Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros (8) throws against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during first half CFL action in Winnipeg on August 5, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Bombers QB Collaros ready to run against former team Toronto in Week 2 CFL action

Bombers QB Collaros ready to run against former team Toronto in Week 2 CFL action

WINNIPEG — Zach Collaros received cheers for more than the two touchdown passes he threw last week in Winnipeg’s victory over Hamilton.

Fans also liked it when the Blue Bombers quarterback scrambled for an 18-yard gain that ended with a first down and, more importantly, a safe slide.

Wanting Collaros to be untouched partly harkens back to when he was traded to Winnipeg from Toronto in 2019, with concerns about his past head injuries following him.

As Collaros prepared for Friday’s game against the Argonauts (1-0), he said he has no worries about his health — or extending plays with his feet.

“It’s not something that I think about, obviously, going into a game,” Collaros said Thursday as the Bombers (1-0) wrapped up preparations at IG Field.

“Maybe in the off-season that would be a discussion, if and when that time comes to stop playing football. But I wouldn’t be playing if I thought about things like that often. When you’re out there, you’re really just kind of in that moment.”

In the 19-6 victory over the Ticats, Collaros completed 18-of-28 pass attempts for 217 yards, including a pair of TD passes to Kenny Lawler. He also ran three times for 23 yards.

Toronto linebacker Henoc Muamba wasn’t surprised by how Collaros managed the game well through the air and along the ground.

“Zach is a guy that he’s going to try to make a play happen,” Muamba said. “He’s never going to just go down because he feels like the pocket is collapsing. If he sees a crease, he’s going to find it.

“And when he gets out, even when you think you’ve got him, you’ve got to make sure you get him. He’s a very slippery quarterback outside of the pocket and we know that about him very well.”

Winnipeg’s offence will be missing star running back Andrew Harris and veteran wide receiver Darvin Adams for a second straight game, but that opens the door for others to shine.

Running back Brady Oliveria gets a chance for an encore in front of his hometown fans. In his first pro start at tailback against the Ticats, he rushed 22 times for 126 yards, making him only the fifth Bombers Canadian running back to run for more than 100 yards in a game.

“I was impressed by him,” Toronto rookie head coach Ryan Dinwiddie said of Oliveira. “He ran the ball downhill. Really good back.”

Dinwiddie said quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson earned a second straight start, but Nick Arbuckle (hamstring) would be available on the sidelines if he’s needed.

Bethel-Thompson said he’s ready to continue auditioning for the starting job.

“If you’re not auditioning to be your best on every play, you shouldn’t be out there,” he said. “Every throw in practice, every rep in practice, every rep in a game, it’s your resume. I’m happy to be on the hot seat and put my best foot forward.”

Bethel-Thompson leads the league in passing after Week 1, when he was 26-of-37 for 354 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions against Calgary.

The Argonauts may catch a break with some injuries in Winnipeg’s defence.

Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said star defensive end Willie Jefferson is questionable to play and tackle Steven Richardson is injured after his strong performance last week.

Winnipeg will field three rookies in the secondary, one more than last week. DeAundre Alford and Deatrick Nichols are back, while Josh Miller replaces injured Josh Johnson.

“If they’re in our building we know we can put them out there and they can help us win football games,” O’Shea said about the team’s replacements. “Always excited for young guys and their opportunities.”

The Bombers are also without receiver Janarion Grant and linebacker Jontrell Roquemore. Toronto has three players from last week’s game sitting this one out: LB Jack Cassar, DB Robertson Daniel and DL Shane Ray.

TORONTO (1-0) AT WINNIPEG (1-0)

Friday, IG Field

SPECIAL TARGET – Bombers fullback Mike Miller needs three special teams tackles to tie former B.C. Lion Jason Arakgi (190) for the all-time CFL career record.

DYNAMITE DEFENCE – In last week’s 19-6 win over Hamilton, the Bombers didn’t allow the Tiger-Cats a single opportunity in the red zone (between the 20-yard line and goal line) throughout the entire game, and the Ticats only ran one play in the second half that was in Winnipeg’s half of the field.

RARE START – If the Argonauts defeat the Bombers Friday, it would be the first time a Toronto team has ever opened a season with two road wins.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2021.

Judy Owen, The Canadian Press

CFL