At least one member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers offence was at his best on Sunday.
Funnily enough, it was the guy that wasn’t even guaranteed to suit up for the West Division final at IG Field against the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Running back Andrew Harris, who was a game-time decision due to a knee injury that’s kept him out since Oct. 15, did indeed play and he used the opportunity to further cement himself as one of the best to ever play the three-down game.
He only practised once in the past seven weeks, but looked as good as ever on Sunday, rushing 23 times for 136 yards and a touchdown. Harris was arguably the lone bright spot for a Bombers’ offence that turned the ball over an astonishing six times in their thrilling 21-17 victory that punched their tickets to the Grey Cup in Hamilton.
"Throughout the week, we just monitored it," Harris said post-game on his knee. Harris practised Wednesday and took it easy for the rest of the week.
"Again, having the trust of the training staff and the coaching staff to take care of their players, in this organization, they definitely do that. They took care of me this week and allowed me to make sure that I was coming (with a) full head of steam once it was game day today. I got a workout this morning and I felt good. Sometimes, your emotions and the stakes of the game elevates your play a little bit and that’s what I thought happened today."
Over on the other sideline, they weren’t buying what the Bombers were selling about Harris. On Saturday, the Riders said they knew Harris was going to play. Even though they saw it coming, they couldn’t stop him.
"We don’t believe a word we see when it comes to the injury report on Andrew Harris. A game-time decision? Did you see him out there? He was on fire," said Riders head coach Craig Dickenson.
"Not just running the ball, but after the run he’s in the end zone celebrating. So, he’s fine. I think they just rested him and he was certainly 100 per cent, if not, a little more tonight... I think the only game-time decision with Mr. Harris was how many yards he was going to rush for."
A 34-year-old running back moving like that after a long layoff would surprise many, but not his quarterback.
"No surprise. The limited reps that he did have in practice, I was thinking ‘This guy’s young, he’s bouncing around out here,’" Bombers pivot Zach Collaros said.
"Andrew’s a gamer so I wasn’t surprised at all."
Harris rushed for an identical amount, 68 yards, in both the first and second halves, with his touchdown run coming in the third quarter to give the Bombers their first lead of the game at 14-10.
Next Sunday, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will have to find a way to slow him down, something they failed to do at the 2019 Grey Cup where Harris exploded for 169 total yards and two touchdowns. The Tiger-Cats beat the Toronto Argonauts 27-19 in the East Final Sunday to set up a rematch of the 2019 championship game. This time, it will be in Hamilton at Tim Hortons Field.
"There’s a certain attitude, a certain stigma, a certain feeling that you get in playoff time," said Harris.
"I never want to go home in these situations. I want to give it all that I have. That energy, that enthusiasm, that fire in your belly just elevates and your play kind of comes out after that."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.