The same question keeps coming back at Winnipeg Blue Bombers coach Tim Burke.
Can a 4-10 team, which lost 44-3 the last time it met the Calgary Stampeders, expect to win Saturday against pretty much the same lineup?
Burke insists the answer is yes.
“In my coaching career, I can remember getting slaughtered by teams and we’d turn around and beat them the next time,” he said Friday. “When you get to the professional level, there’s not much difference between the top and the bottom. And anybody can beat anybody on a given week.”
The Bombers are currently at the bottom of the standings in the CFL and while Calgary isn’t quite the top, at 8-6 the Stampeders are a lot closer than the Bombers.
This game is about a lot more than avenging a humiliating drubbing a month ago, it’s about extending the faint playoff hopes that still linger in Winnipeg just a little longer.
“We’ve got to keep believing in ourselves, relax, like coach Burke said, just go out and play football,” said backup quarterback Joey Elliot, making his second start since Buck Pierce went out with a concussion Sept. 29.
The formula worked last Monday, when Elliott led the offence to an upset 27-22 win in Montreal, but Burke says this will be a different kind of test.
Man coverage like that used by the Calgary defence means the quarterback has to be even more accurate in his passing.
“For Joey, this is a key game for him, because it’s a different game for a quarterback,” said Burke.
Calgary quarterback Kevin Glenn knows Winnipeg well. He played five seasons with the Bombers ending in 2008 and says he knows Calgary can’t take anything for granted, particularly after the win in Montreal.
“They’re playing good football and, like I say, coming off a big win — I think the biggest thing for us to do is start off fast,” he said.
“We’ve got to not let them carry that momentum from the last game into this game. . . . Those guys feed off of turnovers, especially the defence, turnovers and sacks and getting their crowd into it . . . If we can keep their crowd out of it and score early, you know, and make them sit on their hands, they won’t have anything to cheer about.”
It doesn’t help that the Bombers are also playing without this season’s team sack leaders, Alex Hall and Bryant Turner, both on the injured list.
But cornerback Johnny Sears says he has faith that they can pick up the slack.
“We know what we’re losing but we also know what we’re gaining in just a team effort,” he said. “Whenever somebody falls, somebody’s got to step in and step up.”
Sears also knows controlling Calgary’s ground game is going to be a big part of winning on Saturday for the Bombers.
“We know that they’ve got a very high-powered running game. The blockers are very sound and disciplined.”
B.C. held Calgary running back Jon Cornish to 61 yards on the ground last week to defeat Calgary and hold on to sole possession of first place in the West and the league. That left Calgary tied with Saskatchewan in second.
The last-place Bombers were just one win behind the Ticats after Hamilton lost to the league-leading B.C. Lions 37-17 on Friday.
The Stamps are without rookie strong-side linebacker Chris Randle, lost to injury in Vancouver. They will dress quarterback Drew Tate for the game, although coach John Hufnagel says he won’t be throwing any passes.
“He got back early. I just don’t want to rush getting him back on the field,” said the coach and general manager of the Stampeders.
Tate dislocated his shoulder in July and this will mark his first return to the field — even if it’s just on the bench — as No. 3 on the depth chart.
Finally, from the strange but true file, reports out of Calgary note this is the first time since 2008 the Stampeders have looked at the same Bombers quarterback twice in back to back meetings. Although, to be fair, they got a look at all three Bombers backups (only Pierce excepted) who were able to play Sept. 14 during the lopsided loss.