Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–10–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Willy throws himself under bus for late-game meltdown

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His face was the picture of frustration and disappointment. And when Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Drew Willy took to the podium late Thursday night, he spoke in sombre tones, guilt seemingly dripping from every syllable.

Heck, it felt, looked and sounded very much like a public confessional.

Forgive me, Bomber fans, for I have sinned...

"I can't throw a (pass to the) flat like that late. It's the reason we lost," said the Bomber pivot of the decisive mistake in a 23-17 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. "It was a bad read. You can't throw a flat late like that. I mean, it's one of those plays... I shouldn't have thrown it.

"It's my fault. I take full responsibility for it. I just need to improve. It stinks to let the guys down like that."

Bombers faithful had come to know and love a lot about Willy through his first six starts before Thursday's setback. He's humble and polite. And he likes the spotlight about as much as trip to the proctologist.

Most importantly, he's already adored by his teammates while showcasing a knack for getting it done when the seconds are ticking away in the fourth quarter. The exact same script was unfolding against the Riders before the visitors ruined another storybook finish.

And so now everyone is about to learn a little bit more about this town's new QB1. Namely, can he shake off a three-interception game, the third pick being the killer?

Willy still threw for a score, ran for another and eclipsed the 300-yard mark again against the Riders, despite all too often having to flee wave after wave of pressure.

And the pick-six returned for a touchdown by Terrell Maze with 2:32 left in the game?

Horrible call. And an even worse read.

But the Bombers, Willy especially, have little time to wallow in self pity, as a date with the Toronto Argonauts comes Tuesday in the Centre of the Universe. The Argos, it's worth noting, are coming off a bye and will have had 10 days between games to ready themselves.

Interestingly, the Bombers have worked diligently to shield their new starting pivot this season by limiting his media appearances -- he does not speak in the two days before every game, apparently to spend more time in preparation -- as a way to manage the pressure that might build up around him.

Willy, for his part, has also shown he can roll well with the punches.

That said, head coach Mike O'Shea was asked late Thurmsday if he had any concerns Willy might "own" this loss a little too much. After all, playing blame game for too long could eat a guy up inside.

"No. I'm not worried about that," said O'Shea. "He's proven himself to me as a very even-keeled professional. He'll evaluate the film very critically, but then he'll move on because he's concerned with getting better. As I've said with every win and the previous loss, Drew Willy is committed to being the best quarterback he can possibly be. This doesn't change that.

"It's very hard to get better when you dwell on anything. He understands that. He's been through enough football to know you can't keep piling that stuff on yourself. Drew's not the only guy... to a man, these guys will look at the film and see what they can do better. They do that every week."

Fair comment -- Thursday's loss provided enough mistakes for plenty of blame to go around. But there are two types in football whose performances have the wins and losses directly attached to their names -- coaches and quarterbacks.

O'Shea's ability to fix, flush and forget has already been well documented. And now Willy slips under the microscope.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 9, 2014 C1

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