Blue Bombers set for date with Ticats

- September 20th, 2012

Well, the big moment is nearly here.

As most of you already know, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are attempting to keep their CFL playoff hopes on life support with a win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday night at Canad Inns Stadium.

Nobody was laughing at the position the 2-9 Blue Bombers find themselves in, but interim head coach Tim Burke unleashed a couple of zingers during his media session this afternoon.

The comment that drew the most laughs came after I asked Burke about the challenges of trying to contain the Ticats explosive receiver/returner Chris Williams.

“Well, what are some of the challenges? Let me just say this, he is really fast and really quick,” said Burke. “I don’t know, if we can maybe poison his food tonight.”

You can be pretty sure that no CFL coach has tried that yet this season.

In talking about Williams, Burke related back to the late 1960s when a dynamic running back named O.J. Simpson played for the USC Trojans and ran wild against the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Burke referenced a saying from a colour commentator and former Hawkeyes coach — Forest Evashevski — that stuck with him, all these years later.

Naturally, Burke was asked if that was where the similarities ended between Simpson and Williams.

“I think Chris is a much higher character guy. I asked (Ticats defensive co-ordinator) Casey Creehan, who is on their staff, what kind of guy he is and he said he’s a great guy,” said Burke.

From speaking to Williams after he arrived at Canad Inns Stadium on Thursday, there’s no argument here.

Williams was well-spoken and modest and mixed in a few laughs on his own.

As soon as he got off the plane, it didn’t take long for word of Burke’s master plan to hit social media and Williams was alerted and thought the comments were pretty funny.

In discussing his season, Williams gave credit to his blockers for helping him tie a punt return record for touchdowns (5) and set a record with six kick-return majors.

“The guys in front of me, they work so hard,” said Williams. “There are big lanes and I’m just running through them.”

On his kick return secret:  “Oh man, try to run faster than anybody chasing me,” said Williams. “It’s that basic.”

He also saluted QB Henry Burris for all he’s done in helping him evolve as a receiver and learn more about the CFL game.

“Henry has helped with everything and the emergence of everything from everybody. Honestly, the guy has played — it seems like forever — but he knows everything. Anytime we have questions or doubts or are trying to figure out things together, he gives us his tidbit, we give ours and we just work it out. It’s been a huge plus for me.”

Burris called Williams the most dangerous player in the CFL. High praise from the veteran pivot.

We took time to speak to members of the Blue Bomber defence and special-teams units about the challenge of facing Williams and all said they were up for the challenge.

Finding a way to stop – or at least contain – Williams is right near the top of the priority list for the Blue Bombers.

After all, he had three touchdowns (two receiving and another on a punt return where he wasn’t even touched) against them back on August 16.

Williams also had a critical fumble on a return that would have put the Ticats in field-goal range, but it was the three lost fumbles by Burris that were even more costly.

Burris addressed those concerns and you got the feeling he was eager to put that game behind him.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Buck Pierce was clearly tired of talking about returning to the lineup and can’t wait to get onto the gridiron and perform.

Pierce missed the past eight weeks with a left foot injury and is the Blue Bombers best hope of turning things around.

The Blue Bombers offence hasn’t scored in 13 quarters and need to find a way to start scoring when they get into the red zone.

And the defence — which has conceded an abundance of points in two of the past three games — must step up their game dramatically for the Blue Bombers to have any hope of snapping their four-game losing skid.

The Blue Bombers haven’t found the win column since the last time the Ticats came to town.

Can they turn back the clock to mid-August?

“There’s a lot of things we did well in that game and we’re going to try to replicate that and come out with good effort,” said Blue Bombers linebacker Henoc Muamba.

The Blue Bombers went out of their way to say they haven’t given up hope on salvaging the season.

“Of course, we’ve got seven games and six of them are against Eastern opponents,” said Blue Bombers defensive back Jonathan Hefney. “Go into every game one-by-one, like it’s a playoff game. Hopefuly everybody is playing with that same passion.”

While we expect the Blue Bombers to get a boost from Pierce’s return and to play with much more life than against the Calgary Stampeders, our best guess is that the Ticats find a way to even the season series.

My prediction: Ticats 24 Blue Bombers 17 – on a late touchdown from Burris to Andy Fantuz.

Be sure to check out Friday’s edition of the Sun or go to www.winnipegsun.com to check out our 11-page preview of Friday’s match-up.

And join us for the weekly live chat on Friday at 2 p.m. at winnipegsun/bluelive

Categories: Football

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