Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Jul 10 2015, Page 33

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - July 10, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE C3 GAME DAY FRIDAY, JULY 10, 2015 . TONIGHT: 6 P. M. VS. MONTREAL ALOUETTES TV: TSN RADIO: CJOB 680 IN THE SPOTLIGHT The spotlight is always on the quarterbacks in football, but it will burn especially bright on the two men who will line up for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes tonight. The Bombers will roll out Drew Willy again against the Als ( 6 p. m.; TSN/ CJOB) following a week in which he made an early exit after a gruesome helmet- tohelmet hit during a loss to the Hamilton Tiger- Cats but was back on the field for practice on Monday. And the Als will hope for an encore performance from Rakeem Cato, who was so spectacular in his debut in leading his charges to an upset win over the defending Grey Cup champion Calgary Stampeders. “ I feel great,” said Willy, who passed a concussion- protocol test during the game last week but was held out by the trainer. “ I have total trust in our doctors here. I spoke about it earlier in the week and our stance isn’t going to change on that. We feel comfortable with the way we’re approaching it and I feel good because this organization has always treated me in a first- class way. They wouldn’t put me out there if they didn’t feel I was ready. “ I’ll play my same game. I won’t have any fear out there. I think when you kind of play that way ( with fear) you bring on other injuries. You just want to go about your usual business and go out there and play to your ability.” The Bombers, 1- 1, were solid in their season- opening win in Regina but looked lost last week with Willy on the sidelines for three quarters and the defence and special teams breaking down. The Als, also 1- 1, got a remarkable performance from Cato in his first CFL start. He completed his first seven passes and finished 20 of 25 for 241 yards with three TDs against zero interceptions. “ He was as a remarkable as being on the sideline with someone like Ricky Ray, being on the sidelines having a quarterback like Doug Flutie... because you always knew you had a chance no matter what was going wrong out on the field,” said Alouettes head coach Tom Higgins. “ And the only reason I picked those two ( Ray and Flutie) is because I was on the sidelines for those two athletes. I’ve alluded to some of the throws Cato can make are similar to what Doug Flutie could do. Now. I’m not putting him anywhere near the same category as Doug Flutie, but Doug had a way to get the ball to his receiver whether he had to throw behind his back or underhand. He just had that knacks and it seems that’s what Cato has as well.” The Bombers are making three changes to their 46- man roster, adding defensive linemen Kashawn Fraser and Deantre Harlan and wide receiver Rory Kohlert for Thaddeus Gibson, Kris Bastien and Derrell Johnson. Montreal will be without middle linebacker Bear Woods, whose spot in the defence will be filled by Kyler Ellsworth. BY THE NUMBERS 11 per cent — Increase in CFL offence, in terms of yards, this season over last year, the largest single season jump in league history 5- 1 — The West’s record against the East through the first six interlocking games in 2014 5- 1 — The East’s record against the West through the first six interlocking games in 2015 6- 1 — Winnipeg’s record against Montreal in the last seven games between the two teams. QUOT ABLE “ He has this... maybe it’s the ‘ It’ factor, which coaches can never describe. We’re thinking he might have ‘ It.’ He did nothing but the same down at Marshall. He took a team that, supposedly was always underdogs and did what he had to do which is throw the football. He’s a pure passer that loves playing. He doesn’t seem to be fazed by how big the arena is.” — Alouettes head coach Tom Higgins on new starting QB Rakeem Cato “ You try to switch up things and do things different, but you don’t want to get out of what you do. You don’t want to try to throw too many things at him that you over- extend yourself. We’ll try to do some things differently that might cause him to throw an errant ball and we could get our hands on it. “ — Bombers defensive end Jamaal Westerman on what the Bombers defence has in store for Montreal QB Rakeem Cato — Tait / Paul Wiecek Rory Kohlert Rakeem Cato F IVE storylines to ponder heading into tonight’s CFL game between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes. 1. WILLY OR BUST Bomber fans got a glimpse of life without Drew Willy last week — even if it was just for three quarters — and it’s an existence no one in the organization wants to experience again any time soon. It’s not just that Brian Brohm was ineffective in relief — two pick- sixes had fans using other adjectives than ‘ ineffective’ which we can’t print in the newspaper — it’s that the entire squad sagged in his absence. Willy gives the Bombers a chance and here are the numbers to prove it: the club has had just two two- and- outs in the 14 possessions he’s been behind centre, or 14 per cent. With Brohm at the controls, the Bomber offence was two- and- out on seven of their 11 possessions, or 64 per cent. Now, this is a debate that has been raging in Winnipeg since last season — the Brohm vs. Robert Marve discussion — but the club’s coaches are convinced their No. 2 man gives them a better chance right now than Marve, who has an ad- lib quality to his signal calling. All of which is moot — right now, at least — with Willy having passed his concussionprotocol test last week and being back on the field when the club returned to work on Monday. That didn’t stop the second- guessing from outside the organization this week from doctors, non- doctors and those who would like to play one on TV. “ I feel great,” said Willy. “ I have total trust in our doctors here. I spoke about it earlier in the week and our stance isn’t going to change on that. We feel comfortable with the way we’re approaching it and I feel good because this organization has always treated me in a first- class way. They wouldn’t put me out there if they didn’t feel I was ready. “ I’ll play my same game. I won’t have any fear out there.” 2. RAKEEM CATO: WHO IS THIS GUY? Cato has a compelling back- story that should have screenwriters lining up at his locker — raised in Liberty City, Fla., by his mother, who worked two jobs to take care of her seven children; she then passed away when he was 13 and he was raised by his 18- year- old sister, who was granted custody of Cato and four other siblings. Cato didn’t meet his father until starring for Marshall University and only after his dad had been released from prison. I mean, wow. But it’s what Cato accomplished last week in his CFL debut — a win over the defending Grey Cup champion Calgary Stamepders, no less — which was just as compelling. He completed his first seven passes and finished 20 of 25 for 241 yards with three TDs against zero interceptions. “ He was as a remarkable as being on the sideline with someone like Ricky Ray, being on the sidelines having a quarterback like Doug Flutie... because you always knew you had a chance no matter what was going wrong out on the field,” said Alouettes head coach Tom Higgins. “ And the only reason I picked those two ( Ray and Flutie) is because I was on the sidelines for those two athletes. I’ve alluded to some of the throws Cato can make are similar to what Doug Flutie could do. Now. I’m not putting him anywhere near the same category as Doug Flutie, but Doug had a way to get the ball to his receiver whether he had to throw behind his back or underhand. He just had that knacks and it seems that’s what Cato has as well.” The Bombers don’t know a whole lot about Cato other than what the film tells them, although defensive end Jamaal Westerman did do some research on the former Marshall QB while he was doing colour commentary for his alma mater, Rutgers, last fall. “ He really put the ball in position to let his guys make plays,” said Westerman. “ He got the ball out of his hands quickly, he played a clean game and moved around when he needed to. I think you have enough to see that he’s a good quarterback, that he can play in this league and he made the plays he had to make to win the game.” 3. THE BLUE DEFENCE: SPEED BUMPS OR ROAD BLOCKS? The Bomber defence has put up some gaudy numbers through the first couple of weeks of the 2015 season, most of them ugly with a capital ‘ ugh.’ The 52 points surrendered last week — including a punt- return TD given up by the special- teams unit — was the most by a Bomber squad since a 53- 17 loss to B. C. back on Sept. 27, 2013. They have been vulnerable through the air and along the ground — second last in both categories — and have given up an average of 477 yards per game. That’s a huge chunk of real estate. All that said, the common refrain this week in Bomberland has been ‘ it’s Week 2... it’ll come.’ Fair enough, but fans are likely getting weary of watching the game through their fingers whenever the ‘ D’ is on the field. “ We’re 1- 1,” said Westerman. “ Some games, we played well. Some plays we left out there. It’s still a work in progress. We’re still out there working hard every day. It’s just making a play when it counts.” 4. A HAUNTED HOUSE It wasn’t that long ago that Winnipeg/ Canad Inns Stadium was an absolute nightmare for any squad that took up residence on the opposite sideline. The visitors change room stank — both literally and figuratively — and by the sound of the final gun enemy squads were tripping over themselves to get on the bus to take them out of the old barn at Polo Park. These days? Consider this: the Bombers are just 4- 15 at their spiffy new part in south Winnipeg. This stat, in fact, perfectly describes the Bombers inability to protect their own house: the Ticats have just as many wins — they are a pristine 4- 0 here — as the Blue and Gold. Enough said. 5. ONE- HIT BLUNDERS More on the QB angle because, well, you can never have enough about the QBs... The Bombers spent a ton of money in free agency on their offensive line and their last two first- round draft picks on big Canadian hogs as well. And, for the most part, their work has been solid: just three sacks against in two games while averaging 107 yards rushing and 260 passing. But as fans across the CFL have seen through the first two weeks, it just takes one shot to dramatically alter a team’s outlook for the season. Willy was lit up last week on a Ticat blitz the Bombers, admittedly, missed in their protection. And they should expect more of the same from the Alouettes defensive dozen. “ I will tell you right now, the league is starting to go in that direction by trying to confuse us up front by moving people around,” said Bombers veteran centre Dominic Picard. “ Montreal has a pretty good defence and they’ve got a great DC ( defensive co- ordinator) in Noel Thorpe. They’ve got good players up front and it’s going to be a good test for us.” ed. tait@ freepress. mb. ca Twitter: @ WFPEdTait 5 STORY LINES ED TAIT JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS Winnipeg quarterback Drew Willy is expected to start tonight after being injured on a helmet- to- helmet hit on July 2. C_ 03_ J ul- 10- 15_ FP_ 01. indd C3 7/ 9/ 15 7: 25: 42 PM

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