Bishop, Bombers need to keep boo-birds at bay

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

They're baaaack.

Three weeks after the most offensive home game in recent Winnipeg Blue Bomber history, the team that had fans sarcastically cheering first downs returns to the scene of the crime tonight.

In tow, a new quarterback about to play his first game, as a Bomber, in front of Winnipeg fans, a restless bunch that last time booed the starter off the field -- literally.

You may recall how Stefan LeFors got the Bronx cheer back on July 24, against Toronto, when it was announced someone had won his autographed jersey -- after he'd been pulled from the game.

"I heard about it," Michael Bishop, the new man behind centre, was saying yesterday. "I will always respect the fans and their opinions. At the same time, sometimes they can be tough. As a quarterback, you never want to have that feeling.

"But regardless of where you go, there's always going to be somebody that's going to boo you, maybe even throw something at you during a game."

Bishop says that actually happened to him in college, once.

He's taken plenty of heat over his CFL career, too, driving coaches and fans crazy with his inconsistent play: flashes of brilliance, followed by mistakes.

So he can handle whatever Winnipeggers throw at him, figuratively speaking.

The question is, what's Bishop going to throw at the Montreal Alouettes?

Let's face it, Bomber fans desperately hope he's the saviour for what's been ailing this condemned offence.

But a repeat of the same two-and-out sin the Bombers committed, repeatedly, in that 19-5 loss to Toronto could bring out the devil in the faithful, early.

"Hopefully, we don't have to go down that road again," O-lineman Brendon LaBatte said. "Hopefully, we don't give them a reason."

Right off the bat, especially.

Bishop and LaBatte say that first offensive series is crucial, not only to give the fans some hope, but get themselves off on the right, uh, arm.

"We've got to get at least one first down, for sure," LaBatte said. "Ideally, you want seven (points). But we need to show we can run the ball, complete a couple passes, hopefully build some momentum off that."

There's nothing like points to make your point, though.

"If we come out there first series," Bishop said, "and move the ball down the field, and get some kind of points, the crowd's going to be ready and battle with us, through the good and bad times."

Maybe the rifled-armed, 33-year-old will get some slack from the stands, given his newness.

Head coach Mike Kelly, I'm not so sure.

From where I sat three weeks ago, Kelly took as much of the heat as his quarterback.

Not that he worries about it.

"They're going to do whatever they do," Kelly said. "Hopefully, we'll be playing well enough that their reaction will be positive. That's all I can handle."

Obviously, he could handle his offence picking right up where it left off in the second half against Calgary a week ago, too.

"What would show progress probably would be that we came out of the locker-room right from the get-go, and played like we did in the second half," Kelly said.

We'll finish with a bomb from Bishop: a prediction that this offence, the same offence, minus the quarterback, that managed five points against the Argos three weeks ago, can put up 30 against the Alouettes.

"We have the ability to put up 30 points," Bishop said. "I have all the faith in everything we did this week, the game plan -- there's an opportunity to at least put 25-30 points on the board. If we hit on all cylinders, that's what I'm expecting."

Not even an impatient Bomber fan would boo that.

As long as Montreal doesn't score the first 40.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.


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