Honeymoon's over, Blue

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:32 PM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers find themselves in a situation where the glass is either half full or half empty.

Considering it’s been 20 years since the team won a Grey Cup, you can bet the frustrated fan base is looking at the second scenario as the Paul LaPolice honeymoon begins to come to an end — if it isn’t over already.

The optimists will point out that the Bombers (2-4) were within seven points in three of their four losses.

They lost by seven on Saturday night, 29-22 to the Tiger-Cats, after getting stopped at the Hamilton three-yard line on the final play of the game.

Two of their other three setbacks were by two and three points, respectively, the team has been using the backup quarterback for the last three weeks, and they’re missing half a dozen starters due to injury.

The pessimists will fire back and note that drive-killing penalties, missed field goals, overthrown balls, blown coverages, drops and bad play calls have all the makings of a team that isn’t prepared to play.

The brass preaches that it doesn’t matter if starters are hurt. The backups need to perform at the same level, so it won’t be used as an excuse (even though LaPolice mentioned twice during his post-game scrum, without provocation, that left tackle Andre Douglas left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury).

Moments after the naked bootleg that quarterback Steven Jyles was supposed to run on the final play of Saturday’s game went terribly wrong, centre Obby Khan stood there all by himself on the field, staring at the video scoreboard for a good 30 seconds with his hands on his hips.

He wasn’t flustered. He wasn’t beaten. He was so close to victory he could taste it.

You can therefore throw him into the glass-half-full crowd as the Bombers prepare for the massive rematch with the Ticats on Friday night at Canad Inns Stadium.

“I was just hoping to see the replay on that last play,” Khan said. “They showed the replay, and then I took a good look at the score. I took it in, and we’ll remember that score this week.

“It’s not a game of coulda, woulda, shoulda. It’s very frustrating, but at the same time it’s very encouraging. To battle back that hard on the road twice on a row is very promising. We battled back, and we played hard.”

Khan makes a good point.

If the Bombers had fallen behind like they did on Saturday night with, say, Tee Martin at the controls, they probably would have left Steeltown with a 30-point loss.

LaPolice fell on the sword after Saturday’s loss, saying he blew the last nine seconds thanks to the wrong call and not having his troops ready enough to run two plays instead of only one.

Asked to give an assessment of his team, however, and the answer itself is a roller-coaster ride of both good and bad.

“In the third quarter we executed as good as an offence will in the Canadian Football League,” he said. “But there were times on crucial drives where we stopped ourselves. We had a second-and-three where we get a first down, and we have an offsides call that backs us up. We had a crucial fumble that gave them seven points, and you can’t do that. You can’t do that with good teams. You can’t do that when you’re banged up.

“And I know we lost our starting tackle in the first quarter, I know Obby Khan, who is a warrior, played through the game injured and Steven Jyles played with a bad ankle, but hey, we still had an opportunity to win the football game. We gotta do the things to win the football game. We were in position to get a lot more points in the first half, and we didn’t get it.”

Half full or half empty.

Take your pick.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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