Blue brace for noise
N Sunday, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will be forced to endure the season’s most hostile road conditions when they invade Mosaic Stadium in Regina for the annual Labour Day Weekend Classic against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
It’s not an ordinary game and the Bombers have been preparing for the worst. For extended stretches of Wednesday’s practice at Investors Group Field, head coach Mike O’Shea subjected his squad to a steady diet of earsplitting crowd noise piped in through the stadium’s sound system.
The sights and sounds of Mosaic might actually be some sort of relief from this racket.
“This is way more annoying because there’s not enough emotion into it,” said Winnipeg running back Andrew Harris. “When their crowd’s going crazy, you can kinda feel that energy and it’s more real, you know they’re coming to try to tear your heads off. So this is definitely more annoying.”
Wednesday’s similated crowd noise is the same stuff O’Shea used to prepared his squad for a Week 2 game in Regina, won 43-40 in overtime by the Blue Bombers.
Harris would be happy to start quickly in order to keep the Roughriders faithful sitting quietly in their seats.
“When you can silence a crowd like that it’s great to do,” said Harris. “It’s tough to do for 60 minutes, so you’ve gotta be prepared for everything they throw at you.”
Being able to call plays, often with the quarterback employing a silent snap count, can be the most effective way to deal with the noise but Winnipeg offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice said that approach has its limitations.
“I think sometimes... if you face a team that’s playing a lot of man coverage and they’re going to press up and you want to run by them,” said LaPolice. “And guys tend not to attack the line of scrimmage when they don’t know the cadence and we go on a silent cadence. And certainly, overall communication is a little bit harder. But it’s something we’ve practised before and certainly, last game, we needed it at times and at times we didn’t.”
Familiarity with the routine and having a quarterback who is a cool under those conditions is crucial.
“It’s all part of being able to operate under adverse situations,” said quarterbacks coach Buck Pierce. “More of it’s just a mental thing, being able to operate with chaos and that kind of stuff around. You practise silent (count) and you practise for the noise, and see how you operate with all your multiple cadences, right? It’s just preparing us for the environment there. In my experience, I think we prepare the guys well by practising this way. Things aren’t as easy to communicate coaching points, but it allows players to fix things on their own and even over communicate, which we preach all the time.”
Quarterback Matt Nichols believes it’s the sort of game that’s easy to get excited about. Will it be louder than Winnipeg’s season opener on July 1?
“I think it will be,” said Nichols. “I’ve been around long enough, I’ve played in this game. I know what kind of atmosphere it is. These are the ones that you get up for. If you don’t, there’s something wrong with you. We know it’s going to be a tough game. They’re a good opponent, tough environment.”
The game is always a highlight for veteran linebacker Mo Leggett.
“It’s a very unique atmosphere,” said Leggett. “They get wilder when we come into town. You hear a lot of chirping with the fans, more than the players. It comes with the game and it’s a lot of fun.”