By Jim Bender
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were beaten by a quarterback who started the season as a backup in Toronto on Aug. 21.
This Sunday night, they will face a QB who started – and won – his very first CFL game, Jake Maier, when the Calgary Stampeders invade IG Field.
After Nick Arbuckle led the Argos to a dominant 30-23 victory over Winnipeg, the Bombers defence already started to spend extra-special attention to Calgary’s rookie rock-tosser.
Maier, who was the surprise starter replacing injured veteran Bo Levi Mitchell, completed 16 of 29 passes for 304 yards and one touchdown to lead Calgary to a 28-22 victory over the Montreal Alouettes last week.
“He seems to be pretty calm back there in the pocket throwing the ball,” Bombers defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said during a Zoom media interview. “He can throw the ball, he’s confident with his throws, his reads. I think he’s a good quarterback. As a young guy, we’re going to have to rattle him and not let him sit back there and be comfortable.”
Maier did look shaky in the early going, throwing two interceptions, but settled down after that.
“I thought he did show good poise,” said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea. “He throws the ball well. I thought they ran the ball really well. I believe (Calgary head coach) Dave Dickinson understands about his team and called a good game also. The trigger man is still out there and he has to execute it, and I think he did. Obviously, they won. He weathered a little bit of adversity early, but came through in the end.”
The Stamps running game showed potential, rushing for a total of 80 yards between three players. But that was nowhere near the 150 yards that the Argos recorded by four different players versus the Bombers.
“We’ve got to bounce back and play well against Calgary,” Jeffcoat said. “In this game, it’s not often that you go undefeated and they (Argos) outplayed us, so we’ve got to make sure we come and play our style of ball this week and make sure we come out fast and physical. And we’re at home in front of our fans, so we’ve got to give them a show.”
The Bombers also want to improve on their ineffective running game the last two outings.
O’Shea, however, took umbrage with the suggestion that the Bombers were manhandled on both sides of the ball.
“I wouldn’t say manhandled,” he said. “We certainly want to be better than we were. We weren’t good enough.”
WHERE’S MEDLOCK?: First, the Bombers were reluctant to send new placekicker Tyler Crapigna out to attempt long field goals. Then, he missed two shorter field goals versus Toronto in a game they lost by seven points. That has fans demanding the return of future hall-of-famer Justin Medlock.
“At the end of the day, you’re paid to make field goals and obviously, that didn’t happen in the game,” Crapigna said. “That’s last week. This week, a new week, a new game, I’m not really worried about what happened last week.”
Crapigna did say his plant foot slipped, which resulted in a lower trajectory and a partial block on his first attempt. The second was about a foot wide.
“I’ve been in these situations before. I’ve been in games in Sask., where I’ve had bad games,” he said. “I remember especially being in one on Labour Day and then hit the next 18 field goals in a row,” he added.
O’Shea still believes that Crapigna can reach an 85% success rate over a full season.