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October 15, 2022

Game Preview | WPG at BC

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (14-2) at B.C. LIONS (10-5)

 THE 4-1-1

Kickoff: Saturday, 9 p.m. CDT, B.C. Place, Vancouver
TV: TSN; ESPN+
Radio: 680 CJOB
Home/Road: The Blue Bombers are 7-1 on the road this season and currently have a five-game winning streak in play over the Lions, including three straight at B.C. Place. Winnipeg leads the all-time series (since 1954) with a record of 95-80-2. The Lions are 5-3 at home this year.
BetRegal.ca odds: The Lions are favoured by two points. For more of Bet Regal’s numbers on this game, click here.
Streaks: Winnipeg: 2W; B.C.: 1L.
Playoff picture: The Blue Bombers clinched first place in the West with last week’s 48-11 win over the Edmonton Elks, marking the first time the club has finished first in its division since capturing top spot in the East Division from 1992-94. The Lions are tied with the Calgary Stampeders for second in the West but have won their season series 2-1.

The QBs

  • B.C. starts Vernon Adams, Jr. at QB. He is 19-14 as a starter and 2-4 in his career starts vs. Winnipeg.
  • Winnipeg lines up Dru Brown behind centre as Zach Collaros who will dress and is listed third on the depth chart behind Dakota Prukop. This will be Brown’s first start as a professional.

Brown did see action in the regular season finale last year in Calgary, going 7-of-14 for 49 yards and rushing seven times for 44 yards. He is 5-of-7 for 127 yards and two TDs this year and back in the season opener went 3-of-3 with Collaros in concussion protocol at the end of the game, helping set up a game-winning field goal.

Here’s Brown on his growth since last year:

“It’s really cool getting experience seeing the pictures you need to see from a quarterback’s perspective. You watch a lot of film, but the vantage point of being on the field is a little bit different. Down in the States, I’ve been doing it since I was nine and you get taught to read coverage when you’re 12-13-14, so you have that same process. And then you have to rewire what your pre-snap process is up here with the extra guy.

“You study who you’re playing, what they’re doing, but just getting reps and continuing to see ‘OK, this is what it looks like from this vantage point’ helps so I know where to go with the ball.”

The Coaches

Winnipeg: Mike O’Shea has a career won-lost record of 81-57. O’Shea’s 81 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).

B.C.: Rick Campbell is 59-76-2 a head coach in the CFL and 5-10 vs. Winnipeg in the regular season.

Blue Roster Shuffle

The Bombers depth chart features significant changes from last week’s win over Edmonton, so take a deep breath here…

Coming aboard are DB Alden Darby, Jr., LB Malik Clements, FB Konner Burtenshaw, DB Desmond Lawrence, OL Tyler Witt, OL Eric Lofton and OL Tomoya Machino. Off are DB Deatrick Nichols, DB Donald Rutledge, Jr., DB Souleymane Karamoko, DB J.T. Hassell, OL Stanley Bryant, OL Jermarcus Hardrick and OL Pat Neufeld.

In addition to Brown making his first start at QB, Darby, Jr. will man the dime spot – Redha Kramdi replaced Rutledge, Jr. there last week – with Jamal Parker moving from corner to Nichols’ halfback spot. Lawrence, recently scooped up by the Blue Bombers after his release by Hamilton, will start at Parker’s cornerback position. Malik Clements also returns to start at weak side linebacker, making four changes on defence.

“You’ve got the blueprint there; you just don’t want to mess it up,” said Darby, Jr. earlier this week of stepping into the lineup for the first time since he was acquired via trade from the Tiger-Cats. “You’ve got guys like Brandon Alexander, Deatick Nichols, Adam Bighill… the list goes on of guys. You just have to fall in line and do what you’re coached to do. We’ve got a great staff. We’ve got good defensive coaches, a head man that gets us ready and gets us prepared mentally so we’ve just got to go out there and hit our targets.”

The offensive line undergoes a complete change, with Michael Couture at centre, Chris Kolankowski shifting to left guard and Geoff Gray to left tackle, with the right side manned by Liam Dobson and Eric Lofton. Machinto and Witt will dress as the sixth and seventh offensive linemen.

The only units that don’t feature changes are the D-line and the receiving corps, with Brady Oliveira still listed as the starting RB, but sharing more reps this week at practice with Johnny Augustine.

BLUE BOMBER SPOTLIGHTDB Desmond Lawrence

The Blue Bombers scooped up the 27-year-old Charlotte, N.C. product just four days after he was released by the Ticats on Oct. 1. Lawrence played his college ball at North Carolina before professional stints with the Detroit Lions, the Atlanta Legends of the Alliance of American Football and the XFL’s DC Defenders before joining Hamilton.

He was the Ticats Most Outstanding Rookie last year but missed the Grey Cup due to injury.

“I’m humbled. I’m just excited to play. We all know how good this team is and what they’re capable of. Now it’s ‘We’, I get to say ‘We’ and I feel really happy about that. I’m just really excited to be a part of the team.

“I enjoyed my time where I was, but when I got that call to come here I was happy. I knew what I was coming to – I didn’t know all the nuances, but I’m really just happy to be here; that’s all I can keep saying. It’s a different environment here and I’m ready to go for war for them.”

NOTABLE

  • Nic Demski is now working on a six-game streak scoring at least one touchdown and has eight over that span. That ties him with Charles Roberts for the longest streak by a Blue Bomber in this millennium. The club record is eight, set by Milt Stegall n 1997 and the CFL record for consecutive games with a touchdown is 10, set by Terry Evanshen over 1967-68.
  • The Blue Bombers lead the CFL in second-down conversions with a percentage of 57 percent. The current record is 55 percent, set by Montreal in 2008. Winnipeg is a sensational 71 percent (133-of-188) in the second half of this season.

MILESTONE WATCH

  • Brady Oliveira needs 81 yards over the next two weeks to hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time in his young career. He currently ranks second in the CFL in rushing with 919 yards; Calgary’s Ka’Deem Carey is first at 949.
    If he hits the 1K mark, Oliveira will become the fourth Canadian to accomplish the feat over the past decade along with Andrew Harris, Jerome Messam and Jon Cornish.
  • More Dalton Schoen superb numbers: of the rookie receiver’s 64 catches, 39 have been second-down conversions. The CFL record is 45, set by Montreal’s Ben Cahoon in 2004.
    “Honestly, that’s probably not something I think about a lot,” Schoen said Friday. “I will say that’s something that jumped out to me early on in the differences between American football and the Canadian game – it’s just that it almost always seems like it’s second down. We’re in second and eight, second and 10, whatever it is, it’s like this is the money down, whereas in American football it’s always third down.
    “It does keep the energy up. It’s, ‘Hey, it’s second and 10, the team needs us to make a play.’ That’s what is on my mind in those spots.”
    Schoen has already set a Blue Bombers record for receiving TDs by a first-year player with 14, a total that is third highest in CFL history after David Williams (18 with B.C. in 1988) and Derrell Mitchell (17 with Toronto in 1997). His 1,275 yards receiving is also just 255 shy of the CFL record for receiving yards by a first-year player of 1,530, set in 1991 by B.C.’s Matt Clark.