Conventional wisdom says one of the hardest things to do in all of professional sports -- whether it's hockey, football, baseball or basketball -- is to sweep a season series with an opponent, particularly if it's a division rival.
But there never has been anything normal about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers-Saskatchewan Roughriders rivalry.
So it should come as little surprise what the Roughriders are attempting to do at Investors Group Field this Sunday in the annual Banjo Bowl -- complete a three-game season sweep of the Bombers -- has actually been shockingly common over the years.
'We're going to have to come out fighting and hope the breaks go our way. That's the only way we're going to beat those guys'
In the 27 seasons since 1961 in which the Bombers and Riders have played three games in a regular season, one team or the other has swept the season series in 11 of those years.
All of which is to say if you're one of those Bombers fans this week who is clinging to the hope Winnipeg will win on Sunday simply because they are "due" against an opponent who has already beaten them twice in the past month, you'd better think again.
And the Bombers players know it.
"The Riders are a very good team. I'd say their O-line and D-line are the most complete in the league. So it's not going to be like we're going to win just because we're due," said Bombers centre Steve Morley.
"It's just not like that with those guys. They're just that good. We're going to have to come out fighting and hope the breaks go our way. That's the only way we're going to beat those guys."
Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea was asked Thursday if the fact the Riders had already beaten his team twice this season was an advantage or disadvantage for the visitors.
"I think they would believe it's to their advantage," O'Shea said, before quickly shifting the subject to what his own team didn't do in a pair of losses to the Riders.
"When you say we gave them our best, I don't know that's true. The first game, all the turnovers we had -- that's not our best effort by any means. And this last game, our second quarter was certainly not our best. It was one of our worst quarters of the year."
For the record, the Bombers turned the ball over six times to Saskatchewan in a 23-17 loss at IGF on Aug. 7. And they were outscored 14-0 in the second quarter in Regina last Sunday in what was a 35-30 Bombers loss.
Bombers QB Drew Willy said he was hopeful the lessons of those two games -- coupled with what promises to be a loud, partisan and rambunctious sold-out Banjo Bowl crowd -- finally get the Bombers into the win column this Sunday against a Riders team that has beaten them 12 of the last 14 times the two teams have faced each other.
"Obviously playing at home is an advantage for us. We have a great crowd," said Willy. "But to say who has the advantage -- they've been close games this year and (Saskatchewan) has been pulling them out.
"We'd have loved to have played better fourth quarters, but we were in those games and we know we have a shot every time we come out here. I think we've proven that all year and we just need to finish up games like we did at the beginning of the year."
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