It was pop quiz time in the Bomber locker-room yesterday, and slotback Milt Stegall didn't earn a passing grade.
The question was this: Can you name the three starting linebackers for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who are the heart of arguably the best defence in the CFL?
"Yeah," Stegall said, somewhat confidently. "(Maurice) Lloyd ... uh ... who's number 42? Anton. Anton. I forgot his last name. I know he's number 42."
"Anton McKenzie," Stegall continued. "Thirty-one is ... I know him, I just can't remember the name."
That right there tells you the anonymity in which Saskatchewan's terrorizing trio lives. McKenzie and Lucas shared the CFL lead with 47 tackles going into this weekend's action, while some believe Lloyd, the middle linebacker, is the best defensive player in the league right now.
"We don't have the most sacks or we don't have the most this or that, but we're leading in points allowed and we're leading in total defence," Riders defensive tackle Scott Schultz said. "It's one of those things where that's what's going to get us back to the Grey Cup."
Stegall said the addition of running back Joe Smith could help Winnipeg neutralize Saskatchewan's quick but somewhat undersized linebackers this afternoon.
"Hopefully we can go against their weakness, which is having a bigger back," he said. "We're gonna try to expose that this week."
TOUGH TASK AHEAD: Sweeping a home-and-home series is one of the most difficult things to accomplish in the CFL.
The Riders, who beat the Bombers 19-6 last Sunday, have swept only three of 17 home-and-home sets since 2000. The Bombers, meanwhile, have done it only twice in 14 attempts during the same span.
The Banjo Bowl atmosphere will make it doubly tough for Saskatchewan to pull to pull it off today, according to Schultz.
"You come over here, and the fans are just as rowdy, just as crazy as Labour Day," he said. "They're hungry. They're hungry for this team to start doing well, so everything's set up for that to happen.
"It's basically one of their biggest games of the year, so we have to come out and throw the first punch, try to knock them on their heels a little bit so we can try to take the crowd out of it."
LATE HITS: The Riders enjoyed decent success against Smith when he was with the B.C. Lions. Smith, who hasn't played since July 31, has 313 rushing yards in five career starts against Gang Green, including a paltry 27 yards on 13 carries on July 4 ... Defensive end John Chick will return to Saskatchewan's lineup today after missing five games with a knee injury ... The Bombers have won three of the four Banjo Bowls, including two straight. The team that wins today will have $10,000 donated to its province's United Way ... Today's game will be Winnipeg's first regular-season sellout, with all 29,533 tickets sold.