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Blue Bombers returning to form at the perfect time
WINNIPEG -- Through the first nine games of the CFL regular season, the Blue Bombers used the tandem of Matt Nichols and Chris Streveler at quarterback to the success of a 7-2 record and top spot in the West Division.
Nichol’s injury in late August threw a wrench into that system, and the team stumbled down the stretch going 4-5. Then in the West Semi-final against Calgary, Streveler and Zach Collaros were able to rekindle that early season magic, en route to a dominant 35-14 victory.
"It makes it hard for defences to prepare against for sure,” said Collaros, who finished that game with 193 passing yards and a touchdown. “And it allows our coaching staff to have even more plays to attack the defence."
Chris Streveler racked up 82 rushing yards, including a 24 yard touchdown that put the game out of reach late in the fourth quarter.
"They both can do the same thing, they just run and pass differently, so it's like a two headed dragon,” said receiver Nic Demski. “It makes things fun out there for sure."
With the two-quarterback system, success and confidence seemed to have returned to the team.
"When coach O'Shea started the season off, he said everybody came in with aspirations and goals for themselves, but by the end of the season everybody was going to end up with the same goal and that was going to be to win a Grey Cup,” said defensive lineman Willie Jefferson. “And before the Calgary game he said that same speech again, and that really clicked to a lot of people. So it really just brought everybody's spirits back to those first six, seven games when we just went on a roll."
Collaros faces former team
Zach Collaros played just two downs of football for Saskatchewan this season, before a hit from Simoni Lawrence sent the quarterback to the six-game injured list, and effectively ended his tenure as a Roughrider. Following two in-season trades, the 31-year-old is set to face his old team in the West Division Final.
"Things happen,” Collaros said. “If there's anything I've learned in this league it’s that things can change quickly, and this is where I find myself now, and it's a great opportunity for us."
“Only in the CFL can you start for a team at the beginning of the season, get traded, and then get traded to the team that you played against in the Semi-final last year,” said Jefferson of his teammates journey through the 2019 season. “It’s a big game for him. But me knowing Zach, I know that he’s not worried about it. He’s just trying to be locked in and be focused on what he has to do, and what he has to do to win this game for the team. It’s not a me thing for him, it’s a we thing for us.”
Bombers’ head coach Mike O’Shea admitted there’s something different about lining up against old teammates.
"I think there's always an emotional factor when you play against players you've been with,” he said. “You've got relationships with guys on other teams and when you play them there's always something interesting about that."
The Bombers practice Thursday and Friday in Winnipeg before travelling to Regina on Saturday. Kickoff for the West Division Final is 3:30pm CT Sunday afternoon.