were down and we needed a spark, so whatever it takes. Whether it’s me making the return or making a tackle or making a block — whatever it is. I’m here to help this team win at the end of the day."
The fact Ford’s coming-out party came the same week the Bombers announced Simpson is done for the season with an injury is perhaps not a coincidence.
While the Bombers coaching staff have been high on Ford’s talents — and this club is in desperate need of a talented returner — Ford had struggled to join the conversation with Simpson still in the picture.
But with two kickoff returns for TDs this season and a break-out game on the ground Saturday, Ford is suddenly very much in the conversation as this 2-12 Bombers team begins looking ahead to the myriad of personnel changes they’re going to be making in the off-season.
"I thought Will did a great job," said head coach Tim Burke. "He obviously ran the ball well. He was reading his holes well. Then he’s got the speed to really take it a long ways and he did a great job on that kickoff return."
In addition to impressing the Bombers coaching staff, Ford has also quite wisely made fans of the men on the offensive line that have to make those holes for him.
"Will Ford had a heck of a night," said tackle Glenn January. "He was able to do some great things for us in the running game and he was able to do some great things for us in special teams. He’s a great young talent and he does it the way it’s supposed to be done — he throws the glory back at us...
"He’s a very modest guy, a good teammate and he’s very good at this game. So it’s nice to see him go out and have an excellent night."
Ford is a free agent at the end of this season, but is focused on the next game rather than winning a job for next season.
"Each week I’m fighting to just better myself and do whatever it takes to help the team to win."