It was just two months ago when Greg Peterson and I were in the football hotbed of Winnipeg.
Despair only begins to scratch the surface of football fan’s feelings in that city. The team was 1-and-3 entering the game with the Stampeders. Their effort against the Stampeders didn’t earn them any accoldes and they were booed off the field.
The script looked the same for Winnipeg—another season gone by Labour Day.
The two men taking the most heat were the coach and the quarterback. The popular thing to do following the Stampeder loss would have been to fire the coach. That didn’t happen and I am told O’Shea always had the dressing room support.
The other option was to bench the quarterback. Late in the Stampeders game, the Blue Bombers did just that. The expensive, underperforming Drew Willy was yanked in favour of M’att Nichols. They lost the Stampeders game, but haven’t lost since.
Nichols provided an emotional spark, a rallying point, an energy boost that the team was badly lacking previously. On a strict talent basis, incumbent Drew Willy probably is more skilled than Nichols. But Nichols was the right man for the right team at the right time. In fact Nichols was so strong, Willy and his mega-deal were shipped to Toronto.
Nichols is only a part of the Blue Bombers resurgence. The defense has become a group of voracious ballhawks. They lead the league in takeaways with 43 and have picked off 22 passes. By contrast, Winnipeg quarterback have thrown just five interceptions all year. Linebacker Mo Leggatt has returned three interceptions to the end zone, while Ian Wild continues to run all over the field from his linebacking spot.
The Blue Bomber enter their game here as heavy underdogs. However, it is nice to see the great football fans of Winnipeg have something to rally around—after Labour Day.