Time for true test

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:57 PM ET

What’s the true identity of your Winnipeg Blue Bombers?

We may find out Friday night.

They say a football team doesn’t discover its true self until it hits the road, where adversity isn’t softened by a familiar bed, home cooking and 25,000 fans behind it.

On the road, a player’s routine is thrown out of whack, and for a rookie-laden lineup like the Bombers’, it can be quite a wake-up call.

So can the crazies at Ivor Wynne Stadium, long known as the rudest, crudest bunch in the CFL.

So how will head coach Paul LaPolice’s rookies react when things don’t go their way, at the same time a few thousand loonies in the stands are questioning their heritage?

Some CFL newbies aren’t fazed by it. They simply go about their business.

Others get wide-eyed and more than just a little frazzled.

Maybe the fact one of Winnipeg’s pre-season games was at Ivor Wynne will help.

Then again, a getting-more-desperate-by-the-minute Kevin Glenn and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats promise to let it all hang out, Friday.

So here are some of the things we’ll be looking for as Coach LaPo’s Bombers continue to evolve into whatever it is they’ll be by the end of 2010.

Is Buck Pierce due to come back to earth?

Let’s face it, the guy’s played out-of-this-world through two games, with the CFL’s top passer rating (an astronomical 126.9) and an eye-popping 192 yards along the ground, with a ridiculous 14.8-yard average per carry.

Pierce is due for a so-so game, statistically. Which doesn’t mean the Bombers have to lose, of course (see next point).

Will the real Bomber defence please stand up?

Statistically, this group is fine, leading the loop in a slew of categories through two weeks, including yards allowed per game (261.5).

Winnipeg’s dirty dozen has held opposing quarterbacks to a completion rate of just 53.4%, too, by far the CFL’s best mark.

But it couldn’t stop Argos rookie Cleo Lemon and the Toronto ground game when it mattered most at home last week, allowing a winnable game to slip away.

A return to Week 1 form against the same offence it clobbered would be a sight for the sore eyes of a certain special teams coach.

Is it time to begin the Kyle Walters watch?

OK, that’s probably a little premature.

But if the Ticats return another kick to the house this week, I wouldn’t want to be the Bombers’ rookie special teams co-ordinator.

The heat is on Walters, whose resume doesn’t exactly scream “special teams guru.”

Hey, we love the fact Coach LaPo dipped into the Canadian college ranks to find an assistant.

But it could be the boss gave the new guy a tad too much responsibility this early in his pro career.

Alexis under fire

If another missed field goal return goes all the way for the Tabbies, kicker Alexis Serna might want to start checking over his shoulder, too. Five-for-nine doesn’t cut it, even if you’re on your second long snapper of the season.

Another miss or two and we wouldn’t be surprised if the Winnipeg kicker controversy rears its ugly head again, complete with a head to head “kick-off” in practice, a la Doug Berry and Troy Westwood a few years ago.

No happy returns

The Bomber return game has been largely MIA, too, so far. I mean, a 12.7-yard average on kickoff returns for rookie Terence Jeffers-Harris? That’s a nice punt return average. It’s embarrassing on KO’s.

I seem to recall Markus Howell taking a kickoff all the way in his first stint in Blue and Gold (that’s a hint, coach).

So there’s five areas worth watching as the Bombers hit the road for the first time.

As intriguing as this team has been through two weeks at home, I’m guessing the real story is just beginning.


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