Stunningly similar

PAUL FRIESEN

, Last Updated: 11:55 AM ET

REGINA -- Milt Stegall and Kevin Glenn made their long-awaited return to the Winnipeg Blue Bomber lineup here last night.

To which we have two things to say: big whup.

As in, a big whupping laid on the Bombers by the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The 40th Labour Day classic was just plain labourious from a Bomber point of view, as the 'Riders won a 39-12 laugher, the Green and White's third straight victory against four consecutive Winnipeg losses.

"They kicked our ass," offensive lineman Mike Abou-Mechrek said, summing things up nicely. "It looks like we just came out of a title fight and they beat us 10-7 in every round."

Actually, the Bombers didn't really finish. This was a TKO.

Tough to digest

Try as they have to explain away the previous three -- all without Stegall and Glenn in the lineup -- they'll have a hard time digesting this one.

The offence was supposed to be Jekyll to the last three weeks' Hyde. Instead, things looked eerily similar, even with Glenn back at the controls.

For starters, Winnipeg was unable to establish anything consistent along the ground. If you can't gain yards with Charles Roberts in your backfield, there's something very wrong.

Just as disturbing -- but not as surprising, since we've seen it for years, now -- there's no receiver apparently willing or able to consistently take the heat off Stegall.

If you're a Bomber quarterback, finding open receivers over the last month has been harder than finding an open restaurant here after 11 p.m. on a Sunday night.

No. 85's mere presence was supposed to change that.

It didn't, as a rusty-looking Glenn completed just eight of 20 passes in the first half, 12-for-29 overall. That, despite being handed glorious field position over and over again.

If Glenn wasn't overcome by leaks in his offensive line -- and there was one virtually every time the 'Riders blitzed -- he was either unable to find anyone open or unable to get the ball to him.

A 50-yard Ken Ploen special -- wobbly but on the money -- to Quentin McCord in the first half was the notable exception.

That led to Winnipeg's only major: a pass to Stegall, of course.

As sporadic as the Bomber offence was on this night, the defence was worse. In fact, you could say the play of the normally dependable dirty dozen was more offensive than that of the offence.

There were plenty of penalties, including major ones to Tom Canada and Kyries Hebert that led to Saskatchewan's first of five touchdowns.

Next Saskatchewan possession, the Bomber defence opened its doors and said, "Come on in," allowing a four-play, 75-yard scoring drive, capped by 'Riders quarterback Kerry Joseph waltzing, untouched, into the end zone.

If you thought that looked easy, you should have seen receiver Corey Grant get behind the defence, which, by this point, was doing anything but defending.

That made it 21-4, 'Riders. So much for taking the crowd out of the game.

If the Bombers had any hope of making it close in the second half, it was dashed in the final minute of the first, when the 'Riders went 71 yards in just 17 seconds for their fourth major.

By the end of the carnage, the Bomber defence was yielding dangerously close to 200 yards along the ground.

I've seen wet toilet paper -- one-ply, no less -- hold up better.

So what we've been saying the last month has come to pass. Losing, even with plausible, ready-made excuses, breeds losing. The next thing you know, you don't believe in yourselves anymore.

Winning even once without Glenn and Stegall, and the opportunities were there, would have taken some of the heat off the Labour Day weekend.

Instead, we're into September, and the Bombers, now 5-6, are falling like oak leaves after an early frost.

If Stegall and Glenn can't save these guys, who can?


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