Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–1–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Five storylines

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1. THREE ACTS OF GOD, TWO MIRACLES + ONE DIVINE INTERVENTION

It's not like there aren't upsets in the CFL every week. Heck, just last Thursday the undermanned Montreal Alouettes knocked off a superior B.C. Lions club even with two rookie pivots combining to throw five picks.

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So, yeah -- the David taking down Goliath with a stone and slingshot scenario -- can happen. Except in this case David (Winnipeg) -- will need more weapons than a Tarantino movie to drop the mighty Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Look, even when the Bombers have had decent or dominant squads, winning on Labour Day in Regina has been a long shot.

As it stands, the Bombers haven't won a Labour Day Classic since a 17-4 victory in 2004. Back then, Kevin Glenn stepped in for an injured Khari Jones -- who would be traded to Calgary three weeks later -- and threw TD passes to Milt Stegall and Kamau Peterson. Since then it's been one Labour Day clunker after another, including last year's 52-0 spanking, with the average margin of defeat for the Bombers a whopping 19.4 points.

A joke making the rounds this week: The RCMP are cracking down on speedsters heading into Winnipeg. For a first offence they give you two Bomber tickets. For the second, they make you use them.

2. QUARTERBACKS... IT'S ALWAYS ABOUT THE QBS

Justin Goltz will make his third career start Sunday and the move to him -- prompted by Max Hall's hand injury -- means the Bombers have made three changes at that integral position, from Goltz to Hall to Goltz, in the last five games.

But the fact remains Buck Pierce, who is out this week and will be replaced by newcomer Jason Boltus on the roster, is the only Bomber pivot to lead the club to a victory this season, back in Week 2.

Goltz spoke Friday of the opportunity, but the door only stays open for so long before management -- particularly this new regime which is eager to make change -- pushes on to another candidate. Pierce, Hall and Goltz have combined to throw just five touchdowns passes in eight games against 12 interceptions. Their collective QB rating of 66.5 is the worst in the CFL.

Compare that to the numbers posted by Saskatchewan's Darian Durant, who has 17 TDs and has yet to throw an interception this season. His QB-rating, by comparison, is a sparkling 125.7. There's also this: over the years Durant has made the Bombers his own personal plaything, racking up a 7-1 record, including four straight wins.

3. HOLY SHEETS

It's not so much whether the Bombers can stop Rider tailback Kory Sheets, but whether they can even manage to contain him. In piling up some gaudy stats this season Sheets has attacked defences like he is running downhill.

Among them:

-- His 1,058 yards through eight games has him on pace to smash Mike Pringle's single-season mark of 2,065, set in 1998.

-- Sheets is the only player in CFL history to have reached the 1,000-yard rushing mark through the first eight games of the season, and with 75 more this week would break the nine-game total set by Calgary's Willie Burden in 1975.

-- Sheets has gained 1,202 yards from scrimmage (rushing and receiving), almost 300 more than any other player and on pace for 2,705, which would smash the CFL record of 2,414 (Pringle in 1994 and 1998).

4. THE BELLEFEUILLE FACTOR X2?

The numbers weren't good last week in Marcel Bellefeuille's debut as the Bomber offensive co-ordinator, but that's not all that shocking given the veteran CFL coach has just begun the makeover of the club's attack. Winnipeg managed just 214 net yards of offence in the loss to Hamilton with one of the most telling stats this one: of their 20 plays on second down the attack managed just 30 yards, an average of 1.5 yards.

What Hamilton did defensively -- and it will undoubtedly be the blueprint against the Bomber offence until they punch back -- was bring big heat and force Winnipeg's three pivots to run for their lives.

5. THE PRIDE/CHANGES CARD

They've had their manhood and their dedication questioned. Failing that appeal to their collective pride, head coach Tim Burke and acting GM Kyle Walters have but one card left to play: get this fixed now or there will be consequences.

"We're professionals and regardless of what our record is we have to understand this is our job, our livelihood," said Bomber tackle Glenn January.

"Whatever it takes to get motivated, you better find it out pretty quick because this isn't the same team we put on the field last week. A few guys are gone now. Losing creates change. That's professional sports. It happens all the time and it's expected and if they weren't making changes I think guys get complacent. This keeps guys on their toes and hopefully we all understand how dire this situation is.

"There's a lot of people motivated to get this win. This is a big game, especially for someone who lives here year round. I've heard a lot about the Labour Day Classic and the Banjo Bowl. They're riding high right now and I'm sure there are a lot of people who would like us to go out there and get a big win. I'd love it, too."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 31, 2013 C3

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