July 21 was a turning point for both the Calgary Stampeders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Coming off a bye week, the Stampeders bounced back from a 26-26 tie in Ottawa to the RedBlacks on July 8 to beat the Bombers on their home turf in Winnipeg 33-18.
Fast forward two months and Calgary has now won nine decisions in a row, while running their unbeaten streak to 11 successive games.
“We’re happy with where we are, we’re just not satisfied with it,” said Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who leads the league with 22 touchdown passes this season to go with just six interceptions to help Calgary (10-1-1) to a CFL-best record. “We’re going to continue to hold onto first place [in the CFL’s West Division] and continue that hot momentum going into the playoffs.”
That loss in late July for the Bombers marked the end of Drew Willy’s tenure as Winnipeg’s starting quarterback. Matt Nichols subsequently took over as the starter and has helped guide the Bombers to seven straight wins to improve their record to 8-4, moving them into third place in the West Division behind the B.C. Lions (8-3).
“As a whole, there’s a lot of confidence on this team and rightfully so,” said Nichols, who has thrown eight touchdown passes and just one interception in his past eight games. “I think we have a very good, talented team that’s starting to realize their potential. I think guys are fired up each and every week to get out there for the new challenge.”
The Bombers will face a big challenge on Sunday afternoon at McMahon Stadium when they put their winning streak on the line against the red-hot Stamps.
“We’re prepared to come in and execute at a high level and play our brand of football and win a game,” said Winnipeg coach Mike O’Shea, whose team has compiled a 5-1 record on the road, while the Stamps have gone 6-0 at home, including a 36-22 win over the Bombers on July 1. “Home or away, the Stamps are a good football team. I don’t necessarily believe in that, that there’s mystique in your own building.
“They’ve got a pretty good formula right now. They’re playing clean, three-phase football, so it’s going to take us to play a clean, three-phase game against them.”
Rookie Calgary coach Dave Dickenson gave credit to great fan support as to why the Stamps have been so tough to beat at home.
“We do need good fan support,” he said. “We need people to get out here and give us energy and make it loud and make it difficult on the opposing team. When we get that, we’re a tough team to beat.
“Good football teams win games at home. That’s what happens. We’ve been good for a lot of years and we expect that out of our guys. I think all teams obviously protect their house.”
Stamps receiver Marquay McDaniel said he’s had his eye on how well the Bombers have been playing since their woeful 1-4 start.
“They’ve been playing pretty good everywhere they’ve been,” said McDaniel, who hauled in a touchdown pass in each of the two previous games against Winnipeg. “5-1 on the road – that’s a good record, but it’s a little tougher in here with our crowd and how we play. We’ll be ready [on Saturday] for sure.”
Winnipeg defensive back Maurice Leggett believes the Bombers can continue to build upon their new-found belief in themselves against the Stamps this weekend.
“It’s a mental game and we have to go out there and actually play and expect to win and we’ve been doing that these past couple of weeks and we’re expecting to win this game,” said Leggett, who has picked off four passes in his past five games, including a pair of interceptions he returned for touchdowns. “Some of the guys, the veterans that have been here these past couple years, we were tired of going down the same old road.
“The leaders stepped up and you saw in the locker room that the guys you wouldn’t think are leaders, they stepped up as well and we all got together and we just bonded a lot better.”Report Typo/Error