July 2, 2014

Irving: Bombers aiming to build on Week 1 win

Jason Halstead/CFL

It certainly wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers could win their opening game of the 2014 CFL season.  

Even though they were coming off a rough three-win campaign, and had done a significant overhaul of their roster throughout the off-season, there was a positive vibe eminating from the first ever Mike O’Shea training camp.  

The Bombers were highly competitive in two narrow pre-season losses. And perhaps most encouraging, quarterback Drew Willy had looked poised and confident throughout most of his preparatory action. A little quarterbacking can take you a long way. 

Throw in the fact that their opponent, the Toronto Argonauts, had eight new starters on defence, and the prospect that the Bombers might just somehow find a way to win their season opener in front of their loyal fans wasn’t such a stretch.  

But you can rest assured that no-one, not even O’Shea, saw this coming.

The Bombers’ 45-21 victory over the Argos was as stunning as it was thorough. The Bombers dominated from start to finish.  

Willy provided more evidence that he might be the answer to the erratic and injury-riddled quarterback play that has plagued the Bombers ever since Kevin Glenn was shown the door in 2009, completing 19 of 27 passes for 308 yards and four touchdowns.  Rookie running back Nic Grigsby ripped off 122 yards along the ground.  

Receiver Aaron Kelly made a series of circus catches, finishing with five grabs for 100 yards and two touchdowns. The offensive line was solid, and the defence gave Argos quarterback Ricky Ray fits, especially in the early going as the Bombers built a 24-0 lead late into the second quarter.  

Only in the kick coverage area did the Bombers show any sign of weakness, as the Argos had 290 return yards, including an 83-yarder for a touchdown by the incomparable Chad Owens.

O’Shea called the win a long overdue reason to celebrate for Winnipeg fans, and he hopes it has set a tone for his team, and provided them with the belief that they are capable of doing great things.

The new head coach was also quick to remind everyone that it’s just one game, and his message to his players was “enjoy the victory, but stay humble, and remember the journey has just begun. One game down and 17 to go.”

The crowd of 24,782 for the opener was small by Winnipeg standards. It reflected the “show me” attitude that Bomber fans have adopted.

The big win over the Argos assures there will be more people in attendance when the Ottawa REDBLACKS invade Investors Group Field on Thursday night.  Nothing brings fans back like entertaining, winning football.  And there is the added attraction of Henry Burris leading the REDBLACKS into Winnipeg.  

You’ll recall that Burris reportedly turned down big money from the Bombers to sign for bigger money with Ottawa. Burris can expect the fans at IGF to “turn-up” the volume each and every time he steps behind center on Thursday night.