Among the admirers of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Canad Inns Stadium this evening will be at least two men on the B.C. sidelines.
B.C. Lions head coach Mike Benevides and quarterback Travis Lulay both went out of their way upon their arrival in Winnipeg Thursday afternoon to pay homage to what they think has been a vastly improved Bombers team over the course of the past few weeks.
"Obviously last week was an unbelievable game," Benevides said of Winnipeg's 32-25 victory over Hamilton in which QB Joey Elliott threw for 406 yards. "They were able to push the ball vertically. They're not afraid to push for the explosive play. I've seen some excellent play that way.
"I've seen a tremendous amount of confidence since they've come back home. And obviously defensively, they always play aggressively on the back end (in the secondary). What I've seen is a team that is playing with a tremendous amount of confidence for Paul (Bombers head coach LaPolice) since they came back here."
Lulay said the Bombers are dangerous despite their losing record, noting his club opened the 2011 regular season at 0-5 before going on a tear that saw them win the Grey Cup. "It was a year ago we were in similar shoes, knowing how badly you want to go out and play and find a way to rectify things," said Lulay. "And these guys are playing with good momentum. Last week, that's a huge win for those guys.
"You could just see the body language of that Blue Bombers team was different probably than it had been the rest of the season. And for good reason. They earned that one in a hard-fought game. So coming on the road to play a team with momentum -- there's going to be a ton of energy early in the football game, they're going to be intense, it's going to be loud in here.
"We're going to have to match that intensity early on and withstand that early push and then settle in the football game. And ultimately it's going to come down to who's going to make more plays."
Indeed, with a victory over the Lions, the Bombers would finish a four-game homestand with a 3-1 record and be in the thick of the playoff hunt at 3-5 after opening the season 0-4 on the road.
With the two teams' records flipped right now -- the Lions lead the league at 5-2, while the Bombers are last at 2-5 -- Benevides was asked if there was a danger this could be a "trap game" for an overconfident Lions squad.
Benevides said he's confident his veterans will not let the club's younger players take Winnipeg lightly. "They've been hearing the right thing all week -- you can't approach it that way," said Benevides.