Keith Stokes finally gets to play a little offence and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers point getters go on a tear. Coincidence? Probably not.
Winnipeg's special teams star caught five passes for 100 yards in just two-plus quarters of action yesterday during Winnipeg's 27-24 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He had to leave the game midway through the third quarter because of a sprained left ankle.
"It felt real good," Stokes said of his performance. "I probably could've played if I had to, but there was no need for me risking it."
No big deal. The spark he provided -- Winnipeg's 426 yards of offence were the most since opening day -- was more than enough.
Stokes was able to line up in the backfield with Charles Roberts and catch some balls because of Markus Howell's broken hand. Since the non-import Howell wasn't playing his usual cornerback position, the Bombers could afford to appoint backup defensive backs Stephen Fisher and Markese Fitzgerald as their designated imports.
CFL rules dictate that designated imports can only replace imports. Since there were no non-imports playing cornerback or halfback -- and the players coming out for Fisher and Fitzgerald were import linebackers and defensive linemen -- Stokes was finally able to get in on the offensive action.
Saskatchewan didn't appear ready for him, as Stokes often found himself being covered by linebackers. His 50-yard reception in the third quarter, which set up Roberts' 20-yard touchdown run, came against Jackie Mitchell.
"I'm not taking anything away from Jackie out there. He's a great player," Stokes said. "But I feel I have an advantage against the linebackers. Teams really can't stack the box anymore if I'm in there. Those linebackers are kind of confused.
"Teams are in a lose-lose situation."
Stokes wasn't a DI for the first three games of the season, but he wasn't used much at all on offence. Winnipeg head coach Jim Daley might be reluctant to put the DI tag back on the 5-foot-8 speedster, who now has 12 catches for 210 yards this season.
"It's a tremendous advantage to have (Stokes and Roberts) both in there, so we were very fortunate to have that situation," Daley said. "Can we keep it? I hope so."
THE REST OF THE STORY: Rookie Bombers WR Derrick Smith also had five catches for a season-high 100 yards ... SB Milt Stegall had Winnipeg's other touchdown when he scooped up a Roberts fumble on the one-yard line and carried it over the goal-line in the first quarter ... QB Henry Burris hit Travis Moore with a five-yard toss in the first quarter for Saskatchewan's lone touchdown ... Bombers K Troy Westwood had a 33-yard field goal and a single on a missed 42-yarder ... Thanks to Winnipeg's Banjo Bowl win, the National Post will donate $10,000 to the United Way in Manitoba.