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Defence buckles down with offensive stars sidelined

SASHA SEFTER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill expects the defence to lead the way against the Roughriders.</p>


Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill expects the defence to lead the way against the Roughriders.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/8/2019 (272 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

No Matt Nichols. No Andrew Harris. No Chris Matthews.

Three of the biggest names in the CFL won’t be suiting up for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, all for different reasons, when the club plays their Prairie rivals, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, on Sunday at Mosaic Stadium.

Instead, the Bombers are hoping quarterback Chris Streveler, running back Johnny Augustine and receiver Kenny Lawler will all fill in admirably and make names for themselves. But the pressure isn’t just on the guys who are filling in. It’s also on the other side of the ball, as the defence will likely need to be at its best to get the Bombers a win.

Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill downplayed the situation on offence and said it’s business as usual for the defence.

"We have high expectations and bars of excellence we meet regardless of who’s playing on offence, regardless of anything," Bighill said after Thursday’s practice. "We said that last week when we didn’t have Matt, nothing really changes for us. At the end of the day, if you base your intensity level, you base your effort level, or you base how hard you play by your opponent or what’s on offence, I mean, there’s just too much room for error."

The defence might not be feeling the heat, but the same can’t be said for Streveler, who will be suiting up for just his sixth CFL start and first without star running back Harris.

"We’ve kinda talked all year about just how the next-man-up mentality is important for us throughout this entire season," Streveler said. "While you’d love to have Andrew back there, I mean, that’s no secret, it’s next man up and those guys have had a great week of practice. They’ve been working extremely hard."

Offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice is hoping his team’s league-leading rushing attack will continue to succeed without Harris. The responsibility will mainly fall on the shoulders of Johnny Augustine, who’s getting his first career start. But former UND Fighting Hawks running back John Santiago, a rookie with no CFL carries under his belt, may also figure into the team’s plans.

"Johnny Augustine, when he’s had opportunities to run the football, he’s done very well. And Santiago’s got good speed and you throw in some of the other guys who have been able to touch the football," LaPolice said. "I hope it looks similar to what we always do. But, we’ll see. I know those guys have worked for this opportunity and prepared well."

Streveler managed to help the Bombers to a 34-28 road victory over the Edmonton Eskimos last week despite only competing seven of 17 pass attempts for 89 yards. He did more damage with his legs as he scampered for 95 yards on 14 carries while also scoring a rushing touchdown.

LaPolice was asked if Streveler needs to throw the ball better moving forward.

"You know, each week is different, right? I mean, our yardage is not going to be as much when I run the ball that much," LaPolice said. The Bombers had 28 rushing attempts between Streveler, Harris and receiver Nic Demski in the game.

"So I try not to say like, ‘I don’t know, we may have to throw it 42 times.’ It all depends on the flow of the game. I hate trying to say I have to do this more or I have to do that more. The game usually dictates whether you’re throwing it deep, short, all those things. But certainly, we didn’t execute well enough. We could have way more yards. We had three drops and we got other things we missed in some of the routes, so we’ll get better."

NOTEWORTHY: the Blue Bombers signed quarterback Kevin Anderson to the practice squad on Wednesday. Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said they brought Anderson, who owns Fordham University’s record for most touchdown passes, back because he’s already familiar with the offence due to being a participant at this year’s rookie camp.

Is there a chance the Blue and Gold could still add a veteran pivot to their stable, with No. 1 QB Matt Nichols still weeks away from returning from an upper-body injury?

"Well, never’s a long time, so there’s always a chance of that," O’Shea said. "We like Kevin. There’s certain limitations to your roster and we typically haven’t gone with a practice roster QB or a fourth because they have a hard time developing.

"We don’t give them enough reps. If we’d gone with a fourth, I’m sure he would’ve been in."

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen

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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