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First-year running back Grigsby leading way for upstart Blue Bombers

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Nic Grigsby has been quite a find for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The five-foot-11, 195-pound running back has played a big role in Winnipeg opening the season 2-0. Grigsby ran for 122 yards in the club's season-opening 45-21 win over the Toronto Argonauts before rushing for 67 yards and scoring three TDs as the Bombers rallied for a 36-28 victory over the expansion Ottawa Redblacks.

Grigsby is second in CFL rushing with 184 yards on 35 carries (5.3-yard average) and yards from scrimmage (251). Heady stuff for an off-season free agent who had bounced between football and baseball.

Grigsby rushed for 2,424 yards and 28 TDs over his college career at Arizona. After being undrafted by an NFL club, Grigsby had brief stints with Miami, Tampa Bay and Oakland before heading to Arizona Christian University to resume playing baseball as an outfielder and last fall spent time with the Minnesota Twins rookie squad before landing a tryout with the B.C. Lions.

The speedy Grigsby has given new starter Drew Willy a valuable weapon as opposing defences must respect the Bombers' ground attack. Willy is second among CFL passers with 615 yards and also has four TDs against two interceptions.

Winnipeg leads the CFL in time of possession (33 minutes per game), first downs (512) and points (81). But Grigsby won't be the only standout runner on the field Friday when the Bombers visit the Montreal Alouettes (1-1).

Veteran Alouette Brandon Whitaker is third in rushing with 135 yards on 24 carries (5.6-yard average) after two injury-plagued seasons. In 2011, Whitaker ran for a CFL-high 1,381 yards with four touchdowns while adding 72 catches for 638 yards and six TDs.

Whitaker has been a key part of Montreal's offensive attack this season. Former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith has completed 35-of-70 passes for 341 yards with no touchdowns and an interception as the Alouettes' starter.

After opening the season 18-of-41 passing in a 29-8 loss to Calgary, Smith completed 17-of-29 attempts for 154 yards in a 24-9 victory over B.C. But if Montreal has an advantage, it's being at home as Winnipeg is on the road after going 2-0 at Investors Group Field against East Division competition.

And there's also the matter of Montreal's defence, which is allowing a league-low 19 points per game and recorded five sacks against B.C. — with John Bowman accounting for four. The Alouettes will look to take advantage of an inexperienced starter on the road with his new club for the first time and if they put sustained pressure on Willy, that would diminish the impact of the Bombers' run game.

Winnipeg has surrendered six sacks this season.

Prediction — Montreal.

Ottawa Redblacks at Edmonton Eskimos on Friday night.

Edmonton (2-0) has some significant injuries to deal with. Canadian defensive lineman Don Oramasionwu suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week's 28-24 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. International offensive lineman Thaddeus Coleman is out indefinitely with a dislocated elbow. The good news is receiver Fred Stamps resumed practising Wednesday. Stamps has seven catches for 114 yards and a TD after two games. Quarterback Mike Reilly has completed 68 per cent of his passes for 482 yards with four TDs against two interceptions while rushing for 55 yards on six carries. Veteran Henry Burris finished 17-of-30 passing for 241 yards and two TDs in Ottawa's debut in Winnipeg last week. Running back Chevon Walker ran for 62 yards and a TD on 15 carries and if the Redblacks (0-1) can establish their ground game against Edmonton it would give Burris easier short-and-short opportunities to convert. But worth considering is Edmonton has recorded a CFL-high 11 turnovers (seven interceptions, four fumble recoveries).

Prediction — Edmonton.

Calgary Stampeders at Toronto Argonauts on Saturday night.

An impressive turnaround by Toronto (1-1), which dispatched the defending Grey Cup-champion Saskatchewan Roughriders 48-15 after a disappointing 45-21 season-opening loss in Winnipeg. Toronto's Ricky Ray effectively neutralized a Riders' defensive front that opened the season with 10 sacks against Hamilton by throwing underneath the coverage and allowing speedy receivers like Chad Owens to make huge gains after the catch. Owens had 11 receptions for 159 yards and a TD and also returned six punts for 89 yards. The Argos' defence could be buoyed by the return of linebacker Shea Emry (concussion) and addition of veteran defensive back Dwight Anderson, acquired this week from Saskatchewan. Calgary's aggressive defence will present many of the same challenges the Riders did so the expectation is Toronto will again look to take a lead and establish a balanced attack like it did versus the Riders. Running back Jon Cornish (concussion) won't play but Calgary (1-0) comes off a bye week and youngster Bo Levi Mitchell was 16-of-25 passing for 313 yards and two TDs in the Stampeders' 29-8 season-opening win over Montreal on June 28.

Prediction — Toronto.

B.C. Lions at Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday night.

An unenviable situation for B.C. (0-2). Not only must they try to get their first win at Mosaic Stadium but they'll face an ornery Riders team that was outmanned and outplayed in Toronto last weekend. It's hard to imagine a repeat performance from the Riders (1-1). The Lions have been their own worst enemy this year with nine giveaways — tied with Hamilton for most in the CFL — including a league-leading six interceptions. B.C. has also surrendered nine sacks, second-most in the league. Unfortunately, the potent backfield tandem of Andrew Harris and Stefan Logan has struggled, averaging 3.5 and 3.9 yards per carry, respectively. Kevin Glenn, replacing injured incumbent Travis Lulay (shoulder), has struggled in his two starts. The veteran quarterback has thrown for 410 yards with two TDs but also surrendered six interceptions.

Prediction — Saskatchewan.

Record: 3-5.

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