Bombers look for rare win against Stampeders in home opener

Matt Nichols gave a little grin after he was reminded about something Bo Levi Mitchell said the last time the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Calgary Stampeders clashed.

It was last September in Calgary, and Mitchell’s Stampeders were ahead 27-7 at halftime. The quarterback told a sideline TV reporter at the break that his team was “showing them who they are right now and we’re going to keep showing them.”

The Bombers picked themselves up in the second half, but kicker Rene Paredes booted a 52-yard field goal as time expired to give Calgary a 36-34 victory that halted Winnipeg’s seven-game win streak.

On the eve of Winnipeg’s CFL home-opener Friday against Calgary, Nichols said he and Mitchell – Eastern Washington alumni and long-time friends – talked about Mitchell’s halftime jab, but he was keeping the conversation private.

“I know Bo and he’s just a very confident guy,” Nichols said Thursday after Winnipeg’s walk-through.

“I’ve tried to almost take a little bit of that from his personality because I think that’s something that gives him an edge and he’s an extreme competitor. He’s just a guy that seems like he never plays a bad game and so you know what to expect from him.”

Mitchell recalled Nichols mentioned the comment to him in the off-season.

“It is what it is. I don’t regret saying it one bit,” Mitchell said. “It has nothing to do with the way we played in the second half. We just didn’t play well when it came to the third quarter.

“When it came down to it, we got the job done and that’s what matters.”

Nichols said trash talking doesn’t fuel him and the failed comeback attempt showed him one important thing.

“The main thing we can take from it was things could have been different if we would have started a little bit different in the first half,” Nichols said. “That’s something that’s a goal of ours, especially as an offence, is to be better in the first quarter and play four complete quarters.”

The Bombers (1-0) were down 17-3 in the first half of last weekend’s 43-40 overtime win against Saskatchewan. Justin Medlock booted a 28-yard field goal for the victory, giving him a new career field-goal streak of 23.

The Stampeders (1-0-1) edged Ottawa 43-39 last week, following up a season-opening 31-31 tie with the Redblacks.

“We’re playing a western team, which I know is going to be a big challenge,” Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson said.

But history shows Calgary almost always rises up against Winnipeg – at home or away.

The Stampeders have won 16 of the last 17 games against the Bombers, including the last six in a row since 2015. Winnipeg did defeat the Stamps in Calgary in November 2014, but haven’t beat them at home since July 10, 2009.

Calgary has seven changes to its roster from last week, while Winnipeg has one with injured defensive back/kick returner Kevin Fogg being replaced by Brian Walker. Receiver Ryan Lankford will return kickoffs and punts.

The Stampeders’ injuries are on both sides of the ball, including another defensive lineman, end Charleston Hughes.

“You look at other teams, one guy off, one guy on,” Dickenson said. “In the last two weeks, we’ve had seven and eight guys on and off. It is what it is.

“Hate to get beat up early in the season, though, because you know it’s going to happen later on. We’re fighting it a little bit.”

Bombers receiver Julian Feoli-Gudino, whose touchdown catch in last September’s loss to the Stamps tied the game with 20 seconds left, said that game is in the past for him.

“It’s 2017, it’s a completely different year,” he said. “We’re a different team, they’re a different team. A lot of things happened after that game for both teams.”