December 11, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
The oddsmakers on Thursday had the Calgary Stampeders as 5.5 point favourites to beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field tonight, but recent history would suggest Calgary's odds are much better than that.
The Bombers have a horrendous seven-game losing streak going against Calgary right now. The last Bombers win over the Stamps? Week 2 of the Mike Kelly regime back in 2009.
That's a very, very long time in football years -- heck, Kelly hadn't even berated any fans, much less radio broadcaster Bob Irving, at that point in his one and only season at the helm of the Bombers.
So what's the deal on this thing anyway? Has all this losing to Calgary, Bombers head coach Tim Burke was asked on Thursday, gotten into your heads?
"I don't think so. I think there's enough change every year in personnel that that's not a factor," said Burke. "I'll be honest with you -- I think we should have beaten them last year at home.
"We threw four picks in the red zone and I don't know how many of those were in the end zone. I'll leave that at that."
The Bombers lost 32-21 to Calgary in that game. Former Bombers backup Joey Elliott was the author of those interceptions. For the record, three of them were in the end zone.
Calgary tailback Jon Cornish is trailing just Saskatchewan's Kory Sheets in yards from scrimmage right now and seems to be every bit as dangerous this season as he was in a record-breaking year in 2012.
So how, Burke was asked, are you going to stop a guy that nobody else seems to be able to stop?
"We're going to play with 15 guys -- put some extra guys in the box," Burke laughed.
"No, we obviously have to put more guys in the box in order to stop him. We worked hard on doing that this week. That's normally what we do anyway, but it's definitely tough with him because they create a lot of extra gaps, either with a fullback or tight end..."
Part of the thinking in building a shiny new stadium for the Bombers was that what was already a distinct home-field advantage at Canad Inns Stadium was going to be exponentially so at a bigger, better-built and -- because of the underground-bowl configuration -- louder new stadium.
But it hasn't worked out that way so far, with the Bombers carrying an 0-2 regular season record at home -- 0-3 if you count the pre-season game -- into tonight's contest against Calgary after losses in opening week to Montreal and last week to Toronto.
There have already been a lot of firsts at the new stadium. A win for the home team has not yet been among them.
Get this: If Calgary third-stringer Bo Levi Mitchell gets the start tonight (and Bombers head coach Tim Burke thinks Mitchell will), this will mark the first CFL game in 17 years that the quarterbacks for both teams are both making their first career start.
Mitchell has fewer years in the CFL than Winnipeg's first-time starter tonight, Justin Goltz -- two as compared to four -- but the two men have comparable playing time.
Here are their career numbers:
Mitchell -- 19-for-34, 217 yards, four TDs, two interceptions.
Goltz -- 20-for-29, 245 yards, one TD, 0 interceptions.
The wrinkle tonight is that injured Calgary starter Drew Tate did share the first-team reps at practice in Calgary on Wednesday, creating the possibility at least that Tate could be under centre tonight.
If the Bombers lose tonight, they will be 1-4 next weekend heading into BC Place, where the Lions are 16-2 in their last 18 games.
Urgent? Definitely. Will they play with urgency? We'll see.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 26, 2013 C7