Chad Simpson didn’t grow up knowing about the fierce rivalry between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders.
And the Bombers rookie running back also isn’t really sure how the Banjo Bowl between the CFL clubs got its name.
But that doesn’t stop the Miami native from really, really wanting to beat the Riders on Sunday. A 52-0 thumping at the hands of Saskatchewan last weekend will do that to any player — Canadian-bred or not.
“This is a true measure of a man,” Simpson said after Saturday’s team walk-through, which drew a few hundred fans for the annual Fan Appreciation Day.
“We took a defeat last week by a great, great deficit and we’re going to have to show that we’re a better team.”
The Riders (4-5) and Bombers (2-7) will compete in the ninth Banjo Bowl, which got its name after former Winnipeg placekicker Troy Westwood made a crack to the media that Saskatchewan fans were “banjo-pickin’ inbreds.”
The teams are tied 4-4 in Bowl matches, but this year’s edition ramps up the rivalry because of last week’s rout in Regina.
It was the first time a Bombers team had been held scoreless since 1969, and the margin of defeat was fourth widest in club history.
Winnipeg only managed 102 net yards offence, had a total of 10 first downs and only possessed the ball for 20:54 in the 60-minute tilt.
The Bombers also racked up 101 penalty yards, turned the ball over five times and allowed the Riders to rack up 422 net yards offence. The victory ended a five-game Saskatchewan losing streak.
Winnipeg safety Ian Logan said he’s never been on the losing side of a scoreless game in his amateur or professional football careers.
“It hurt,” said Logan, who’s in his seventh CFL season, all with Winnipeg. “It’s hard to believe.”
But he and his teammates are focusing on Sunday’s game and visualizing what they have to do to redeem themselves.
“You’ve always got to prepare mentally like that and envision yourself winning and making plays,” Logan said.
“Especially under the circumstances of playing the same team, it’s a lot easier to picture those images in your head turning out quite differently in a more positive way.”
Simpson is imagining his first 100-yard game this season. He had eight carries for 34 yards last week and 73 for 388 yards overall.
The former kick returner and running back with Indianapolis and Washington in the NFL was suppose to be the starter after Chris Garrett tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during a training-camp practice. Simpson then injured a leg and missed the first three games.
“I’m very hungry. I haven’t had a 100-yard game yet and I’m not used to that . . . ” said Simpson, whose first game was a season-high 91-yard outing.
“I’ve been playing this sport since I was seven so I’m definitely going out there with a different type of chip on my shoulder.”
On the flipside, Saskatchewan last week recorded its first 100-yard rushing game in 41 games — 175 yards, including a 106-yard effort by Kory Sheets on 19 carries.
Rider receiver Weston Dressler hauled in a pair of touchdowns and quarterback Darian Durant completed 13-of-19 pass attempts for 168 yards before leaving in the third quarter with what he called a “sprained neck” after a hit by linebacker Marcellus Bowman.
The veteran passer was more than ready to try for a sweep after the team arrived in Winnipeg Saturday.
“We never thought we’d win by that much, but we showed that we could it so hopefully we can go out there and try to repeat,” Durant said.
Joey Elliott will make his fourth straight start at quarterback for Winnipeg after passing for only 61 yards last week before being replaced by Alex Brink in the fourth quarter.
“I personally have to play better and that goes for every person on the offence, every person on defence, everybody in the locker-room,” Elliott said.
The Bombers are experimenting by switching last year’s CFL defensive player of the year Jovon Johnson from his cornerback spot to strong-side linebacker instead of Brandon Stewart.
“We’ll get a feel for how he’s playing early on and we’ll make adjustments according to how he adjusts,” Durant said of Johnson’s new role.
It was “bittersweet” being back in Winnipeg for Riders defensive end Odell Willis, who was traded by the Bombers in March.
“Whatever it’s like, I’ll accept it,” Willis said. “If it’s boos, I’ll accept it, if it’s cheers, I’ll accept it.
“I’m just blessed to be out there and playing football whether it’s with the Bombers or the Riders.”
Notes — The Riders are going with the same 46-man roster for the first time this season. . . . Winnipeg has one roster change from last week. Offensive lineman Shannon Boatman replaces injured Jordan Taormina.