GAME #1 | OTTAWA REDBLACKS AT WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS
Kickoff: Friday, 7:30 p.m. CT, IG Field, Winnipeg
The forecast: Courtesy Environment Canada: Sunny with a high of 26C, cloudy overnight with a low of 15C.
TV: TSN; ESPN+
Radio: 680 CJOB; https://www.siriusxm.ca/live-sports/cfl/
Home/Road: The Blue Bombers were 7-0 at IG Field last season, 8-0 including the Western Final win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Winnipeg is 19-1 in its last 20 at IG Field – the best home stretch since 1983-86. Read more on the home dominance here. Ottawa was 2-5 on the road in 2021.
BetRegal.net odds: The Blue Bombers are favoured by 9.5.
Pre-season records: Winnipeg 1-1; Ottawa: 1-1.
Notable: The Blue Bombers and RedBlacks have not met since July 19, 2019 and a 31-1 Winnipeg win at IG Field. The Bombers are 6-1 in their last seven vs. Ottawa.
Your attention, please: The Blue Bombers will unveil their 2021 Grey Cup championship banner Friday night and fans are encouraged to arrive early and be in their seats for unveiling, scheduled to go at 7:30 p.m. before kickoff.
- Ottawa will start veteran Jeremiah Masoli after signing him in free agency this past winter. He is 27-24 in career starts.
- Winnipeg lines up Zach Collaros behind centre, the CFL’s reigning Most Outstanding Player and all-star QB. He is 17-2 in his games as a starter in Winnipeg, including playoffs and two Grey Cup victories.
Winnipeg: Mike O’Shea: 67-55. O’Shea’s 67 wins as a Blue Bombers head coach ranks third on the club’s all-time list, behind only Bud Grant (102) and Cal Murphy (86).
Ottawa: Paul LaPolice: 19-39, with 16 of those wins coming during his days as Blue Bombers head coach from 2010-12, including an East Division crown and Grey Cup berth in 2011.
Blue Roster Shuffle
The Bombers depth chart has one notable absence, with DE Jackson Jeffcoat not dressing. The CFL all-star has been limited in training camp and was placed on the one-game injured list. He’ll be replaced by rookie L.B. Mack III with Cedric Wilcots II also listed on the depth chart.
“The philosophy doesn’t change – if we have the right number of bodies out there, the idea is fresh is best,” said head coach Mike O’Shea.
Also on the one-game injured are OL Liam Dobson and WR Kelvin McKnight, while safeties Brandon Alexander and Noah Hallett, dime back Mercy Maston and OL Drew Richmond.
BLUE BOMBER SPOTLIGHT: DE L.B. Mack III
Mack III comes to the Blue Bombers straight from the University of Rhode Island where he finished his college career ranked second in tackles for a loss and fourth in sacks.
Mack is listed at 6-0, 235 and uses his quickness off the edge to get in the backfield.
“My whole life I’ve just considered myself the underdog,” he said after Thursday’s walk-through practice. “I’m from New York and every time a tackle lined up in front of me it was always, ‘OK, we’ve got this small dude. I’m going to show him.’ My mentality was yeah I’m small, but you’re going to have to beat me every single play and that’s something a lot of people couldn’t do.
“I take great pride in that. I was always a size-never-mattered type of dude and I’m ready to prove that to everybody. I’m just ready to work.”
Mack III found out he was going to get the nod a day or so ago, and his excitement level is admittedly increasing with every hour.
“I’m going to have a little jitters, I can’t lie,” he said with a smile. “I’ve been in my feelings the last 24-48 hours, but in a positive way. I’m just making sure I’m noticing my blessings in front of me and the opportunity in front of me. I just want to make the most out of this opportunity and be a Bomber for a good while.”
- Ottawa is 5-1-1 in season openers since 2014 and the return of the nine-team CFL. That’s the best season-opening record, with Winnipeg at 5-2.
- A win Friday would be the 10th consecutive at home for the Blue Bombers. The club has had 10-game home winning streaks at home before, but this would be the first since a stretch from August 13, 1993 to August 24, 1994. The franchise record for consecutive home wins is 16, set over a span from October 23, 1983 to October 6, 1985.
LB Adam Bighill needs 22 more tackles to pass former Blue Bombers LB Greg Battle and move into eighth place on the CFL’s all-time list. Bighill is at 745, Battle retired with 766 career tackles.
HELLO, OLD FRIEND
In addition to Paul LaPolice returning to Winnipeg so, too, does receiver Darvin Adams, who signed in Ottawa in free agency. Adams joined the Blue Bombers in 2015 and over six years pulled in 322 passes for 4,667 yads and 37 TDs. He ranks 10th in Blue Bombers history in receiving yardage and is tied for 14th on the all-time TD list.
“He’s got some sandpaper to him, for sure, that guys liked. He was fun to be around. He had an energy at practice that, at certain times, he would help drive practice by getting the guys going,” said O’Shea this week.
“That’s not even talking about his speed and his ability as a receiver. He was obviously a damn good receiver. The stuff he would do off the field with the guys – he loved to cook for them – is the stuff you don’t hear about necessarily, but it means a lot to the guys.”
“Last year is last year. We got our Grey Cup rings a couple weeks ago. We’re going to unveil the banner on Friday and then we leave it at that. This is a whole new year. It’s not 2021 or 2019. We just need to stack every day on top of each other, brick by brick.” — Blue Bombers cornerback Winston Rose.