Winnipeg – The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have been journeying to Regina on Labor Day Weekend for decades and it has been more than a decade since they last headed back to Manitoba with two points in tow. Could that change this year? Based on recent performance, you would think the chances are good that the Bombers can register their first Labor Day Weekend win in Regina since 2004. But then, all bets are off when it comes to this game. The records really don’t mean anything. The most recent illustration of that came in 2011 when the Bombers and Swaggerville rolled into Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field with a 7-1 record while the Riders were a dismal 1-7. Final score, Saskatchewan 27 Winnipeg 7. The records aren’t quite as lopsided this year but they are close. Bombers are 5-4 and riding a 4-game win streak while the Riders are 1-8 and have lost 5 in a row. Does that mean Winnipeg is a prohibitive favorite to end their 11 game Labor Day weekend losing streak? Hardly.
The Roughriders have been victims of some blowouts this season, but they have also been highly competitive in some of their losses. Twice they have played Edmonton down to the wire, losing in overtime and by 8 points. And Calgary was life and death to score a recent 19-10 win over the Riders.
Veteran Saskatchewan slotback Rob Bagg says the Riders will play this game with a chip on their shoulder. He says he is tired of all the criticism the Roughriders have endured and he and his teammates will be out to prove the critics wrong.
Blue Bomber head coach Mike O’Shea says he doesn’t for one minute think this game will be easy. “Our team doesn’t get caught up in looking at records and honestly I don’t think any team gets caught up in talking about any teams record. We talk about what we need to do and we know the Riders are a very athletic team that will be coming hard.”
The game features the return of receiver Weston Dressler to Regina. For eight years, Dressler was one of the Riders most popular and productive players. But Chris Jones and the new regime decided to clean house when they took over in the off-season and the big salaries of Dressler and John Chick were found to be expendable. The Bombers moved quickly to sign Dressler, and the diminutive five-time thousand yard receiver admits that this first game against his former team brings with it a lot of different emotions. Said Dressler “It’s a different situation for me, never really experienced anything like this. It will be tough, it will be different, a lot of different emotions will be going through me as the warmups go on and to the start of the game. But at the end of the day, it’s another game of football, once that first whistle blows I’ll need to have all that in check and be ready to go, which I think I will.”
Dressler is back after missing the last three games due to injury but his former Saskatchewan teammate Ryan Smith will have to wait another week before he is activated. Gerrard Sheppard will get another start at receiver. Jermarcus Hardrick returns to the Winnipeg offensive line after missing a couple of games. He replaces Manasse Foketi. And veteran defensive tackle Jake Thomas went down with an ankle injury during Thursday’s practice. Former Rider Brandon Tennant from Laval University was immediately signed and will replace Thomas in the lineup. The Riders will have veteran receiver Rob Bagg returning from injury.
The game kicks off at 2pm Manitoba time, with Bob Irving and Doug Brown beginning 680-CJOB’s broadcast at 12 noon.