WINNIPEG - It was about halfway through another sweltering practice, Tuesday, and an obviously uncomfortable Blue Bombers O-lineman Glenn January was slumped on the bench, a towel keeping the sun off his head.
A fitting picture, you might say.
Because ever since the Bombers’ season-opener in Vancouver, the heat’s been on the hogs.
That’s just what happens when the opposing defence puts your quarterback on his can four times and knocks him from the game before it’s 30 minutes old.
At that rate the Bombers would need more than the four quarterbacks they currently have in town, let alone the three they were so proud to bring back from last season.
The thing is, you can sign all the pretty faces you want to sling the pigskin. If you don’t have some good, old-fashioned ugly doing the bull work up front, you’ve wasted your time.
The front five the Bombers employed against the Leos was overmatched, boasting guard Steve Morley and four other dudes with a combined total of three CFL starts under their rather large girths.
Three of them — centre Chris Kowalczuk and tackles Paul Swiston and Jordan Taormina — were starting their first games.
How big a disadvantage is that?
Here’s what head coach Paul LaPolice said, Tuesday, about the three-sack performance of Bomber D-lineman Bryant Turner against B.C.’s O-line.
“I hope he would have done very well, because he was going up against a rookie,” LaPolice said. “A kid, Matt Norman, first CFL start. So I would hope he’d perform at a high level.”
Using that same line of thinking, then, Kowalczuk, Swiston and Taormina didn’t stand a chance.
January, trying hard to come back from a leg injury and fight off the heat at the same time this week, is hoping to make his season debut in Montreal, Friday.
No doubt that would help.
But there’s more to this than a lack of talent or experience.
You could bring back Chris Walby in his prime, and if you have the same game plan the Bombers had in B.C., you’re hog-tied.
“We were kind of one-dimensional,” Morley acknowledged. “We passed the ball 49 times, ran it seven. Any time you do that, they’re basically teeing off on you the whole game. That had a lot to do with it.”
Morley’s numbers aren’t quite right, but they’re close.
The Bombers threw the ball 35 times, gave up four sacks and had their quarterbacks run on six plays, most of which were scrambles on pass plays.
As for the hand-off — you remember that old relic of a play, don’t you? — Winnipeg gave the ball to its tailback five times.
And this was a close game for three quarters. Walby would have come off the field cursing and screaming about an approach like that.
Nothing PO’s a hog more than having to sit back and deal with ornery pass rushers all night, with no chance to slug back on running plays. And when the D-linemen don’t even respect the run, they really tee off.
“To be successful you have to have that balance, run and pass,” Morley said. “It keeps the defence honest.”
Maybe this was a product of the injury to starting tailback Chris Garrett, and rookie Bloi-Dei Dorzon’s presence in the backfield.
Or maybe, as I suspected going in, it was new co-ordinator Gary Crowton’s plan all along to air it out, unwrap all those bells and whistles from his new offence and show them to the three-down world.
The problem is the Bombers didn’t even have time to get the bow off.
“We just weren’t able to get out there and do the things we’ve been doing in camp, the fun stuff we know we’re going to execute well,” quarterback Buck Pierce said. “We just didn’t show up and play our game.”
Let’s hope not.
Because if that’s the Bombers’ game, this recent heat wave is going to seem like hog heaven.