'Streveler the Leveller' proving to be a keeper for first-place Bombers
For an apt description of Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Chris Streveler, we hand the ball off to TSN’s Rod Black, who called Saturday’s Banjo Bowl.
“Streveler the Leveller.”
Now that’s a nickname that should stick.
The description came moments after Streveler made a run for the ages in the Blue Bombers 35-10 crushing of the Saskatchewan Roughriders before a packed house at IG Field.
The fearless quarterback was epitomized by a 21-yard dash in the second quarter, in which he took the ball from the Riders 33-yard-line, down to the 12.
No less than eight Saskatchewan defenders got hands on Streveler before he finally went down. Along the way, he bowled over linebacker Cameron Judge, easily shed the hit of safety Mike Edem, and carried three players — Derrick Moncrief, Makana Henry and Ed Gainey — for extra yards. Others who couldn’t bring him down included defensive tackle Micah Johnson, middle linebacker Solomon Elimimian and cornerback Nick Marshall.
“He runs out of an arm tackle early, then absolutely trucks — runs through a guy — and just keeps on going, right in front of our bench,” Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said. “The excitement it created on our bench was pretty powerful stuff.
“There’s a lot of things that he did very well but there’s that one play where he just refused to go down and I think his teammates really appreciated that.”
On the next play, Streveler ran for another seven tough yards and then threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Petermann.
Streveler has had more productive games in his career, but this was his finest performance.
In a huge game, with first place on the line, with a crowd of 33,134 in the house and the rival Riders providing the opposition, the 24-year-old Streveler stepped up and made things happen.
He executed the game-plan very well to improve to 2-1 as the Bombers starting quarterback this season and helped the team move to 9-3 overall, with a four-point cushion atop the West Division.
He completed 15 of 21 pass attempts for 186 yards and two touchdowns and ran 11 times for 70 yards and two more majors.
While it seems he’s always going to be more known as a runner than a passer — he plays with the mindset and physicality of a running back crossed with a linebacker — Streveler made some very nice throws on Saturday as well.
His best was a 57-yard touchdown toss to running back Johnny Augustine, which came after a brilliant play fake. On the play, Streveler took the snap in the shotgun formation, faked a jet-sweep handoff to receiver Janarion Grant, took a step forward to feign a quarterback draw, then stepped back and fired a strike to Augustine, who took the ball another 31 yards to end zone, diving to the cone over the final three yards.
“We really practiced on that one,” Augustine said. “Me and Chris talked about it a lot, what he wants me to do, how he wants me to attack the field. Practice shows on gameday and that, right there, shows that when you’re prepared, things can be accomplished.”
Streveler’s performance in the first three weeks since No. 1 quarterback Matt Nichols went down with a shoulder injury just might be the seedling of a quarterback controversy in Winnipeg.
He hasn’t always been great — he threw two interceptions in the Labour Day Classic on Sept. 1 in Regina and hasn’t thrown for over 200 yards in any game — but his warrior mentality, unbridled enthusiasm and grit have his teammates fired up.
“He’s great,” defensive end Willie Jefferson said. “You can’t really ask for more out of a backup quarterback.
“Strev doesn’t ever come into the office thinking he’s gonna be a backup. He’s always high energy, talking, in the back of the huddle, going through the plays like he’s gonna be a starter. These last couple weeks when he’s had to step up and be a starter, it was nothing new for him. He’s a great quarterback, great attitude and the last couple weeks he’s been outstanding.”
If and when Nichols returns this season — he’s out until at least mid-October — he’ll almost certainly be back under centre. But if Streveler keeps up what he’s been doing over the next three games, the coaches will have a tough decision.
General manager Kyle Walters will have a tough call at the end of the season too.
He’s not going to be able to keep both Nichols and Streveler, who can both become free agents in February.
In the CFL, you have to have a quarterback who can throw the ball consistently and only one of those two players — Nichols — has proven he can do that.
On the other hand, Streveler is one of the more exciting players in the league and he’ll be just 25 next season, while Nichols will be 33.
There will surely be those who argue that the Bombers can’t let Nichols go, and still win regularly with Streveler, given his skill set.
Others will say the Bombers can’t afford to let the younger quarterback get away.
Someone is going to pay him. You get the sense many fans hope it’s the Bombers.