Saturday the Riders are forced to travel to Winnipeg (something that could be considered corporal punishment) for a rematch with the Bombers. The Riders will be looking to rebound after narrowly snatching defeat from the claws of victory. The Bombers will be looking to extend what seems to be an endless campaign to ensure we feel nothing but misery. What did we ever do to deserve this?… I mean aside from 29 straight years of mockery for lack of Grey Cups.
The Banjo Bowl has not historically been kind to the Riders. They have lost 5 of the last 6. Ironically, Zach Collaros was the last Rider QB lead the green and white to victory. And its not just that we lose, we tend to get pummelled. The average margin of defeat over the last 5 losses is 18.2 and only once were we within one score. If you are feeling confident about this game I can only assume that you have hallucinogen intake that would put Ricky Williams to shame.
This one is going to be tough. Despite giving a pretty damn good effort against a pretty damn good team we fell short last week. So we not only need to pick ourselves back up mentally and try again, we need to do it without the crowd being behind us this time. Our line was not exactly great but held it together but that was with the benefit of relative silence on offense. Expect a thunderous roar to emanate from the toothless mouths of the Bomber faithful. That certainly won’t help things.
But since you probably didn’t come here to read pages of doom and gloom, here’s what we need to do if we hope to steal one on Loser-peg.
Run! We proved on Labour Day that the Bombers can be run on. Hickson averaged 5.7 yards per carry (and added 6.7 yards per touch in the passing game). If we think we can pass our way to victory with our O-line, trying to stop that D-line, with that crowd noise, then we may be a product of the Manitoba education system. Feed Hickson. Dude is a stud and our line needs all the help it can get. The Fajardo-Shaq connection will be key when we do pass. Going to need another big game from Shaq. Also need to keep finding ways to get Schaefer-Baker the ball. We are undefeated in games where he scores a TD and are 6-2 and when he gets over 40 yards. Get the ball in the hands of your playmakers. We also can’t turn the ball over. We hung in last week until we turned the ball over. We simply aren’t good enough right now to overcome mistakes. Lastly, we need to find a way to score in the second half. I know this is a foreign concept to this offense, but maybe try making some adjustments at half time and not just napping.
Defensively, its certainly not fair to ask them to do more after holding the best QB in the league to 20 points. But we probably need them to do more. More pressure. More turnovers. Less big passing plays (I realize there were only 3 last game which in any other circumstance would be outstanding). You can bet Winnipeg will be looking to get Oliveira going after we held him to just 38 yards last game. We can’t let that happen. Demski has been the spark in that offense since returning from injury so limiting him needs to be a priority.
As great as our defense is and has been, I expect the Winnipeg O to be a bit better at home. Not a lot but 28 points seems more likely. I also don’t expect our offense to suddenly improve in one of the hardest places to play. So that means any chance of victory hinges on a defensive or special teams score. Not sure I like the odds of a special teams one against O’Shea but its possible. We also need to start strong. If we get down early that crowd will be on us like a mildly attractive cousin at a Manitoba family reunion and we are not built for a come from behind victory.
This is another game where we could in theory win. I do think we have the talent to hang with any team in the CFL (as last week showed). But realistically I expect us to continue the annual tradition of getting mercilessly crushed in the Banjo Bowl.
Bombers by 16… at least we get the Elks next.