WINNIPEG — After four games on the road, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will try to put a tough opening start behind them when they finally play their first home game of the season Thursday.
The hometown crowd will give them a much-needed boost but coach Paul LaPolice says that alone isn’t enough for the 0-4 Bombers to beat the 3-1 Edmonton Eskimos.
“I think our whole team feeds off the crowd,” he said Wednesday.
“But certainly this week I want our players to understand . . . just cause now you’re at home doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.
“We’re going to have to play our most complete game of the year to get the win. That’s what I want to see from them.”
In their previous meeting this season Edmonton pummelled the Bombers 42-10.
The Bombers delayed their home opener thinking their new stadium would be finished. It now won’t be ready till next season and there are reports of a lawsuit between the construction companies involved.
But with a sellout crowd expected, the cellar-dwelling Bombers hope for a little momentum to turn around a season that’s 190-degrees away from last year’s start when they seemed unbeatable.
Edmonton meanwhile is riding high, tied for top spot in the West with Saskatchewan, but the Eskimos have their critics as well.
Coach Kavis Reed was quick to dismiss worries his offence isn’t producing as much as it should under quarterback Steven Jyles. Edmonton’s defence has been getting more credit than their offence for their record.
Jyles sits seventh on the CFL passing list and has completed 56 out of 98 throws for an average of 57.1 per cent. Edmonton acquired him this season from Toronto in a trade for Ricky Ray and Jyles also played for Winnipeg in 2010.
“It’s a whole collection of things going into Steven having good statistical games,” Reed said.
“However, as a quarterback, he’s won three games for us and so we have to be mindful of that. That is the only important statistic when we’re looking at it from a team perspective.”
Jyles says the offence is still growing but starting to come together.
“We’re making more big plays every week and we just have to continue to grow. I feel we’re getting more familiar with each other as far as the passing game and our running game is looking great.”
He gave full credit to Hugh Charles for the major contribution he’s made to that running game. Charles sits fifth on the CFL rushing list with 257.
“He reminds me a little of Charles Roberts. . . He’s going to have a great career here in the CFL and I’m glad he’s on my team.”
Charles (Blink) Roberts was the Winnipeg running back who held a long list of team and CFL records.
Winnipeg, meanwhile, has its own quarterback issues, with Buck Pierce sidelined with a foot injury and Alex Brink making his second start of the season against the Eskimos.
His first against Toronto last week was a bit of a flop as he completed only nine of 34 passes and threw two interceptions. But LaPolice says he didn’t have much time to prepare and did enough right to earn a second chance.
Brink says he isn’t letting that game weigh too heavily on him.
“My confidence is high,” he said.
“I’ve played this position a long time. You have good days and you have bad days and you have to flush both of them regardless.”
Winnipeg’s offence also got a much needed confidence boost with the return of running back Chad Simpson and receiver Cory Watson from the injured list.
Jyles removed one little cloud hanging over the game when he said he would be apologizing to Winnipeg defensive back Johnny Sears for calling him a dirty player.
Sears was suspended for a game last year after a helmet-to-helmet hit involving Jyles.
Jyles said Sears plays hard but he isn’t a dirty player and he’ll apologize personally for the remarks.