Rid­ers ex­pect to see plenty of Har­ris

Bombers run­ning back is the one to watch

Winnipeg Free Press - - GAME DAY - JEFF HAMIL­TON jeff.hamil­ton@freep­ress.mb.ca Twit­ter: @jef­fkhamil­ton jeff.hamil­ton@freep­ress.mb.ca Twit­ter: @jef­fkhamil­ton

HE Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers have seen the game film, and from it they’re ex­pect­ing a healthy dose of Winnipeg Blue Bombers run­ning back An­drew Har­ris when the two teams meet at In­vestors Group Field this af­ter­noon.

Har­ris rushed for 158 yards on just 15 car­ries in a 31-23 Roughrid­ers win over the Labour Day week­end. In the re­match the fol­low­ing week in Winnipeg, Saskatchewan lim­ited Har­ris to just 21 yards on 10 car­ries, com­pletely shut­ting down the Bombers’ run game.

“We know it’s go­ing to be a phys­i­cal bat­tle. I mean, they’re go­ing to hand the ball off about 20 times to No. 33, and they’re go­ing to run about five or six speed sweeps to ei­ther No. 7 (Weston Dressler) or No. 10 (Nic Dem­ski), and we’ve got to go out and beat blocks and tackle,” Roughrid­ers head coach Chris Jones said.

Har­ris has spo­ken all week about the chal­lenges of Saskatchewan’s sturdy de­fence — a group that leads the CFL in sacks, forces, the most two-and­outs and has scored the most de­fen­sive touch­downs. He said they’re un­like any other de­fence in the league, just by the unique way in which they set up to try to fool op­pos­ing of­fences.

“They’re very un­ortho­dox when they pres­sure and how they do things,” Har­ris said. “They try to con­fuse you as much as they can, so for us, we’ve just got to stay fo­cused and just stay on our guys and (do) things for pro­tect­ing Matt (Ni­chols, the quar­ter­back), get­ting our count right in the run game and just

Tbe­ing as con­sis­tent as we can be and stay­ing on the field.” Wil­lie Jef­fer­son, a de­fen­sive end for the Roughrid­ers and one of the men re­spon­si­ble for get­ting pres­sure on quar­ter­backs and plug­ging run holes, said the pres­sure is on Winnipeg to get the win. The Roughrid­ers (10-5), who sit in sec­ond place in the West Divi­sion, are four points up on the third-place Bombers, with each team hav­ing three games left on the sched­ule.

“They have to win. If they don’t win, it’s pretty much a bat­tle for them try­ing to get into the play­offs,” Jef­fer­son said. “Ev­ery­body plays a lit­tle bit bet­ter when you’ve got some­thing on your back, when you’ve got that fire on your back try­ing to keep you from los­ing, know­ing if you lose you’re go­ing to be worse off for your team.”

NEW GUY STARTS FOR RID­ERS

The Roughrid­ers, reel­ing a bit from the in­jury bug, swung a trade with the Mon­treal Alou­ettes ahead of Wed­nes­day’s CFL trade dead­line.

The Roughrid­ers ac­quired two play­ers in the deal, get­ting Cana­di­ans in of­fen­sive line­man Philip Blake and re­ceiver Pa­trick Lavoie in ex­change for Cana­dian re­ceiver Joshua Stan­ford and a sec­ond-round pick in the 2020 CFL draft.

With Dan Clark in­jured in Mon­day’s win over the Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos, Bren­don La­Batte moves to his spot at cen­tre, giv­ing Blake the start at left guard af­ter just one prac­tice.

“We’ve seen that be­fore, though, on the of­fen­sive line. Be­ing around the league for as long as I have, you’ve seen where you had to in­ject an older vet­eran into your of­fence right away,” Jones said. “We fully ex­pect him to not only go out and play, but play well.”

Blake is in his fourth sea­son in the CFL, play­ing 59 games over that stretch with the Alou­ettes.

“Blake’s a guy that’s been on our radar for some time. The fact is that not only is he a great ath­lete and a good player, he can play all three po­si­tions (on the O-line),” Jones said.

BLUE AND COLD?

Tem­per­a­tures are ex­pected to drop to around 2 C for to­day’s 1 p.m. kick­off, with a good chance of rain or snow.

But don’t try telling Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea that. Like many who are in­formed of weather re­ports, O’Shea is go­ing to take a wait-and-see ap­proach.

“I don’t ever trust what they say it’s go­ing to be. You wait un­til game time, and I’m sure at that point the of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tors look at their sheet and say, ‘Well, that’s out and that’s out and this is more preva­lent,’ but maybe not. Maybe, ev­ery­thing’s a go,” he said. “These guys have played and bat­tled in this be­fore. You’ve played a lot of foot­ball games by this point in your ca­reer. I’m sure they can han­dle it all.”

Ni­chols also brushed off any con­cern about what Mother Na­ture might bring. Hav­ing played in Winnipeg for three years, and the rest of his nine-year CFL ca­reer in Ed­mon­ton, he’s been hard­ened by the cold tem­per­a­tures over his time in the league.

“Maybe, there are a cou­ple calls here and there. But, I’ve al­ways felt I’ve thrown the ball fine in in­clement weather,” Ni­chols said. “As long as pre-game you can throw it all right, the game plan stays the same. You ad­just in-game, de­pend­ing on how it’s feel­ing.”

BLUE IS THE NEW GREEN

Re­ceiver Dressler played eight sea­sons for the Roughrid­ers be­fore sign­ing with the Bombers for the 2015 sea­son. Now in his third year with the Blue and Gold, what­ever fond feel­ings he had play­ing against his for­mer club have mostly dis­si­pated.

“Not re­ally. It’s very, very dif­fer­ent there from when I was there,” Dressler said, when asked if it still meant any­thing to play Saskatchewan. “Ob­vi­ously, the colours and team name is all the same. But, as far as the locker room es­pe­cially, there’s only three or four guys left in that locker room that I played with.”

Dressler lives in Regina in the off-sea­son with his wife, Te­gan, who is from the Queen City, and their young son, Cooper. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t look­ing for­ward to de­liv­er­ing his new home a loss to­day, af­ter los­ing twice to the Roughrid­ers ear­lier this year.

“We al­ready know we can beat them. We haven’t done it, ob­vi­ously. But we def­i­nitely have all the play­ers and tools to win against any­one in this league,” he said. “It’s just a mat­ter of mak­ing the plays and be­ing con­sis­tent through four quar­ters of ev­ery game.” up lanes for an­other beastly fig­ure in de­fen­sive end Wil­lie Jef­fer­son. He might be hav­ing a bet­ter sea­son than Hughes, and could very well be up for the CFL’s most out­stand­ing de­fen­sive player come Novem­ber’s awards cer­e­mony.

“There’s no op­por­tu­nity to re­lax or kind of say that’s good enough be­cause those guys some­how find ways to make plays,” Bombers left guard Pa­trick Neufeld said ear­lier this week. “You got to make sure you stay on top of those guys and you can’t let them get com­fort­able in what they’re do­ing.”

Ev­ery game is won or lost in the trenches, but rarely are they this fun to watch. Given the tal­ent on both sides, the bat­tle be­tween the Bombers’ of­fen­sive line and the fe­roc­ity of the Roughrid­ers’ front four should be must-watch TV.

MIKAELA MACKEN­ZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Run­ning back An­drew Har­ris warms up at the Bombers prac­tice on Fri­day at In­vestors Group Field. The vis­it­ing Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers are fo­cus­ing on stop­ping him in to­day’s game.

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