It's ugly in Steeltown

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

HAMILTON -- The situation in Steeltown is not pretty these days.

On the front page of yesterday's Hamilton Spectator was a big picture of Tiger-Cats punt returner Hugh Smith. The photo was plugging a column in the sports section about which players the team should release.

It wasn't a general "start making changes" kind of column. It was: "Cut this guy and this guy and this guy." Included in the group were running back Troy Davis, last year's CFL rushing king, and slotback Craig Yeast, who leads the team in receiving.

If you were wondering what the ugly side of being 0-8 is, that's it.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, however, don't plan on having any sympathy for the hosts tonight when they take on the Ticats at Ivor Wynne Stadium (6 p.m., TSN/CJOB).

TWO STRAIGHT

The Bombers (3-6) have won two straight and will be tied for third place in the West Division with the Calgary Stampeders (4-5) if they win tonight.

Also in sight are the second-place Edmonton Eskimos (5-3), who host the Montreal Alouettes later tonight.

Winnipeg blasted Hamilton 44-14 two weeks ago at Canad Inns Stadium, but the Blue and Gold are very aware of what a winless team can do.

"Hamilton is hungry," Bombers slotback Milt Stegall said yesterday at the team's downtown hotel. "Like I say, sometimes a wounded dog is worse than a healthy dog, because a wounded dog will do whatever it takes not to get beat, not to lose.

"So we better go out thinking that."

The Tiger-Cats are getting an old but crafty dog back tonight in 40-year-old starting quarterback Danny McManus, who missed three straight starts with a right thumb injury.

McManus admitted the situation is rough right now, but he's not about to give up.

"The playoffs are still not out of the picture," said McManus, who will be backed up by Khari Jones. "We gotta catch either Montreal or Calgary or Winnipeg (for the crossover). Those are the teams we're looking at."

Hamilton head coach Greg Marshall said he knows what's wrong his team, but he wouldn't go on the record about it yesterday.

"Fixing it and turning it around isn't just me wiggling my nose and saying, 'Yeah, it's going to happen.' There is no quick fix," Marshall said. "If that was the case, Saskatchewan would fix their problems right now. We'd fix our problems right now."

Marshall, however, believes McManus' return tonight could be key.

"With the defence that Winnipeg plays ... he gives us the best chance to win," he said.

And that has Bombers head coach Jim Daley more focused than ever.

"Hamilton is not going to be 0-18," Daley said. "... We have to understand we're coming into a hornets nest and we have to play great football (tonight) to have a chance of success."

Because of injuries, the Bombers will go into battle without veteran defensive tackle Doug Brown and slotback/kick returner Keith Stokes, who two weeks ago lit up the Ticats for 276 all-purpose yards.

Bombers quarterback Kevin Glenn said the loss of a key player may have hurt the team in the first few weeks of the season, but its new-found confidence means it can take a hit or two and not miss a beat.

Glenn probably is brimming with more confidence than anyone, having completed 38 of 55 passes for 731 yards, six touchdowns and just two picks in his last two games.

"It's very important to keep it going," Glenn said of his stats, "because you want wins. And that's the only way you're going to get wins."


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