Battle of the Titans

Bombers' running back Charles Roberts is yet again leading the CFL in rushing. The Bombers are one...

Bombers' running back Charles Roberts is yet again leading the CFL in rushing. The Bombers are one of the league's poorest franchises and have gone the longest without winning a Grey Cup. (Sun Media file)

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

It should be a real rush. Or, maybe not.

Not only will tomorrow's Classic feature No. 1 in the East versus No. 1 in the West but a key component of the contest will be the No. 1 defence in the CFL against the run versus the league's top rusher.

The Winnipeg offensive line will face perhaps its toughest challenge thus far when it attempts to open holes for tailback Charles Roberts against a rather stingy Roughriders' front seven when the Blue Bombers play in Saskatchewan tomorrow afternoon.

Led by defensive end Fred Perry, Saskatchewan has held its opponents to a phenomenal 57.3-yard rushing average.

"We've been pretty much stopping the run all year," Perry said in a telephone interview from Regina. "Certainly, we've had more good than bad. But they're a good team so, it's going to be a battle."

The 6-foot-1, 240-pound import has recorded 39 defensive tackles (fifth in the CFL) and five quarterback sacks (tied for sixth) thus far.

"He's doing great," said Bomber offensive tackle Alexandre Gauthier. "He's probably either the most dominant end or in the top two in the CFL. So, it's going to be a tough game but, if we can avoid mental mistakes, we should be all right."

However, Winnipeg offensive tackle Dan Goodspeed will likely see more of Perry than Gauthier will.

"He's one of the best," Goodspeed said. "He's sort of like a hybrid defensive end-linebacker type of guy and you get a lot of looks out of that.

"So, he's really valuable to an organization because he can play so many different spots. So, that's one of the biggest things you have to counter when you're playing Saskatchewan -- along with their speed on defence.

"They've got athletes. They're big in the middle and they've got a lot of athletes on the sides ... They rotate (Perry) around because he can cover some space. His biggest attribute is that he's got a huge motor. He's fast.

"They're No. 1 against the run because they all have high motors, they don't stop moving. They always try to get penetration to get to the tailbacks they've been against. It makes it a big challenge for us, obviously."

Perry gets lots of help from the likes of veteran defensive tackle Scott Schultz and outside linebacker Reggie Hunt.

"They're not the most physical but their strength is their scheme," Gauthier said. "We never know where they're coming from, they have so many different looks. So, that's going to be a mental game."

But the Bombers will employ different schemes of their own.

"We can't attack this team in the standard, basic way," said head coach Doug Berry. "They've demonstrated that they're pretty good at stopping that, so we'll have to be a little bit creative in our gameplan."

Whether the Winnipeg O-line is up to the challenge or not, it should still open up enough space for Roberts to get the 49 yards he needs to become the club's No. 1 rusher of all time.

"I hope he's going to get it and he probably will," Gauthier said. "That's the thing, we have a good running game and a good passing game so, that's going to be tough for Saskatchewan to stop both of them."

But Goodspeed is more concerned with earning two more points in the standings.

"I'd like him to get it, sure. Why not?" he said. "But I want the win so, we can keep the lead in the East."


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