WINNIPEG - Tim Burke owns the Saskatchewan Roughriders, at least when it counts.
The Bombers defensive co-ordinator was in the same role with the Montreal Alouettes when they beat the Roughriders in the last two Grey Cups.
If Riders quarterback Darian Durant doesn’t have a nervous tick yet after his team’s 1-7 start, he probably will when he sees Burke on Sunday at Mosaic Stadium.
Burke is more proud of the job his defence did on Durant in last year’s title game than in 2009, when he needed the 13th man fiasco to earn the win over the Paul LaPolice-led Saskatchewan offence. Last November in Edmonton, Burke’s crew held Durant to just 215 passing yards and a mere eight on the ground in a 21-18 win.
“I think we surprised them with our game plan a little bit last year,” Burke said with a smile Tuesday. “I don’t think they thought we would play as much zone as we did. I think that surprised them a little bit.
“Then our front did a good job of not letting him scramble out and create plays.”
This Sunday’s game, however, is different for a variety of reasons. First of all, it’s the Labour Day Classic. History rarely matters in the Queen City on the first weekend of September. Secondly, the Riders have a new but familiar face guiding the offence after they fired offensive co-ordinator Doug Berry along with head coach Greg Marshall on Aug. 19.
Ken Miller, who has resumed his duties as head coach, is also back running the offensive show for Durant, who has put up some impressive regular-season numbers against Burke’s defences in the past. Miller and Durant talk like they’re BFFs, so Burke expects them to be dangerous.
“They’re going to go into the game with plays that they both like,” Burke said, “and I don’t know what those plays might be.
“We anticipate seeing Darian running around a little bit more. The thing that always scares you is if you do do a good job and take away their routes, then he just takes off on you and creates plays. He’s the Michael Vick of our league.”
Other than that, Burke doesn’t know what to expect from the Rider offence, which is currently doing a great job of holding down eighth place in the CFL when it comes to points scored.
“All the tendencies go out the window,” Burke said. “I drew up all the pass routes from the previous games, and who knows which ones they’re going to use?”
If there’s one ace in the hole for the Blue and Gold, it’s that LaPolice worked hand in hand with Miller in Saskatchewan between 2007 and 2009.
Then again …
“I’ve told (Burke) to expect four or five things I think they’re going to call,” LaPolice said. “But who knows? I have no idea what his MO is now.”