WINNIPEG -- The Bombers and Ticats are set to do battle for the second time this season on Friday night at Canad Inns Stadium, as Buck Pierce returns to action for the first time since injuring his foot back in Week 3.
With a chance to move closer to the Ticats in the standings as well as to stay afloat in the playoff hunt, Friday’s result has a lot of meaning in the scheme of the 2012 season – but it means a little more than just wins and losses, too.
|Related: Ticats at Bombers|
For Pierce and the Bombers, a win over the Ticats would go a long way in improving the team’s image after a pretty tumultuous week, during which some players were called out for laughing on the sidelines during a blowout loss to the Stamps.
The biggest thing the Bombers’ returning veteran pivot would like to make clear is that’s not who these players are, or what the Blue Bombers organization is about.
“I think it’s embarrassing for our fans that they feel that they’re not getting the kind of effort that they need from their guys,” said Pierce, who’s in his third season with the Bombers. “I feel their pain and I feel sorry for them.”
“It’s too bad that the perception of our club right now is a bunch of guys that really don’t care,” added the 30-year-old pivot. “That needs to change and that’s something that I know this organization is not about, and it’s never been about.”
Both of Winnipeg’s wins have come at home in front of a roaring, supportive crowd, and with four of their seven remaining games on home turf, it’ll be important for Pierce and co. to capitalize on the energy from the crowd.
Getting Pierce back under centre helps the Bombers right off the bat, though, as they get their go-to leader of the offence and voice of the team back – the very same one that led the team to an East Division championship one year ago and eventually to a Grey Cup appearance.
Another thing going the Bombers’ way coming in is the fact that they already hold a 1-0 edge in the season series, after getting their second win of the season against Hamilton back on August 16.
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Joey Elliott threw for 406 yards and a touchdown pass in his first start of the season, including a game-winning touchdown drive in the final minute of the game.
But the Ticats aren’t the same team they were a month ago, as Henry Burris continues to grow the Ticats’ offence. While the ‘Cats remain the league’s highest scoring team, they also appear to be rounding into form defensively, coming off a 51-8 home win over the Eskimos last weekend.
Still, Pierce said the Bombers can’t focus on their opponents’ success – instead, they can only control what they do.
“I think you just focus on yourself,” said Pierce. “We have to focus on what we do well, focus on the things that we can control. We’ve been hurting ourselves in the past and we haven’t helped out our situation very much, so that’s something we’re really going to focus on as we move forward this week.”
If one thing’s certain, it’s that the Bombers aren’t about to get caught looking at the Ticats’ record. They know what the Tabbies are capable of, and realize it’s going to take a total team effort to come away with the win.
“They’re a good football team, maybe the numbers or the wins don’t show it, but their offence is very explosive, with very explosive special teams,” said Pierce. “And they’ve got playmakers on the defensive side of the football, so we’ve got to be patient and we’ve got to be able to execute up and down the football field.”
Despite playing their best all-around football game of the season last weekend, the Ticats are also well aware of what’s at stake on Friday night – and that they can’t get caught up in the numbers game when it comes to the Bombers record.
A simple but effective reminder hung from each player’s change area in the Ticats’ locker room on Tuesday that said “Winning is not an act – it’s a habit.”
The Ticats appear to understand their situation well: that their blowout success was only one step – albeit a very impressive one – in their climb back to playoff contention.
“We’re 4-7 right now, not even in the playoff picture,” said rookie linebacker Brock Campbell. “We just know that we’ve got to win every week.”
|The last time they met|
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Bombers 32, Ticats 25
Joey Elliott shone in his first start since his rookie season, out-gunning counterpart Henry Burris with 406 yards and a touchdown to lead the Bombers to a 32-25 win. Chris Matthews and Cory Watson each had over 100 yards receiving, while Chad Simpson rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown in a total team effort. Burris and Chris Williams were impressive in a losing effort for the Ticats, with the receiver catching two touchdowns with 150 yards in the air.
“You can never be complacent in football. We started this season with the goal of winning the Grey Cup, and that’s still our goal.”
Burris was quick to remind anyone who would write-off the Bombers of the two teams’ last encounter –a painful but necessary memory for Burris, who took a valuable lesson from the turnover-filled affair.
“We haven’t done anything good against Winnipeg,” said the quarterback. “In the only meeting we had this season, they beat us.”
“It’s a game I won’t forget. To have four fumbles in that game – three while running and one in the pocket – is something I definitely haven’t forgotten.”
The Ticats are determined to enjoy much better execution on this occasion than they did on that mid-August night. Because – as their result against the Eskimos showcased – they are a truly scary team when firing on all cylinders.
“It’s about focus and about chemistry, and also about not kicking ourselves in the butt,” explained receiver Bakari Grant of the means to maximize his team’s potential once again on Friday.
“It takes those practice plays – getting the reps in practice – and then following up on the field, showing up on game day.”
Grant was at the centre of the crucial play that swung momentum decisively in the Ticats favour a week ago. The blocked field goal that the sophomore receiver marched to pay-dirt was the sort of monumental moment that the team has craved for weeks.
But while big plays are always welcome, Grant believes that his team will need a less glamourous but equally important type of play to fall its way on Friday.
“It’s always good to have the momentum plays, but the more important ones are the second and twos, the second and threes,” argues the receiver.
“Converting those into first downs is what we have to do consistently. The big plays are called that for a reason, but they’ll come as they may.”
Whatever the method, Burris knows that a victory on Friday is a necessity. He suggests that closing out those contests where expectation is in your favour is a mark of a good team.
“Winning on the road in games where you have the opportunity to be successful in is a must,” says the quarterback.
“We have an opportunity to take our momentum and confidence into this game. You’re playing in a different park, but it’s the same people.”
The task will not be an easy one on Friday, in spite of what the standings have to say.
Defensive lineman Brandon Peguese is typical of his teammates in his wary approach to the embattled Blue Bombers.
“Everybody knows, when you’re down, that’s when you fight your hardest,” says defensive lineman Brandon Peguese of the Ticats’ next opponent. “This is a team with nothing to lose.”
“They’re going to come out screaming, trying to make plays and do what they have to do to win, because they’re hungry for a win.”
The Ticats, of course, are hungry for a win too, as they look to continue closing in on a playoff spot heading into the final stretch of the season.
Kickoff is at 8:00 P.M. ET, and can be seen on TSN or followed live via Game Tracker on CFL.ca and CFL Mobile.
- With files from Ticats.ca