WINNIPEG — Michael Bishop did more than help the Winnipeg Blue Bombers get a rare win last week.
The quarterback emerged as a visible leader in the club’s 29-24 home victory over the Toronto Argonauts and boosted his teammates’ confidence.
“He’s become the leader of the football team, taking command, and it’s helping us out right now,” Bombers running back Fred Reid said Thursday. “That’s what we need — a leader at quarterback.”
Winnipeg (4-8) hosts the Edmonton Eskimos (6-6) on Friday night (TSN, 7:30 ET).
A Winnipeg win would mark the first time this CFL season the Bombers have put up back-to-back victories.
Bishop guided the offence to a 29-9 third-quarter lead against Toronto. After a fourth-quarter, bench-clearing brawl, he took centre stage in a team huddle and spoke passionately about the need for everyone to settle down and get the win.
“It felt like there was a different disposition from Bishop and probably the whole group offensively,” Bombers receiver Brock Ralph said of the win, which snapped his team’s three-game losing streak. “That probably comes with the fact that we were having some success. ”
“When we were in that funk for those weeks, we needed to have a big quarter, a big half, to prove to ourselves and gain that confidence. Hopefully, that’s what that game did for us, in getting us started here on good things.”
An unemployed Bishop was parachuted into Winnipeg in late July after starting quarterback Stefan LeFors struggled and the squad sat at 1-3.
Bishop, 33, notched his first victory after only a few days of practice, but then the team only won one of its next six and fingers were pointed at Bishop as a big part of the problem.
The eight-year CFL veteran —who had prior stints with Toronto and Saskatchewan — said he had confidence when he joined the Bombers, but he kind of let leaders like defensive lineman Doug Brown and linebacker Barrin Simpson be in charge.
“It finally came to a point where I needed to say some things,” said Bishop who had 312 yards passing and two TDs against Toronto and no interceptions.
“I didn’t feel that the time was right earlier, but last week was a good opportunity for me . . . I stepped up and did what I needed to do and I think everybody followed along. ”
“A lot of people said that they didn’t have anybody that would step up like that on the offensive side of the ball. So I guess it’s new for the team, but for me it’s just another part of being a quarterback.”
Friday’s game may provide Bishop and his offence with another chance to shine.
Edmonton is coming off a 23-20 loss to Saskatchewan and injuries have forced them to make six changes on defence. Four new starters are expected, including former Bomber defensive tackle Jerome Haywood, who was recently signed to replace Dario Romero after he tore his bicep and is sidelined the rest of the season.
Defensive tackle Xzavie Jackson will also start in place of Eric Taylor. The secondary features new halfback Randee Drew and cornerback Byron Parker, who was acquired in a trade with Toronto this week.