By Jim Bender
The reigning heavyweight champs of the Canadian Football League know that the Saskatchewan Roughriders will be seeking revenge for their first loss of the season when they enter the IG Field ring this Saturday afternoon.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers out-punched the Riders 23-8 in the Labour Day Classic at Mosaic Stadium in Regina on Sept. 5.
“It felt like a street fight,” Bombers centre Michael Couture said during a Zoom interview on Wednesday. “In that environment, it’s always intense with not being able to hear the guy beside you, knowing how physical they are, and also understanding that we bring that physicality as well. So, right from the beginning of the game, it was intense.”
The Grey Cup champions moved into sole possession of first place in the CFL West at 4-1 with the victory while Saskatchewan fell to 3-1. Now, Winnipeg will get a chance to put a stranglehold on top spot when play host to the Riders in the annual Banjo Bowl rivalry contest.
“You talk about the energy of Mosaic and it gets you little more up for the game and I just think that’s inevitable,” said Bombers receiver Drew Wolitarsky. “When you’re coming into that battle and that energy’s around and both teams are fighting that hard, you have to meet that or you will fall, right? So, I would say a street fight is a great way to put it, or any boxing match, and now, we’re about to go back into the ring with someone that you just beat up four days ago. That’s an intense fight, man, and that’s really rare in sports in any form of fighting. It’s going to be intense, man, and it always is with this team.”
Bombers defensive back Brandon Alexander, who was named a CFL Top Performer of the Week after making two key interceptions, is wary of the prairie rivals after the Bombers dominated them.
“We know that they’re gonna come out with more fire and they’ll have a couple more adjustments from what they saw before,” said Alexander, who also had four defensive and one special teams tackle. “It’s hard to beat any team twice, especially back-to-back. You saw that earlier this season with Toronto. You saw what happened there, so we can’t let another thing like that happen again. We’ve got to make sure that we’re on our stuff and make sure that we have the same energy that we’ve been having for our first games.
“We knew they were gonna be physical, it’s that type of game and we know that it’s gonna be another physical game this week.”
Wolitarsky, who made a highlight-reel catch to set up a touchdown, believes that the Riders will be angry about losing last week’s bout.
“As a professional, you’ve got to be mad about that, so we’re ready to fight again, man,” he added.
HASHMARKS: The Bombers announced that the Banjo Bowl is a sellout and the gates will be open at 1:30 p.m. for the 3 p.m. start. The pre-game tailgate area will also open for the first time this season at noon and will feature $5 Coors beers and $3 hot dogs and fountain drinks until kickoff … Bombers head coach Michael O’Shea expressed confidence in rookie placekicker Marc Liegghio after he went one-for-three in field goals last week, saying that he is working on last week’s “blips.” The Bombers, however, did add import placekicker Ali Mourtada to the roster but he is still in quarantine.