Regina a hostile place for Bombers

Regardless of their record, Saskatchewan has always been a bad place for the Blue Bombers. (TODD...

Regardless of their record, Saskatchewan has always been a bad place for the Blue Bombers. (TODD KOROL/Reuters files)

Kirk Penton, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:13 PM ET

Never before have the Winnipeg Blue Bombers gone into a Labour Day Classic with this much of an edge on the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the standings.

The Bombers are 12 points clear of the Roughriders through eight games, which represents the greatest disparity between the clubs in the Classic’s 49-year history.

And do you know what that usually means?

Well, basically nothing.

In nine instances when the Bombers had a significantly better record than the Roughriders, Saskatchewan ended up getting the win six times. On the three occasions Winnipeg did emerge victorious, the largest margin was a mere four points.

That includes the 1984 Classic, when the 7-1 Bombers lost 30-25 to the 1-6-1 Riders. Winnipeg ended its 22-year Grey Cup drought three months later, but it couldn’t win on Labour Day weekend in Regina.

The 7-1 Bombers will battle the 1-7 Roughriders on Sunday at Mosaic Stadium (3 p.m., TSN), and the Blue and Gold, despite the records, expect it to be tough sledding.

“It’s the most hostile environment you’re going to play in as a road team that the CFL can manufacture,” Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown said. “As soon as you cross that border, man, the whole province is lined up against you.

“It’s the same reason why we’re buoyed and enthused by our crowds at home. The louder our fans get, the more into the game we get. We feed off that.”

The Bombers have lost six Classics in a row, and they trail the annual Prairie grudge match 30-18 overall. Not only will most of the 30,000 screaming fans be rooting for the Green and White on Sunday, but most agree the Riders will be getting a boost with the return of head coach Ken Miller.

The Riders fired Greg Marshall and offensive co-ordinator Doug Berry on Aug. 19, and Sunday’s game will be Miller’s first on the sideline since last year’s Grey Cup loss to Montreal.

It wasn’t difficult on Saturday morning to notice the Riders are a much happier team under Miller.

When their walkthrough wrapped at Mosaic Stadium, the Riders urged Miller to do a dance, which usually only players making their debuts are required to do, in the middle of the huddle.

The 69-year-old obliged with something that kind of looked like a dance and the players ate it up, as did the hundreds of fans who came out for the team’s annual fan day.

“It’s a good feeling,” Riders defensive back Lance Frazier said. “It’s crazy what familiarity does to you, having a guy that’s been a great leader for you over the past couple seasons and just understands how to get the best out of his players.”

Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice believes the crowd will be more of a factor than Miller’s return to the sideline.

“It’s something we have to be match intensity-wise and be able to weather the storm,” he said.

A look at the last six Labour Day Classics, all losses for the Bombers:

Sept. 6, 2010 — Riders 27, Bombers 23

Winnipeg dropped its fifth in a row and also lost quarterback Buck Pierce for the remainder of the season with a dislocated right elbow. Saskatchewan scored 14 points off Winnipeg turnovers.

Sept. 6, 2009 — Riders 29, Bombers 14

The Bombers committed six turnovers, including three Michael Bishop interceptions, and fell to 3-6 under head coach Mike Kelly. Bishop did complete 20 of 33 passes for 329 yards.

Aug. 31, 2008 — Riders 19, Bombers 6

Luca Congi booted four field goals as the Riders improve to 7-2 and dropped the Bombers’ record to 2-7. Saskatchewan quarterback Michael Bishop scored on a nine-yard draw for the game’s only major.

Sept. 2, 2007 — Riders 31, Bombers 26

In what ended up being a Grey Cup preview, quarterback Kerry Joseph scored on a 27-yard draw play with six seconds left to propel the Riders to victory. Derick Armstrong had 13 catches for 205 yards and two TDs for the Bombers.

Sept. 3, 2006 — Riders 39, Bombers 12

Kevin Glenn completed only 12 of 29 passes for 168 yards as the Bombers lost their fourth straight game and fell to 5-6. Kerry Joseph and Kenton Keith ran all over the Winnipeg defence, racking up 109 rushing yards in the first half alone.

Sept. 4, 2005 — Riders 45, Bombers 26

Kenton Keith ran for 170 yards and two touchdowns as the Riders improved to 4-6. On the bright side, Milt Stegall became the CFL’s receiving touchdowns leaders with two TD grabs for the Bombers, who fell to 3-8.


Videos

Photos