Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Max Hall says new offensive co-ordinator Marcel Bellefeuille is tough on his players, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hall will lead the Blue Bombers (1-6) into Guelph, Ont., on Saturday for the second of a home-and-home series against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-4).
Hamilton beat Winnipeg 37-18 at Investors Group Field last week, in Hall’s first start with the team. The former Arizona Cardinals quarterback was 18-for-30 passing for 241 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
But he’s pleased with how Winnipeg’s offence is shaping up under Bellefeuille, who took over from the fired Gary Crowton last Sunday.
“Coach Bellefeuille’s been hard on us, but it’s been good for us,” Hall told reporters this week. “He pays attention to the details and makes sure we execute the stuff we have in, so I think we’re ready.”
Bellefeuille is no stranger to the Ticats, having served as Hamilton head coach from 2009-11. He says Winnipeg’s offence has been improving in practice over the week.
“Each day, we’ve had less things to correct. Each day, they’ve played faster and understand what we’re supposed to be doing,” he said. “So the question now is: how is that going to translate into game day when the speed is a little bit different and the bullets are live?”
A big reason for Winnipeg’s dismal start is its anemic offence, which is last in the league in points scored and second-last in net yards with Hall, veteran Buck Pierce and Justin Goltz all having started. That led to the dismissal of Crowton, who came to Winnipeg in 2012 with no previous CFL coaching experience.
By contrast, Bellefeuille has extensive experience at the CIS and CFL levels, and Hall said his new offensive co-ordinator has helped him break down an opposing defence.
“He’s just smart, and he makes things make sense,” the quarterback said. “He’s really good at helping me understand the defences and what coverage they’re in, and that kind of dictates where I go with the ball.
“So if anything, he’s really helping me with my reads and helping me understand the defence.”
Winnipeg is desperate for a win, its only victory coming in week 2 against the Montreal Alouettes. Hamilton can get to .500 and reclaim sole possession of second in the East Division with a win.
Ticats head coach Kent Austin acknowledged this Bombers squad will be a different one with Bellefeuille running the offence.
“We’ve done our due diligence with respect to Marcel, but I’m sure he’ll have some new wrinkles for us like we will for them,” he said.
While a .500 record would be respectable, getting to that level is of little significance for Austin.
“There’s a psychological benefit to just winning, doesn’t matter what your record is at the time,” he said. “The most important thing is focusing on the current game and making sure that we play better than the week before.
“We don’t highlight on things like out record or somebody else’s record. We highlight the tangible aspects of this game that things we need to improve on in order to have an opportunity to win.”
While Hamilton won last week’s game handily, Winnipeg was solid on special teams, particularly on coverage of kick and punt returns. Austin said it something he’s tried to address for Saturday’s game.
“Listen, they do a great job on [special] teams,” he said. “It’s a real credit for them and we need to meet their level of production.”