WINNIPEG - You’d think playing back-to-back football games against the same team would be a drag.
But for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the sound of the Saskatchewan Roughriders rolling down the TransCanada for Sunday’s Banjo Bowl will be sweet music to the ears.
In football, you don’t often get a chance to counter punch after a loss. Usually, it’s on to the next opponent. Payback has to wait.
This week in the CFL is different.
For the Bombers, what happened in last Sunday’s Labour Day Classic in Regina obviously still stings like a right hook to the jaw.
A team that had everything going for it was knocked down a peg. Had salt rubbed into the wound, even. I mean, 27-7?
Is there any doubt what the rematch is all about?
“Getting our swagger back,” corner Jovon Johnson was saying, Thursday. “It was a tough one. We took one on the chin. But we know what we’re capable of.
“It’s good we get to play them again. It’s payback time.”
Payback time for a secondary that could only stand and watch as the Riders Darian Durant passed for three easy touchdowns.
This on the heels of Hamilton’s Kevin Glenn having his way with Winnipeg’s back five for much of the previous week’s Bomber victory.
“We’ve been playing OK,” Johnson said.
Of course, the sign welcoming you to Swaggerville doesn’t say, “We play OK.”
“Nobody’s perfect in this world,” Johnson continued. “We’ll be fine. We’ve just got to up the intensity and be ready to go.”
Upping the intensity shouldn’t be a problem for most Bombers.
It’s doing so smartly that’ll go a long way to determining whether this payback is complete, or whether there will still be a balance owing.
Throwing touchdowns instead of punches, for instance.
“I lost my composure,” receiver Cory Watson said, revisiting the skirmish that saw him take an early Labour Day shower. “I retaliated when I shouldn’t have.”
Watson’s first Banjo Bowl as a front-line receiver is about making amends, personally and collectively.
“It’s redemption,” he said. “It’s about getting back on track. You always want to get a team that you lost against, the next week.”
Corner Brandon Stewart is in the same boat as Watson, having left last week’s loss early due to a lost temper.
“Can’t wait,” Stewart said. “Excited. Excited for the Riders to come into our house. They got us. They played a good game last week. We’re ready to see ’em this week.”
And what does Stewart have in store for receiver James Robinson, whose low block caused him to come up swinging?
“What I got in store for everybody that lines up,” Stewart said. “It’s going to be a physical day. Yes, sir.”
Nobody knows that more than centre Obby Khan, who spent most of the Labour Day Classic picking remnants of Riders D-lineman Dario Romero from his teeth.
After some plays, Khan and Romero looked like high school enemies wrestling in the playground after school, setting a CFL record for most tussles without getting ejected.
“They had their own little personal battle going on,” guard Brendon LaBatte said. “I’ve seen that happen before, where guys will almost make it a one-on-one deal.
“It’s got all the recipe to reenact itself.”
Bring it on, says Khan.
“He likes to talk, I like to talk,” No. 60 said. “You get two guys that talk, and you have what we had last week.”
And what was it Khan said to the guy?
“Beep, bee-beep beep beep, be-beep beep beep, beep beep,” Khan said.
“The exact same thing. Just add a couple more beeps.”
Wonder if you can play that on the banjo?