September 20, 2019

Game Preview | WPG at MTL

Winnipeg Blue Bombers #53 Patrick Neufeld during practice at IG Field September 17, 2019

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THE 4-1-1

Kickoff: 3 p.m., Saturday; Percival Molson Memorial Stadium, Montreal
TV: TSN 3/4/5, RDS, ESPN+
Radio: 680 CJOB
Vegas line: The Bombers are favoured by 2.5 points.
Home/Road: The Bombers are 3-3 on the road this year; Montreal is 3-2 at home.
Streaks: Winnipeg: 1W | Montreal: 1L.
Recent history: This will be the first meeting between the Bombers and Alouettes this season. Montreal is in Winnipeg for a return visit on Saturday, October 12th.
Series: The Bombers are 46-48-2 all-time vs. the Alouettes and are unbeaten in their last five games with their eastern rivals. Winnipeg is also 7-1 in its last eight trips to Montreal.



The CFL cranked out its first ‘playoff scenarios’ media release this week and the Bombers could nail down a playoff spot with a win or tie on Saturday afternoon or a loss or tie by the Ottawa REDBLACKS to the B.C. Lions Saturday night.

Asked Thursday if there would be any benefits from clinching this early, Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea, not surprisingly, offered this:

“I don’t think about it. We’ve got a lot of football left to play. This opponent is going to be tough to beat, so we’ve got everything focused on that.”

So, while the Bombers are coming off their second of three bye weeks this season and remain in first place in the CFL’s West Division with a 9-3 record, it’s not like they will get all fat and sassy should they earn a playoff spot on Saturday.

As defensive end Craig Roh said this week, “We did what we needed to do last game and coming off the bye week we want to keep building that momentum and keep going. The goal is a Grey Cup and so until we get that, we’re not satisfied.”

Here’s the important component about this: both the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Calgary Stampeders are right there in the rearview mirror at 8-4. And the Bombers still have one game against the Riders, in Regina on October 5th, and two more versus the Stamps, on October 19th and 25th. The Winnipeg-Saskatchewan season series is tied 1-1, while the Bombers are up 1-0 in their three-game set with Calgary.

“We’ve got to take care of business in the coming weeks,” said Nic Demski. “The East is still very promising. We’ve got Hamilton coming up (September 27) and Montreal is a good team as well. But you always know what you’re going to get in the West and it always comes down to crunch time and the last couple of games, so to close out the season against Calgary and have that game in Saskatchewan obviously means a lot and we have a lot of business to take care of.”


We got some further insight into the state of mind of Andrew Harris as he returns to the lineup after serving his two-game suspension in a chat on Thursday.

But earlier in the week he made a comment about being out of game action for almost a month – his last contest was the August 23rd win in Edmonton – that referenced being hit by a bamboo stick.

We asked him to expand on that analogy further as the CFL’s leading rusher gets set to do his thing again.

“Once you get past that four-week mark of a season your body has been hit and beat up so much that it’s like you’re immune to the shots,” Harris explained. “When you get hit it doesn’t hurt, the little bumps and bruises almost become like an extra layer of skin from all the pain you’ve given and taken in. In karate they hit you with a bamboo stick in the same spot. It’s the same with an MMA fighter or boxers.

“When you get deep into a season you get that feeling where it’s like you don’t even feel anything anymore. At the start of training camp you hit someone, you get a knee or stepped on and it just kills at first and then you get used to it because your body hardens.”

The return of Harris is not only a boon to the ground game – even with missing two games he leads the CFL in rushing – but should boost the aerial attack, too. His 46 receptions leads the Bombers and his 337 receiving yards is third on the club, behind Lucky Whitehead (394) and Nic Demski (356).


It can be a big moment in the life of any coach when he goes from assistant to coordinator to being the guy wearing the big head set. There’s usually an offseason press conference with family and friends in attendance and a whole pile of time to put together a staff, gameplans and a roster.

So, imagine being in the position of Khari Jones. He was named the head coach of the Alouettes during training camp after the surprise firing of Mike Sherman a week before their first game and with the franchise (still) seeking ownership.

And in addition to that he lost his starting quarterback Antonio Pipkin to injury early and then saw the team’s GM, Kavis Reed, fired.

Yet through all that Jones has helped turn the Alouettes into a solid squad with a 6-5 record – one more victory than all of last season – and good for second in the East Division.

Jones certainly deserves a ton of credit for the transformation of QB Vernon Adams, Jr., who is tied for the CFL lead with 10 rushing TDs, and is fifth in the league with 2,465 passing yards.

All of this hasn’t gone unnoticed by the man who has the same gig here in Winnipeg.

“I see a team that has really got behind his leadership,” said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea of Jones’ handiwork in Montreal. “They seem excited to play every week and they play hard-nosed football.

“It’s really been neat to watch.”


  • Winnipeg’s Chris Streveler is 3-4 as a starter over the last two years and 1-0 vs. the Alouettes.
  • Montreal’s Vernon Adams, Jr. is 9-4 in his career as a starter, including 6-3 this season. Saturday will mark his first start against the Bombers.


#4 Adam Bighill, LB: We’re entering the final third of the regular season and this is the time when vets begin to find another gear to their game. Bighill had an interception and a sack in the Labour Day Classic and figures to be a difference maker on Saturday and down the stretch.

#98 Steven Richardson, DT: Montreal likes to pound RB William Stanback at opponents and at 6-0, 233 pounds he has the ability to turn tacklers into speed bumps. Enter Richardson and fellow Bomber tackles Drake Nevis and Jake Thomas who will be critical in throwing up roadblocks in front of Montreal’s ball carrier.

#53 Pat Neufeld, RG: The Bombers get an important component back for the interior of their O-line with the return of Neufeld. His last start was the 2018 West Final and he’ll have some rust to shake off after suffering an injury just before training camp. But he’s a veteran, technically sound piece for the big men up front.


#30 Winston Rose, CB: Montreal QB Vernon Adams, Jr. is having the kind of breakout season that is helping establish him as a star in the CFL. But he is still prone to the odd mistake, having thrown seven interceptions this season and five in his last five starts. Enter Rose, who leads the CFL with eight interceptions.


The Bombers are making five changes to their 46-man roster this week. Coming on are RB Andrew Harris, SB Nic Demski, WR Lucky Whitehead, LS Chad Rempel, OL Pat Neufeld and DB Mike Jones.

Off the roster are DB Dondre Wright, RB Larry Rose III, WR Malcolm Williams, LS Maxime Latour and DB Dexter Janke.

The Neufeld addition is significant, as Saturday will mark not only the first game he has played this season, but the depth chart has him listed as starting at right guard ahead of Geoff Gray, with Drew Desjarlais at left guard.


With a victory on Saturday the Bombers would reach the 10-win mark for the fourth consecutive year – a feat not accomplished by the franchise in 32 years dating back to 1984-87.


  • The Bombers are 6-0 coming off a bye week since 2017 – 1-0 this year, 3-0 last year and 2-0 in 2017.
  • With 92 yards rushing, Andrew Harris would reach the 1,000 yard mark for the third straight season.
  • Vernon Adams, Jr. has set a Montreal record for touchdowns by a quarterback, with 11.
  • One more on Adams, Jr. and why he has been so valuable to the Als: since 2016 he has a won-lost record of 9-4 while the eight other Montreal starters are an abysmal 13-39.
  • Winnipeg has held a field position edge in 10 of their 12 games this year, with an average drive starting point of own 38-yard line – first in the CFL.
  • CFL statistician Steve Daniel had this nugget in his pre-game package this week – eliminating defensive tackles from the equation, Bombers DE Willie Jefferson leads the league in a combination of ‘actions that disrupt offences’ with 29. Jefferson has 11 sacks, six forced fumbles, one interception, nine pass knockdowns and two fumble recovers. Second on that list in Saskatchewan’s Charleston Hughes with 19, including 13 sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
  • Mike Miller of the Bombers now ranks third on the CFL’s all-time special-teams tackles list with 178. No. 2 all time is Wade Miller at 184.