December 17, 2018

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Record: 10–8–0

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Blue Bomber Report (10–8–0)

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Riders expect to see plenty of Harris

Bombers running back is the one to watch

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Running back Andrew Harris warms up at the Bombers practice on Friday at Investors Group Field. The visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders are focusing on stopping him in today’s game.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Running back Andrew Harris warms up at the Bombers practice on Friday at Investors Group Field. The visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders are focusing on stopping him in today’s game.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have seen the game film, and from it they’re expecting a healthy dose of Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Andrew Harris when the two teams meet at Investors Group Field this afternoon.

Harris rushed for 158 yards on just 15 carries in a 31-23 Roughriders win over the Labour Day weekend. In the rematch the following week in Winnipeg, Saskatchewan limited Harris to just 21 yards on 10 carries, completely shutting down the Bombers’ run game.

“We know it’s going to be a physical battle. I mean, they’re going to hand the ball off about 20 times to No. 33, and they’re going to run about five or six speed sweeps to either No. 7 (Weston Dressler) or No. 10 (Nic Demski), and we’ve got to go out and beat blocks and tackle,” Roughriders head coach Chris Jones said.

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The Saskatchewan Roughriders have seen the game film, and from it they’re expecting a healthy dose of Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Andrew Harris when the two teams meet at Investors Group Field this afternoon.

Harris rushed for 158 yards on just 15 carries in a 31-23 Roughriders win over the Labour Day weekend. In the rematch the following week in Winnipeg, Saskatchewan limited Harris to just 21 yards on 10 carries, completely shutting down the Bombers’ run game.

Andrew Harris is anticipating a physical battle against the Roughriders.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Andrew Harris is anticipating a physical battle against the Roughriders.

"We know it’s going to be a physical battle. I mean, they’re going to hand the ball off about 20 times to No. 33, and they’re going to run about five or six speed sweeps to either No. 7 (Weston Dressler) or No. 10 (Nic Demski), and we’ve got to go out and beat blocks and tackle," Roughriders head coach Chris Jones said.

Harris has spoken all week about the challenges of Saskatchewan’s sturdy defence — a group that leads the CFL in sacks, forces, the most two-and-outs and has scored the most defensive touchdowns. He said they’re unlike any other defence in the league, just by the unique way in which they set up to try to fool opposing offences.

"They’re very unorthodox when they pressure and how they do things," Harris said. "They try to confuse you as much as they can, so for us, we’ve just got to stay focused and just stay on our guys and (do) things for protecting Matt (Nichols, the quarterback), getting our count right in the run game and just being as consistent as we can be and staying on the field."

Willie Jefferson, a defensive end for the Roughriders and one of the men responsible for getting pressure on quarterbacks and plugging run holes, said the pressure is on Winnipeg to get the win. The Roughriders (10-5), who sit in second place in the West Division, are four points up on the third-place Bombers, with each team having three games left on the schedule.

"They have to win. If they don’t win, it’s pretty much a battle for them trying to get into the playoffs," Jefferson said. "Everybody plays a little bit better when you’ve got something on your back, when you’ve got that fire on your back trying to keep you from losing, knowing if you lose you’re going to be worse off for your team."

 

NEW GUY STARTS FOR RIDERS

The Roughriders, reeling a bit from the injury bug, swung a trade with the Montreal Alouettes ahead of Wednesday’s CFL trade deadline.

The Roughriders acquired two players in the deal, getting Canadians in offensive lineman Philip Blake and receiver Patrick Lavoie in exchange for Canadian receiver Joshua Stanford and a second-round pick in the 2020 CFL draft.

With Dan Clark injured in Monday’s win over the Edmonton Eskimos, Brendon LaBatte moves to his spot at centre, giving Blake the start at left guard after just one practice.

"We’ve seen that before, though, on the offensive line. Being around the league for as long as I have, you’ve seen where you had to inject an older veteran into your offence right away," Jones said. "We fully expect him to not only go out and play, but play well."

Blake is in his fourth season in the CFL, playing 59 games over that stretch with the Alouettes.

"Blake’s a guy that’s been on our radar for some time. The fact is that not only is he a great athlete and a good player, he can play all three positions (on the O-line)," Jones said.

 

BLUE AND COLD?

Temperatures are expected to drop to around 2 C for today’s 1 p.m. kickoff, with a good chance of rain or snow.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols isn't concerned about the weather conditions Saturday.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/MARK TAYLOR

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols isn't concerned about the weather conditions Saturday.

But don’t try telling Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea that. Like many who are informed of weather reports, O’Shea is going to take a wait-and-see approach.

"I don’t ever trust what they say it’s going to be. You wait until game time, and I’m sure at that point the offensive co-ordinators look at their sheet and say, ‘Well, that’s out and that’s out and this is more prevalent,’ but maybe not. Maybe, everything’s a go," he said. "These guys have played and battled in this before. You’ve played a lot of football games by this point in your career. I’m sure they can handle it all."

Nichols also brushed off any concern about what Mother Nature might bring. Having played in Winnipeg for three years, and the rest of his nine-year CFL career in Edmonton, he’s been hardened by the cold temperatures over his time in the league.

"Maybe, there are a couple calls here and there. But, I’ve always felt I’ve thrown the ball fine in inclement weather," Nichols said. "As long as pre-game you can throw it all right, the game plan stays the same. You adjust in-game, depending on how it’s feeling."

 

BLUE IS THE NEW GREEN

Receiver Dressler played eight seasons for the Roughriders before signing with the Bombers for the 2015 season. Now in his third year with the Blue and Gold, whatever fond feelings he had playing against his former club have mostly dissipated.

<p>Weston Dressler is true Blue and Gold now.</p>

ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Weston Dressler is true Blue and Gold now.

"Not really. It’s very, very different there from when I was there," Dressler said, when asked if it still meant anything to play Saskatchewan. "Obviously, the colours and team name is all the same. But, as far as the locker room especially, there’s only three or four guys left in that locker room that I played with."

Dressler lives in Regina in the off-season with his wife, Tegan, who is from the Queen City, and their young son, Cooper. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t looking forward to delivering his new home a loss today, after losing twice to the Roughriders earlier this year.

"We already know we can beat them. We haven’t done it, obviously. But we definitely have all the players and tools to win against anyone in this league," he said. "It’s just a matter of making the plays and being consistent through four quarters of every game."

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

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History

Updated on Friday, October 12, 2018 at 10:06 PM CDT: Adds photos

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