Bomber Thoughts: Week One, Winnipeg at Saskatchewan

Bomber Thoughts is a blogging series for which Blue Bomber Talk author John Hodge writes new posts immediately following every Blue Bomber game of the season.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers won their first game of the 2015 CFL regular season against the Saskatchewan Roughriders by a final score of 30-26. Here are my thoughts.

1. The streak is over. Enough said.

2. Drew Willy was outstanding on Saturday night, going 22/25 for 325 yards and tossing three touchdowns en route to a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3. I’ve been tough on Willy since his first late game meltdown versus Saskatchewan last season, but he did everything one could expect from a starting quarterback in Regina. Kudos to him.

3. Paris ‘The Ghost’ Cotton recorded 108 yards on thirteen carries along with four receptions for fifty-nine yards and a touchdown. With three 100-yard performances in just five career starts, Cotton appears primed for CFL stardom.

4. Speaking of the Bomber rushing game, how great was the offensive line versus Saskatchewan? There were a few hiccups – Stanley Bryant’s first quarter whiff on John Chick comes to mind – but it was still an excellent performance overall. Anytime an offensive line can allow a running back to notch a hundred-yard rushing performance and allow just one sack, you usually win.

5. The Bomber run defence will get torched by pundits around the league for giving up 202 yards (as it should), but Bomber fans can take solace in the fact that 132 of these yards came on just three carries. Excluding these runs, Saskatchewan was held to just five yards per rushing attempt. Now the question becomes whether or not the Bombers can limit big plays against Hamilton next week.

6. For a game in which many national players were invisible – Julian Feoli-Gudino and Kris Bastien failed to register a reception, while Sam Hurl and Jamaal Westerman struggled on defence – rookie Garrett Waggoner was outstanding on special teams. His hit on Nic Demski on the opening kick-off was tremendous and Waggoner continued to be around the ball all night.

7. Speaking of Jamaal Westerman, the former New York Jet learned tonight that the CFL isn’t a cakewalk. Westerman got some decent upfield pressure working against Xavier Fulton on throwing downs, but was manhandled at the point of attack on rushing plays. With Fulton being the best competition Westerman will face this year, hopefully the CFL rookie can make some adjustments in the coming weeks.

8. As Gord Barnsley pointed out via twitter, is going to be extremely entertaining this week. Give Gord a follow if you haven’t already (@WinnipegGordo).

9. Nic Demski went down with a shoulder injury after an impressive carry in the second half and is expected to miss some time. I’m guessing Brendan Taman wishes he still had Alex Pierzchalski on the roster.

10. Speaking of Demski, I believe his botched kick return in the second quarter should have been ruled a safety. The CFL rulebook allows for players whose momentum is carrying them out of bounds to do so in the end zone without being charged with a safety. This, however, wasn’t what happened on the Demski return. Demski’s momentum was carrying him out of bounds at the two-yard line when he stepped into the end zone to avoid his offence being stuck with terrible field position. I’d like to see Glenn Johnson make a statement this week about the play to avoid confusion in the future.

11. Nick Moore had an excellent 2015 debut, recording six receptions for ninety-four yards and his first touchdown as a Blue Bomber. I thought Moore received a little too much criticism for his play last year as, in a season that saw passing totals decline, he still managed to put up sixty-two yards per start. By contrast, Saskatchewan’s Weston Dressler – who makes more money than Moore, by the way – had just thirty-two yards receiving per game.

12. For all the people out there suggesting the Bombers need a 300-pound nose tackle to help against the run, please know that Zach Anderson is 295 pounds. Doug Brown’s playing weight was only 290. Obviously, there’s a lot more than just size to the equation.

13. It’s about time the Bombers were able to get two international running backs on the roster. Cotton chewed up a ton of yardage in the third quarter and gave way to Cameron Marshall for a few red zone snaps due to fatigue. With the ’Rider defence bagged, Marshall’s fresh legs allowed him to dominate. Saskatchewan also used the two-back system effectively with Messam and Allen. Hopefully, Winnipeg can continue to dress both Cotton and Marshall down the stretch.

14. Though I didn’t see them myself, many people on twitter complained that TSN’s highlights following the game showed all three Saskatchewan touchdowns and just one Winnipeg score. TSN also failed to mention the end of Saskatchewan’s home winning streak versus Winnipeg, focusing instead on Darian Durant’s injury. I was disappointed to hear this as, outside of Ben Heenan’s marathon in-booth interview, I thought tonight’s coverage was relatively unbiased. For more on this, check out my post from last night.

15. Speaking of Durant’s injury, it’s really too bad that he appears to be out for the year after rehabbing so extensively to come back from his elbow injury last season. That’s some rotten luck.

16. With two carries on the night, Bomber fullback Michel-Pierre Pontbriand doubled his career carry total. Seriously.

17. Not to pick on Kevin Glenn, but I think the play of guys like Drew Tate and Trevor Harris means it’s no longer apt to call him the “CFL’s best insurance policy.” Most used insurance policy? Sure. Best? Not so much.

18. The Bombers are tied for first in the West Division with a perfect record at 1-0. It’s obviously very early in the regular season, but with injuries to Mike Reilly and Darian Durant, a playoff berth suddenly doesn’t seem nearly as daunting for the blue and gold as it did a week ago.

John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk

Twitter: @BlueBomberTalk

Email: [email protected]

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.