WINNIPEG – After a frustrating start to the season, Blue Bombers fans have been pining for a change.
Bench the quarterback. Fire the coach. Anything to shake things up.
They may have had their wish granted, as Drew Willy got yanked in favour of Matt Nichols in a 33-18 loss to the Calgary Stampeders.
There are plenty of things to take away from the game as a whole. Another rough first half. A strong push in the second half. Yet another loss to Calgary: the Stamps have now captured 16 of their last 19 meetings with the Bombers.
But what’s sure to be the big topic of discussion over the next week is what to do behind centre.
The 30 minutes was not good for the Bombers, staking the Stamps to a 20-3 lead at the half with both Calgary TDs coming off Winnipeg turnovers.
The defence came to play in the second half, stifling the high-octane Stamps attack. Willy seemed to be finding his groove, completing more passes in the 3rd, but with the lead cut to 20-10 in the 4th, a Willy pick-six flattened all the momentum the Bombers had been gathering.
A big kick return from Quincy McDuffie and some Calgary penalties gave Matt Nichols a short field to work with, hitting Weston Dressler for a touchdown and again for a two-point convert to make it a one-score game.
But needing one last stop, the Bombers D couldn’t come up with it. Bo Levi Mitchell led his team down the field for a game-sealing TD.
“Once Drew threw the pick I just wanted to try something different, that’s all. He moved the ball pretty well, but we need to keep the ball moving,” O’Shea said after the game. But regarding next week? “Too early. We’ll make a decision by the start of the practice week.”
Dressler had by far his strongest game in blue and gold, securing 12 catches for 118 yards and a score, but he also had a first-half fumble that led to a Stamps TD. He thinks Willy will be able to recover from getting benched.
“He’s a tough guy, mentally and physically. He definitely has taken a lot of heat, probably way too much and taken some off the other guys on offence,” Dressler says. “Our number one goal is getting that win, and we didn’t do enough to get it. It’s tough to say right now, it’s just a slow start offensively and defensively, they jumped out early and we never recovered.”
With the Bombers off to a 1-4 start, the players insist they can turn things around.
“We believe in the talent in the room, and for whatever the reason is each week we haven’t been able to do it,” Dressler adds. “You get the fans and media talking about all the negative things that happen in the game and rightfully so. As long as we stick together in the room it will not be an issue.”
Linebacker Jamaal Westerman agrees with the slotback.
“There’s disappointment, anger, but I don’t think there’s any faith lost,” Westerman says. “Of course I’m not pleased with the loss. It was a tough one out there, had a lot of guys go down, we were already down a bit in the secondary. Whoever is out there, we have to do a better job of being prepared.”
Willy went 23/33 for 234 yards and the interception. Nichols went 9/15 in relief for 88 yards and a TD.
The defence managed to mostly contain Jerome Messam, holding him to 65 yards on 13 carries. Mitchell went 29/41 for 310 yards, 3 TD and a pick.
The Bombers will have a lot of questions to answer heading into their next game in Edmonton next Thursday. Game time is 8 p.m.