September 25, 2018

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Record: 6–7–0

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Blue Bomber Report (6–7–0)

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Bombers hardly running on empty

Harris's tank overflowing as team tries to end skid

ANDREW RYAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files</p><p>Blue Bombers running back Andrew Harris is currently the straw stirring the team’s drink, as he leads the league in carries (155) and yardage (963).</p>

ANDREW RYAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files

Blue Bombers running back Andrew Harris is currently the straw stirring the team’s drink, as he leads the league in carries (155) and yardage (963).

Michael Couture has an insider’s perspective, but probably feels just like most Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans during the CFL team’s current slump.

He loves watching Andrew Harris run the football. Can’t get enough of it, in fact.

Couture, 24, an offensive lineman with the Bombers, has only seen spot duty this season, although he could be asked to take on a heavier workload Saturday due to injuries to Manase Foketi and Jermarcus Hardrick. If that happens, he’ll push hard to create space for Winnipeg’s most dangerous offensive weapon.

“As a lineman, you want us to run the ball, so we’re licking our chops whenever we hear a run play’s coming,” Couture said Thursday following practice at Investors Group Field.

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Michael Couture has an insider’s perspective, but probably feels just like most Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans during the CFL team’s current slump.

He loves watching Andrew Harris run the football. Can’t get enough of it, in fact.

Couture, 24, an offensive lineman with the Bombers, has only seen spot duty this season, although he could be asked to take on a heavier workload Saturday due to injuries to Manase Foketi and Jermarcus Hardrick. If that happens, he’ll push hard to create space for Winnipeg’s most dangerous offensive weapon.

"As a lineman, you want us to run the ball, so we’re licking our chops whenever we hear a run play’s coming," Couture said Thursday following practice at Investors Group Field.

The Bombers (5-6) are preparing for a rematch with the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-4) in the annual Banjo Bowl, set for 3 p.m. The game is already a sellout.

"(Harris) is the ultimate teammate to have. His work ethic, his passion for the guys he plays with and the sport he plays, it’s special to watch. I feel like he comes every day with the same intensity and relentlessness that he probably had at the beginning of his career," Couture said.

"Getting him going is always fun. We’ve got a good (O-line) unit for it, so we just have to keep it going."

Harris is coming off arguably his most impressive performance of the year, albeit in a losing cause, rambling for 158 yards on 15 carries. The Roughriders pinned a 31-23 defeat on the Bombers last Sunday in Regina, Winnipeg’s third straight loss.

It was the fourth time the Winnipegger has eclipsed 100 yards rushing in a game this season, and he needs just 37 yards this weekend to reach the 1,000-yard mark for the fourth time since becoming a starter with the B.C. Lions in 2011.

"I wouldn’t say I’m in better shape. I just think with experience the game slows down, the camaraderie with the guys in this locker room, how well (the offensive line) is playing, there’s a bunch of factors into it," the 31-year-old Harris said. "I’m sure there were seasons when I was younger and I was probably faster and stronger. But it’s the body of work you put in, the experience, the number of years you’ve had, how much the game has slowed down for me.

"All these contribute and are big factors into being successful and having good years. Honestly, it starts with those guys up front, and they’re playing great football right now."

The former B.C. Lion, now in his third season in his hometown, also leads the league in carries (155) and yardage (963).

Right now, while quarterback Matt Nichols and his receiving corps are somewhat out of sync, Harris is demonstrating he’s the most effective gadget in the Bombers’ tool box.

"I don’t know that you can use one word or string together anything that’s going to do it justice, right?" Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea said when asked what Harris means to the organization. "He’s an extremely good ball player — he’s tough, he’s a good teammate. You know that he will try to put the team on his back, and he’s having an exceptional year, another one. He’s fun to watch. He’s fun to be around."

Harris missed practice Wednesday — afforded an extra day to recover from last weekend’s grind against a tough Riders defence — but returned to the field Thursday.

Harris, one of the team’s natural leaders, is showing no signs of decline. O’Shea maintains what’s most impressive is the 5-10, 211-pound competitor’s ability to refine his game every week.

The innate "it" factor the really good ones possess doesn’t hurt, either.

"I think the best players still want to be coached, still want to learn and improve all the time, and he’s no different than the other very good players in the league," O’Shea said. "Whatever it is that he’s got, he’s always had it. It’s just now he’s in our building and now we know, just like I’m sure the B.C. Lions knew, too, and so did his junior team — they knew he had it. Once again, he’s good."

For Harris, the flourishing statistics mean little when the club’s not winning. He’d eagerly accept even more touches in the second half of the home-and-home with the West Division rivals if it elevates Winnipeg’s chances to halt a three-game losing skid.

"It’s not about the yardage and how that’s going for me. It’s how are we able to accumulate yardage game to game, and how to score points. If it’s running the ball and doing it in that fashion, then obviously, I’m going to be excited about that," Harris said. "Running the football right now is something we’ve been leaning on, and we’ve been successful with it. So, let’s keep doing that and be able to close out games.

"I’m assuming it’s going to be a little tougher sledding, but for us, we just have to dictate, try to control the line of scrimmage offensively," he said. "For me, if those guys (on the offensive line) are firing off and creating the holes like they were (Sunday), it makes my life a lot easier."

jason.bell@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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History

Updated on Friday, September 7, 2018 at 8:26 AM CDT: Corrects game time

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