Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Willy takes a licking, but keeps on clicking

QB hit hard and often, still posts numbers

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They all qualify for danger pay: The two roughing-the-passer hits including a nasty low chop from behind, the throwing hand cracking the arm or helmet of a pass rusher, the collision that forced him to cough up the football in the third quarter, the five sacks.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans have seen plenty of abuse of their quarterbacks in recent times but will be heartened with the version they saw Thursday night at Investors Group Field.

Drew Willy, the new No. 1 QB in town, took a licking and still delivered a 36-28 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks to push the Bombers to 2-0 in the young CFL season.

"He's shown another side that we maybe didn't see in the first game," said Winnipeg head coach Mike O'Shea. "He's got some toughness. That's leadership, staying in. He's not going to complain about it, I know that."

O'Shea, and everybody else present, saw the punishment.

And Willy, the 27-year-old off-season acquisition, felt it.

O'Shea was asked if he believed if Willy was injured during the game.

"I have no idea," he said bluntly, going on to explain what he worried more about. "Every game is going to be a learning process. I feel pretty good about it. What have I said? Quarterbacks, they're in charge of winning.

"He threw for another 300 yards and we won."

A fairly strong expression of faith from the coach after Willy's 21-fo-33 night produced 307 yards of passing and three rushing touchdowns (Nic Grigsby, all) from the Bombers offence.

Willy admitted pain was part of his night against the Redblacks, but treated it as a mere inconvenience, knowing the gains was far more important. Surely O'Shea was smiling in the next room.

"It definitely bothered me but the guys did a good job, just telling me to fight through that, fight through the pain," he said, in particular about jamming his hand after a third-quarter throw to Clarence Denmark.

"Grigsby did a great job running the ball and guys were making plays for me. And the defence and the kickoff return, special teams was huge for us.

"It was one of those, not sure if it was his hand or his helmet but you know, one of those hitch throws and I was kind of unprotected and you just have to get it off quick. He just got a piece of my hand."

He said he was irritated, not by his throbbing hand but by a few loose throws he made after that.

"I was kind of getting mad at myself for a couple of throws, gripping the ball a little tougher, but once I was a little medicated, I was good," he smiled. "The pain went away."

And it turned out Willy was the calm, collected one after the blind-side, low hit in the third quarter.

"It didn't feel good," he said. "I know the guys were kind of fired up about it in the huddle but I just kind of told them to let it go and move on and I'm sure it wasn't dirty, just one of those plays. It's football. You're going to get hit."

"They threw everything at us and the kitchen sink, legal and illegal hits, and he got back up and kept fighting hard," said tackle Glenn January. "That's the sort of character I've seen in him the whole time. You don't need somebody to point fingers and he has never done that during his time here and that's why we respect him so much and that's why we'll go out there and put our bodies on the line for him."

Woven in with being rattled around, Willy rallied the Bombers late in the game to set up a go-ahead score by Grigsby and an important field goal by Liam Hajrullahu with 30 seconds left.

The final charts showed that Willy's 21 completions were spread among seven receivers -- five to Nick Moore were the most.

"It's fun to spread it around," Willy said. "We're going to need that every single game so teams can't go after one of our guys. They try to take away one, the other gets loose. So it's my job to spread it around.

"Hopefully they make me look good, which they have been, and I really enjoy playing with them."

And the feeling seems to be, let's have some more of this.

"After games it's tough to tell," Willy said, asked how his body felt. "Usually the next morning. I'm fine, though. I'll be ready to go against Montreal."


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 5, 2014 C1

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