WINNIPEG — When the Winnipeg Blue Bombers host the Calgary Stampeders this weekend, they’ll be facing a different starting quarterback than they did in their previous two meetings.
Jake Maier gets start for the Stampeders this week after he took over for Bo Levi Mitchell in the second half of last week’s game against Toronto. Mitchell threw for 149 yards and was picked off twice before he was replaced by Maier, who went 14-18 for 156 yards with an interception in the win.
Though Maier is getting the nod, head coach Dave Dickenson won’t hesitate to go to Mitchell if needed.
“I have to look in the mirror, I think we all do” Dickenson told stampeders.com after the win over Toronto. “There’s lots of things both guys could probably do better and I know I could have called a better game, as well. We’ve always thought we have good starting quarterbacks. That position will lead our team wherever we go.”
The last time the Bombers took the field they were handed their first loss of the season by the Montreal Alouettes, something they’ll use as motivation heading into this week’s game.
“We do our best, even after wins, to say we need to do ‘x’, ‘y’ or ‘z’ better,” quarterback Zach Collaros told bluebombers.com. “So, I hope that’s not something we had to recognize from just losing a game. Maybe it’s just a refresher, especially for the young guys, that there’s a lot of parity in this league. You need to go out there and make your plays when the plays are there because anybody can be beat. Sometimes you need to be hit in the mouth to be reminded of that.”
In their last meeting against Calgary, Collaros threw for 270 yards and four touchdowns. Receivers Dalton Schoen and Nic Demski both caught a pair of touchdown passes and totalled 80 and 69 receiving yards, respectively.
Collaros is third in the league with 2,455 passing yards. Their top receiver has been Schoen with 698 yards.
It wasn’t just the pass that was difficult for the Stampeders to stop last time, running back Brady Oliveira had one of his best performances of the season rushing for 110 yards on 15 carries. It was his first and only 100+ yard game so far. After a slow start the the season, Oliveira now finds himself second in the league in rushing yards with 544. That’s just 20 behind league leader Jamal Morrow of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The Bombers defence will attempt to do a better job at putting pressure on the Stamps quarterbacks. They failed to record a sack, intercept a pass or force a fumble back in Week 8.
Defensive lineman Willie Jefferson leads the team in sacks with four, while defensive back Nick Taylor has three interceptions. When it comes to forcing fumbles the Bombers have four players with one each. Those three areas will be key factors in the game given how good the Stamps are at protecting their quarterback and the football. They’ve surrendered eight sacks and thrown seven picks, both are league lows.
Jefferson and his teammates are ready get back on track and cause issues for the opposing offence after a week off.
“We’re in good spirits, really good spirits and ready to get back to football,” he told bluebombers.com. “We’re anxious to get back in front of our fans to play some Bombers football and ready to get in the win column. We had a sour taste in our mouth after the loss and the way we lost.”
Stampeders running back Dedrick Mills, filling in for the injured Ka’Deem Carey, rushed for 48 yards on 11 carries and backup Peyton Logan took the ball twice for 32 yards. Logan scored the only touchdown of the game for Calgary.
Fortunately for the Stamps, Carey was back to being a full participant at practice and is listed as the starting running back on Thursday night. Mills will sit this one out and Logan will serve as the backup. The depth at running back will be important given the teams struggles through the air the past several games.
Not only have the Stamps been good at preventing sacks and interceptions, they’ve also been good at forcing them. They currently rank fifth with 22 sacks and are tied for first with 13 interceptions.
Defensive lineman Shawn Lemon is fourth in the league with six sacks and tied for first with three forced fumbles. When the ball gets knocked loose and goes on the ground, linebacker Cameron Judge has recovered three fumbles.
The Stamps ability to pressure Collaros, Oliveira and the offensive line will be important to the outcome of the game and thwarting the Bombers offensive game plan.
The Blue Bombers haven’t lost back-to-back games since Week 15 and 16 of the 2021 season. Calgary can get within four points of the top spot in the West Division with a win.
Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET. The game can be seen on TSN, RDS, ESPN+ and can be followed along on CFL.ca’s Game Tracker.
– With files from bluebombers.com and Stampeders.com