Returns haunt Blue

Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown says this is a statement game for his team, which needs to see...

Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown says this is a statement game for his team, which needs to see how it responds to playing a road game after losing at home. (Winnipeg Sun files)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:57 PM ET

HAMILTON, Ont. — Shawn Gallant feels bad for Safeway.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers special teamer is sure the suits at the grocery store chain are sweating bullets these days, what with six kick-return touchdowns through eight games this CFL season.

Safeway has a promotion called Touchdown to Win, where one of their customers can collect $1 million if a player returns two kickoffs for majors in one game.

The way the Bombers are giving up return scores this season (three in two games), it makes you wonder if all the players have Sobey’s stock.

“Every team is returning a touchdown every game,” Gallant said Thursday at hot and sticky Ivor Wynne Stadium. “Safeway’s probably taking out extra insurance right now. It’s pretty bad. I’m hoping we can help Safeway out a little bit.”

The Bombers (1-1) have allowed touchdowns on a kickoff and two missed field goals through two games, including two returns by Hamilton Tiger-Cats returner Marcus Thigpen in Week 1. They will attempt to stop their nasty streak on Friday night when they take on the Ticats (0-2) at Ivor Wynne (6 p.m., TSN).

Both teams enter the contest coming off losses, but Hamilton’s situation is more dire. Many pundits picked the Ticats to challenge the Montreal Alouettes for East Division supremacy this season, but right now the only standards they’re chasing are their own futility marks of recent seasons.

Ratcheting up the pressure even more are road games in the next two weeks against Montreal and Saskatchewan. So a win would be nice.

“The longer you go without doing it,” Ticats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille said, “the more important it becomes.”

The Bombers thumped the Ticats 49-29 in the season-opener on July 2 at Canad Inns Stadium, so they have a glorious opportunity to put a squeeze on their East Division rival early in the campaign.

The teams have a home-and-home on Aug. 7 (in Hamilton) and Aug. 13 to conclude their four-game set, so the Bombers could secure no worse than a tie in the season series with a victory on Friday.

“If we get this one, it puts them against the wall,” Gallant said. “Then they gotta win the next two and win the point margin. If we can win this game, that puts us in a great situation, because that buys you another game pretty much.

“That’s definitely on our minds. It’s on their mind, too. Even though it’s the third game of the season, this is like almost a late-season game.”

Defensive tackle Doug Brown isn’t thinking that far ahead just yet. All he wants to see is the Bombers bounce back from last week’s 36-34 home loss to the Argos.

“We need to respond from how we played last week and determine which one is our identity, Week 1 or Week 2,” Brown said. “It’s more of a statement game for us than anything. It’s our first road game and we’re coming off a loss, so we need to see how we respond.

“They’re winless right now, and if we don’t raise our tempo and our energy and our expectations from where they were last week, then we’re going to be in trouble out here.”

Ticats quarterback Kevin Glenn, who has a 4-5 record as the Ticats starter, believes there’s no reason for the Tabbies to panic and plenty of motivation for Friday night.

“We’re headed in the right direction,” the former Bomber said. “The last time we played these guys they got a win, and we want to get some revenge.”

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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