GAME #8 | WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (7-0) at CALGARY STAMPEDERS (4-1)
Kickoff: Saturday, 6 p.m. CT, McMahon Stadium, Calgary, AB.
TV: TSN; ESPN2
Radio: 680 CJOB
Home/Road: The Blue Bombers are 4-0 on the road this year with victories in Ottawa, Toronto, B.C. and Edmonton. The CFL stats crew has pointed out that the Blue Bombers haven’t won a regular season game at McMahon since 2017, but that nugget should come with an asterisk – *Winnipeg won both the 2019 Western Semi-final over the Stamps and the 2019 Grey Cup in Calgary. Calgary is 2-0 at home this year and holds a dominant 69-34 record over the Blue Bombers at McMahon all-time.
BetRegal.ca odds: The Blue Bombers are favoured by 1.5 points. For more of Bet Regal’s numbers on this game, click here.
Streaks: Winnipeg: 7W; Calgary: 1L.
Take note: The Blue Bombers and Stampeders meet three times this year with the third showdown will go August 25th in Winnipeg. A win Saturday by the Blue Bombers would already give them the season series in case of a tiebreaker.
- Calgary starts veteran pivot Bo Levi Mitchell. He is 88-23-2 in his career and 12-5 vs. Winnipeg.
- Winnipeg lines up Zach Collaros behind centre. He is 53-34 in his career and now a remarkable 24-2 in his games as a starter in Winnipeg, including playoffs and two Grey Cup victories.
Winnipeg: Mike O’Shea has a career won-lost record of 74-55. O’Shea’s 73 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).
Calgary: Dave Dickenson is 65-24-2 all-time as the Stampeders head coach and 7-6 vs. Winnipeg.
Blue Roster Shuffle
The Bombers depth chart features four changes from last week. Coming aboard are receiver Nic Demski, quarterback Dakota Prukop, and LBs Jesse Briggs and Brian Cole.
Off are receiver Carlton Agudosi, who has been moved to the six-game injured list, safety Malcolm Thompson, DB Cedrick Lavigne and QB Joe Mancuso. Thompson, who was filling in so capably for all-star Brandon Alexander, will be replaced by Nick Hallett.
The Blue Bombers will be without six starters against Calgary: Alexander, Ellingson, Agudosi, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, linebacker Kyrie Wilson, and centre Michael Couture.
“It’ll be huge, just from a team standpoint having him on the field… the morale, the whole thing,” said Collaros of the return of Demski. “He’s certainly an integral part to what we do. It’s big for the locker room and we’re all excited to get him out there. He means a lot to what we do in the run game, the pass game and just his overall mindset.”
BLUE BOMBER SPOTLIGHT: Safety Nick Hallett
The third-year University of Toronto product has already carved out a solid career as a steady special-teams player – he leads the CFL in special-teams tackles with eight through the first chunk of the season – but will make his first start Saturday against the Stamps.
Asked what he expects from Hallett against Calgary, head coach Mike O’Shea was succinct: “I expect him to be around the ball all day.”
The Blue Bombers have been 7-0 to start a season three times in franchise history – this year, 1960 when they rocketed to a 10-0 start before finishing 14-2 and in 1939 when the club opened with an 8-0 record.
- Winnipeg has won four road games to open 2022. The last time they won their first five road games to open a season was in 1960, which was the start of their CFL record of 20 consecutive road victories that ran through to 1962.
- It was announced Thursday that Hallett had been fined for a high hit on Stampeders kick returner Peyton Logan in the club’s last meeting on July 15.
- The Blue Bombers defence has registered at least one interception in five consecutive games.
In Winnipeg’s win two weeks ago the ‘Dark Side’ defence held Calgary to just 4-of-16 in second-down conversions, or 25 per cent. That’s the lowest by the Stamps since July 28, 2018 – a span of 50 games. By comparison, Winnipeg’s offence converted 16-of-26 second downs, or 61.5 percent.
“We had a good gameplan,” said Adam Bighill of the success against the Stamps on second down in the first meeting. “Richie (Hall, defensive coordinator), J.Y. (Jordan Younger, defensive backs coach), James (Stanley, linebackers coach) and DP (defensive line coach) put in a lot of work to make sure we can get off the field. At the end of the day, you have to win first down, but second down you’re getting off the field and giving your offence back the ball. That’s where we want to get to and gameplan accordingly.
“I thought our guys played well. We played tough and we played tight all night in the secondary and we made a lot of throws very, very tight windows and tough to complete. Granted, they dropped a few balls here and there that I’m sure they wanted back but at the same time it wasn’t like we were making it easy for them, either.”
“Calgary, man, all hat’s off to them. They’re respected in this league, they’re well coached and they have some great players. They’re sort of built the same way as we are and I can’t wait to keep battling and keep that trajectory going.
“We’re a team that always sticks together. We’re a family. We’re heading in the right direction and when you can keep winning games the way we’re winning games… sometimes it might be pretty, sometimes it might be ugly, but if you can keep sneaking away with certain wins, it builds character.
“People, the media, so many have something to say. But when you win like how we’re winning you’re building character for the ultimate goal.” – Blue Bombers receiver Rasheed Bailey.