BOMBSHELLS: Something has to give as Bombers and Ticats look to end long Grey Cup droughts
REGINA — For all the excitement the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were feeling Sunday after winning a thrilling West final over the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they woke up Monday to the realization that a daunting task is still ahead.
The Bombers will face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Grey Cup Sunday at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.
Those would be the Tiger-Cats that went 15-3 in the regular season, beat the Bombers twice, and destroyed the Edmonton Eskimos in Sunday’s East final.
With the league’s best player this season in receiver Brandon Banks, another dangerous weapon in receiver Bralon Addison and an emerging star quarterback in Dane Evans, the Ticats are an elite team that will be very difficult to beat.
“What were they, 15-3?” Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said. “That’s their record for a reason. They got us twice this year.
“We got two wins that we needed and we have a lot of work left to do. Hamilton is a very good football team and we’ve got to make sure we stick to our process and preparation, try to avoid all the noise a Grey Cup brings and think about this as just a football game, which is tough to do.”
The Bombers lost 23-15 to the Tiger-Cats in late July in Hamilton and were hammered 33-13 at home in late September.
Winnipeg has not played Hamilton in the Grey Cup since 1984 when the Bombers won 47-17.
Both teams are looking to end long Grey Cup droughts, with the Ticats not winning since 1999 and the Bombers since 1990.
Something has to give on Sunday.
NO INDOOR PRACTICE
The CFL’s Grey Cup schedule calls for practices this week in Calgary to be held either at McMahon Stadium or indoors at Calgary Foothills Soccer Club.
Temperatures are expected to be above 0 C all week but even if it were minus-20, O’Shea would not shield his team from the conditions.
“We will be outside,” he said. “We do not go indoors.”
The Bombers will travel to Calgary on Tuesday afternoon and will begin practising on Wednesday in the Grey Cup city.
MEDLOCK ON MONEY
Bombers kicker Justin Medlock has now made 20 consecutive field-goal attempts, including all eight that he has tried in the playoffs.
The last time he missed a field goal was on Sept. 27, in a loss to the Ticats.
One of the all-time greats, Medlock has been at his best lately, even though he’s had to switch holders a couple times this season and has had three different long snappers.
“I feel like I’ve been in a groove the whole year,” Medlock said.
“It’s been full of changes. Any kicker will tell you, you’re changing holders, you’re changing long-snappers, it’s gonna mess with you. I just keep going, just keep trusting the process.”
Medlock, who also does a great job punting for the Bombers, is headed to the Grey Cup for just the second time in his career and is looking for his first championship.
“I’ve been here for four years and we’ve come close but we’ve never been able to get past roadblocks,” Medlock said. “Just to bring a Cup to Winnipeg would be great.
“The great thing about it is I played in Hamilton. They haven’t won a Grey Cup in a while and we haven’t won one in a while so somebody’s gonna bring it home. Hopefully, it’s us.”
Quarterback Zach Collaros has seemingly found great chemistry very quickly with the Blue Bombers receivers, a group that largely underachieved during the regular season.
Suddenly Collaros and the Bombers are throwing deep with regularity.
In the West final he found Darvin Adams four times for 93 yards, hit Nic Demski five times for 72 yards, connected twice with Drew Wolitarsky for 44 yards and threw to Kenny Lawler three times for 40 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown deep in the end zone.
“It’s easy because they’re an easy group to work with,” said Collaros, who has started just three games with the Bombers, including two in the playoffs.
“They’re a great mix of veterans and younger guys. They all understand the situation and any time I’ve asked them to get an extra rep or something, they’ve been more than willing to do that. It helps that I’ve been in a couple of systems and I have some familiarity with how the specific concept is supposed to be run. It’s just different guys doing it.”
LOVE FROM GERMANY
At the beginning of this year, Thiadric Hansen was driving a school bus in Germany and had barely heard of something called the Canadian Football League.
Just eight months later he’s going to the Grey Cup.
Hansen has been a great success story from CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s CFL 2.0 initiative.
He made the Bombers as a token global player but has been a regular contributor on special teams and on the defensive line.
He can barely believe it’s all real.
“It’s amazing, I’m literally speechless,” Hansen said Sunday in the jubilant Bombers’ locker-room.
“It’s crazy. Who would have thought that we’d go all the way to the Grey Cup in my first season?
“Especially after a game like this where the defence held it in the last seconds, we stood strong. All my feelings are overwhelming me a little bit. But it’s great. I’m getting a lot of love from back in Germany.”
Hansen said the frenetic final few minutes of Sunday’s game, during which the Bombers made two goal-line stands, will stick with him forever.
“I was on the field and I don’t remember anything,” he said. “We were just going. The stadium in Saskatchewan is crazy and it was just an incredible moment all in all.”