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Bombers can’t afford to take struggling Riders lightly: O’Shea

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It’s not something you’d expect to a head coach to admit.

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It’s not something you’d expect to a head coach to admit.

After losing seven of their last nine matchups and dropping five straight games at home, Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson gave an honest assessment of his team moments after their 26-24 Week 15 loss at Mosaic Stadium to the lowly Edmonton Elks.

“For the most part it’s the same group that started the year 4-1, but we didn’t play anybody at the beginning of the year,” Dickenson said.

HEYWOOD YU / CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson: we’re not very good

“I’m just going to be honest: we’re not very good. That’s an obvious statement here, but we weren’t that good even at 4-1. We just got a little bit of a jump on people, I felt. We haven’t played up to our abilities. We haven’t played up to our potential and we have to do a better job across the board in all three phrases.”

He isn’t wrong, but as you could imagine, there were some players in the locker room that weren’t thrilled with their coach’s remarks. Dickenson told reporters Monday he ended up addressing the team and apologized for being too negative.

What do the Winnipeg Blue Bombers think? Did Dickenson hit the nail on the head on his 6-8 club?

“Any chance they get to make a mistake, every week, they pretty much do it. There are some good guys on their team, it’s just the lack of leadership. Like I said, there’s some good guys on the team, but the guys that are out there making mistakes seem to not care,” Bombers defensive end Willie Jefferson told the Free Press after Tuesday’s practice.

“They’re just out there to play for themselves, not trying to play for the team, not trying to play for the organization or the city. That is a city driven team, you know what I’m saying? For you to not have that on your mind going out there to play, it’s hard to be disciplined. So, that’s something that we preach over here. We want to play together, we want to be disciplined, and we want to play a clean game, but that’s something that they don’t do over there.”

The Bombers (12-2) won both the Labour Day Classic and Banjo Bowl this season and have a chance to kick the Riders while they’re already down on Friday at IG Field in the final meeting of the season between the two sides.

With a third meeting in five weeks, the rivalry may be losing some sizzle, but there’s a lot at stake. With a win, the Bombers can guarantee themselves a home playoff game. If the Riders lose, and the Calgary Stampeders beat the Toronto Argos on Saturday at McMahon Stadium, Saskatchewan’s only hopes of reaching the postseason will be via the crossover.

“I mean, I think they’re a good team. They got a really good defence,” said Bombers offensive lineman Patrick Neufeld, a Regina native.

“For us, as an offensive line, they get after the quarterback really well. We have to do a really good job of making sure they stay away from Zach (Collaros) and we have to be really focused on the run game because they can do some things to really hurt you in the run game. So, you know, I’ll let (Dickenson) talk about his own team, but when it comes to preparation, we’re preparing like they’re going to come out with their tails on fire and that they’re gonna play a physical game.”

Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea, who’s not one to provide bulletin board material or ruffle anyone’s feathers with his comments, took a similar approach to Neufeld when asked earlier in the week about the Riders.

“They play hard. They’re a physical bunch. They work and you absolutely can’t afford to take them lightly,” O’Shea said. “They’ve been at the top and they’ve managed to get to the West Final the last couple years. I mean, they’re a good football team. That’s what I see on tape.”

Saskatchewan got shellacked in Winnipeg on Sept. 10, losing 54-20. It was a terrible performance, but it was largely attributed to the fact the Riders were hit by a stomach virus and had roughly 15 players and eight coaches feeling ill.

“We just expect their best. I don’t know what their attitude is going to be, but we expect the best performance. It’d be a disservice to us to expect anything less. We’re going to come out and anticipate them playing their best game of the year and we have to match that.”

Considering how Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros hasn’t lost back-to-back games since 2018, anything but Saskatchewan’s best likely won’t cut it.

Augustine happy as long as team wins

In 14 games last season, Johnny Augustine had 40 carries for 285 yards.

Through 14 games this season, Augustine — who was expected to have a larger role with Andrew Harris departing to Toronto — has had a similar workload, taking 49 handoffs for 221 yards.

But if the 29-year-old from Welland, Ont., is frustrated with his role, he isn’t showing it.

“Everyone wants to be the man or whatever it is. But I think the environment that coach O’Shea, Kyle Walters, and Wade Miller have created is a team environment,” said Augustine after Wednesday’s closed practice.

“People say team first, but do they really mean that? In this environment, it really is team first. Yes, I do want to be playing a lot more, but at the end of the day, winning will take precedence over that.”

Bombers, Riders will wear orange jerseys in Friday’s pre-game

The Bombers and Roughriders are partnering with Exchange Income Corporation (EIC) to honour Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. There will be 1,000 members of the Indigenous community flown into town to watch the Bombers and Riders hit the field on Friday.

Both teams will wear special orange jerseys during pre-game warmup to recognize Orange Shirt Day. The jerseys will be auctioned off online after the game with funds raised going to the Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre.

The anthem will be sung in Ojibwe by Strong Warrior Girls Anishinaabe Singers. Powwow singers, dancers and drummers featuring Ray CoCo Stevenson and the Walking Wolf Singers will lead the team onto the field prior to kickoff as well. The halftime show will feature the Norman Chief Memorial dancers. Leaders from the Indigenous community will take part in the coin toss, and four language and culture advocates will be honoured during the game.

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
Reporter

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...

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