Bit of a late post here folks, as we spent the day teeing up Friday’s contest featuring the the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the B.C. Lions.
It’s a rematch from the 2011 Grey Cup, but the second and final meeting of the season and it features a Blue Bombers team coming off a 32-25 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last week to improve to 2-5.
Meanwhile, the Lions are once again a juggernaut at 5-2, featuring a top-notch defence and an offence with plenty of weapons in their arsenal.
The two teams met to open the season on June 29 at B.C. Place, with the Lions coming away with a 33-16 victory that saw Buck Pierce go down with his first of two injuries he’s sustained this season.
“I don’t think it’s about too much to prove, we know they’re not the same team and we know we’re not the same team as Week 1,” said Blue Bombers DB Johnny Sears. “It’s kind of getting into the thick of things in the season. We only get to play them twice, so we’ve got to make this one count.
“I don’t think you can forget a Grey Cup loss, but as a professional, you can’t get it back so you move on. We played them Week 1 and we’ve just got to come out here and don’t do the same things we did to get us beat the last game in this game.”
Much like most weeks, there are no shortage of storylines and Kirk Penton and I look at a lot of them in our pre-game coverage in the paper and at www.winnipegsun.com.
Kirk has the weekly 5 things the Blue Bombers must do, along with the main tee-up and a sidebar on Blue Bombers DB (not LB this week) Jonathan Hefney going head-to-head with Geroy Simon, the CFLs all-time receiving yards leader.
My pack includes the game-day page, Joey Elliott sidebar on his second start of the campaign and trying to follow up his 406-yard performance.
Liked the way Elliott handled himself during the media conference and here’s one of the quotes that didn’t make the story that I thought was still important – after I asked him about the need to be careful to not get baited into making a big mistake by the Lions’ veteran secondary.
“True. You don’t ever want to play gun-shy, though,” said Elliott. “You want to be aggressive and see things and go with it.”
Later, Elliott was asked about his demeanour on the field.
“I try to have fun,” said Elliott. “I was asked when I play my best. When you’re having fun and you can relax and you’re seeing things and you’re not scared or nervous about what’s going to happen and you’ve prepared, you’ve prepared, you’ve prepared. If you can go out and put a smile on your face when there’s 32,000 screaming fans, you’re obviously playing at your best.”
Last, but not least, I’ve got a nice feature on how the Muamba brothers, Henoc and Cauchy, got into football.
We’ll give you a hint, both are huge basketball fans and a friendly wager on the hardwood led to the start of a pair of football careers that led to the CFL.
Henoc is coming off his first start at MLB (he had one at weak-side LB earlier this season) and had forced two fumbles (though one came on special teams:
“I didn’t play a perfect game, but I made some plays when I had the opportunity to and (the coaching staff) really liked that. I’m going to try and play as much of a perfect game as I can and commit as (few) mistakes as I can and then go from there,” said Henoc.
It’s a big test for the Blue Bombers on a lot of fronts. The offence has a shot to show last week’s showing against the Ticats wasn’t just a mirage, but the Lions D is tops in most categories and can be menacing — even without DT Khalif Mitchell, who sits out the second and final game of his suspension for the incident with Eskimos OL Simeon Rottier.
Blue Bombers left tackle Glenn January is familiar with Lions DC Rich Stubler from his time with the Toronto Argonauts.
“I know what he can bring to the table. He’s always had good defences,” said January. “It’s just a very strong defence. When they’re on, they’re really playing well. Sometimes you have to go out there and play from behind and you never want to do that against this team.”
The Lions offence is also formidable, led by reigning Most Outstanding Player Travis Lulay, Winnipegger Andrew Harris at RB and a host of impressive receivers.
The Blue Bombers counter by playing their starting 12 for the first time this season, as the infirmary is finally emptying out a bit.
“It’s absolutely exciting. Everybody is in their positions, that they like and the position they feel most comfortable at, said Muamba. “The sky is the limit for this defence and we know that.
“It’s a high-powered offence and they’re really good. We know that going into this game and we’re accepting this challenge. We’re ready. You know what, we’re just trying to focus on ourselves instead of looking at their offence and what they do differently.”
We’ll give the last word to Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice, who had this to say when I asked him where the Blue Bombers have improved most since the Week 1 loss to the defending champs:
“Our offensive line has improved dramatically, because they got to play together and they’ve been more consistently playing the same unit.” said LaPolice. “The second area is the play of the tailback, Chad Simpson didn’t play the first time around, so we get a guy who can break tackles and is a physical runner. And defensively, we’ve got our core of guys together.”
What that means for the final result is anyone’s guess.
Thanks to the Ticats last-second loss to the Montreal Alouettes, the Blue Bombers could move into third place in the East with a win on Friday night.
We expect the Blue Bombers to be competitive, but the Lions are the cream of the crop and should win by 10.
Who are you taking and why?
Don’t forget to join Kirk Penton and I at 2 p.m. CT for our weekly Blue Bombers live chat at winnipegsun.com/bluelive
Not kidding, the technical glitches have been fixed and we’ll take your questions for 60 minutes for a final game-day tee-up.