Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

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HAMILTON -- The Winnipeg Blue Bombers suit up for their third road game of the season tonight in Ron Joyce Stadium against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (6 p.m., TSN, CJOB), looking to get to 5-1 to start a season for just the second time since 1987.


1. Mike O'Shea returns to Hamilton

Tonight's game takes place on the campus of McMaster University, as the Ticats' new stadium, Tim Hortons Field on the site of old Ivor Wynne Stadium, is delayed and not yet complete.

Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea, who played first in the CFL for the Tiger-Cats, had two stints with the team and was a disliked rival when he played for and coached with the Toronto Argonauts, said he's disappointed the new stadium's not ready.

"Once the game starts, it doesn't matter," he said. "It won't matter to the players, it won't matter to the coaches. But I was looking forward to seeing the new stadium on a personal level and I've commented before that I wouldn't wish this on any CFL franchise. I am a fan of the CFL and it would obviously be great for Hamilton and the CFL if they were in their new stadium already."

O'Shea certainly has memories, fond and otherwise, from days at Ivor Wynne.

As a member of the Argos, he had things thrown at him.

"Once or twice," he grimaced. "Batteries and money didn't hurt. Warm milk is not good. Warm milk on a hot day is (not good).

"I'm sure they had other things that they got confiscated so I guess I'm lucky.

"I loved Ivor Wynne. I think the fans certainly added an extra dimension to the game. Playing here, when you get a packed house, the fans were all over the opposition and it certainly added to the game, to the atmosphere."


2. About the recorded history

A streak is a streak until it's not.

The Bombers have a five-game losing streak going against Hamilton, four of those in last years' debacle of a 3-15 season.

Prior to that, Winnipeg had won five in a row over the Tabbies.

Yes, we know things appear to be quite different with the 2014 Bombers, but the present might also be appreciated with a view to the past.

In 2013, Hamilton scored 136 points in four games against the Bombers, giving up just 59. Winnipeg committed 14 turnovers, had 13 sacks and seven interceptions against and converted a sad 32.2 per cent on second down.

The Cats averaged 415 net yards a game vs. Winnipeg. The first meeting in July was close, 25-20, the final three total blowouts by margins of 19, 23 and 30 points.


3. Big plays

Much of what's in No. 2 is the result of those Bombers being almost incapable of big plays.

This year's Bombers share the CFL lead through five weeks with 15, defined as runs of more than 20 yards, passes of more than 30 and kick returns more than 30.

Add to this performance that Winnipeg's defence already has three touchdowns this season, 17 sacks and several timely interceptions.

"I guess to say by design is... in every practice we have, guys are practising making big plays," O'Shea said. "They work at it. When the ball happens to come their way, they've been through that before. It's pretty cool to watch.

"I would say my gut on the sidelines is that no one's shocked that somebody's made a big play."


4. East vs. West

The tally so far in 2014 favours the West, 11-2.

The last time the head-to-head was won by the East was 2004.

"I think every game is important but yeah, we haven't done well against the West, (0-3) this year," said starting Hamilton quarterback Dan LeFevour, who will be in charge of starting a reversal of that form tonight. "So it would be great just to get some wins on the other side of the league as well."


5. Run, don't walk

LeFevour himself was responsible for 109 rushing yards in his first CFL start last Saturday.

The Bombers have eclipsed that mark as a team just once this season, in their opening win over Toronto.

In the last four weeks, Winnipeg's rushing total has been 67, 50, 61 and 50. Establishing some kind of ground game with new back Nic Grigsby, who's averaging 4.3 yards per carry, would help the Bombers' chances immensely.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 31, 2014 D3

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