November 14, 2018

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Record: 10–8–0

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Blue Bomber Report (10–8–0)

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After tough loss against Saskatchewan, which QB gets the call against Montreal?

Coach has two weeks to make decision

Matt Nichols went 10-for-20 for 165 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions against Saskatchewan Saturday. He also had two other interceptions wiped out by penalties. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)</p>

Matt Nichols went 10-for-20 for 165 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions against Saskatchewan Saturday. He also had two other interceptions wiped out by penalties. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)

There were more boos from the hometown fans and by the start of the third quarter, Matt Nichols was given the hook with his team trailing by only three points.

Despite the close margin, the quarterback change was justifiable.

Winnipeg's No. 1 only had a few major mistakes, but they were most glaring: two red-zone interceptions in the second quarter that were returned for 97 and 103 yards for pick-six touchdowns by an opportunistic Saskatchewan defence en route to a 32-27 CFL win by the Roughriders at Investors Group Field Saturday.

Nichols final stat line went like this: 10-for-20 for 165 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions. He also had two other dreadful interceptions wiped out by penalties.

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There were more boos from the hometown fans and by the start of the third quarter, Matt Nichols was given the hook with his team trailing by only three points.

Despite the close margin, the quarterback change was justifiable.

Winnipeg's No. 1 only had a few major mistakes, but they were most glaring: two red-zone interceptions in the second quarter that were returned for 97 and 103 yards for pick-six touchdowns by an opportunistic Saskatchewan defence en route to a 32-27 CFL win by the Roughriders at Investors Group Field Saturday.

Nichols final stat line went like this: 10-for-20 for 165 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions. He also had two other dreadful interceptions wiped out by penalties.

His replacement, rookie Chris Streveler, fared better as he engineered two late scoring drives and finished the game 10-for-20 for 160 yards, one TD and two interceptions. Streveler also scored a one-yard rushing major as a member of the short-yardage unit in the first half.

"I deserved to not be in the second half of that game," said Nichols. "I honestly felt like I was playing really well, but obviously when you make a couple of mistakes you can cost your team, big-time. It wasn't a surprise, but obviously super disappointing. I'm disappointed in myself. Get back to work. That's all you can do."

The game wasn't over before speculation began about who head coach Mike O'Shea will name as his starter for Week 15 when the Blue Bombers host the Montreal Alouettes. Winnipeg has a Week 14 bye.

What does Nichols believe will happen?

"I honestly couldn't say," said Nichols, who has now lost four consecutive starts for the first time in his career. "That'll obviously be coach O'Shea's decision. I would love to be. With the way I've played in this league, I feel like we can turn this thing around, but ultimately, that's out of my hands. If I am, I'm going to be fully ready to go. If I'm not, I'll be fully ready to start Chris, or whoever's playing."

Chris Streveler engineered two late scoring drives against Saskatchewan Saturday and finished the afternoon 10-for-20 for 160 yards, one TD and two interceptions. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)</p>

Chris Streveler engineered two late scoring drives against Saskatchewan Saturday and finished the afternoon 10-for-20 for 160 yards, one TD and two interceptions. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)

O'Shea, who is normally quick to proclaim his unwavering support for Nichols as starter, wasn't ready to announce any sort of a decision on the matter.

"I think our intention right now is to just take a deep breath. I can’t say for sure what the plans are going forward except we’re going to make a good decision and let the emotion of this loss disappear before we make any rash decisions. That wouldn’t be good for anybody," O'Shea said.

Nichols now has a 33-26 career mark as a starter.

"I don’t think Matt was off on everything," said O'Shea. "There were a couple (of plays) he’d like to have back and there were a couple of plays that Saskatchewan made. They’re a good defence, they get their hands on a lot of footballs.

"Matt deserves another chance to play and lead this team to victory because he’s done it so many times. Matt will be ready to go, absolutely. If that’s the decision. We’re not at that point yet. We’re digesting this loss, figuring it out, taking a deep breath and letting the emotions subside. Matt’s won a hell of a lot of games for us."

Streveler, for his part, was not campaigning for the job.

"Every game is an emotional roller-coaster," said Streveler. "I mean, defence was making some plays there in the first half, offence made some plays. That’s how the game goes — there’s always ups and downs. The offence is going to make plays, the defence is going to make plays. Offensively, we just didn’t make enough plays today."

League rushing leader Andrew Harris, who managed only 21 yards on 10 carries, admitted Winnipeg's weak ground attack was little help to Nichols.

"I thought we were flat," said Harris. "We weren’t able to run the ball that well, and when that happens those guys are dropping out and it makes it hard on the quarterback and receivers to get open when they’re dropping guys (back). I don’t know about the decisions he made or the throws he made, I can’t really comment on that, but all I know is that it’s tough to throw the ball when the running game isn't going well."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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