Pre-season Game Recap | WPG 12 SSK 25

REGINA – There is no truer test in football’s preseason than players seeing live action against live opponents. And no truer evaluation tool for the coaches and management, too, in what is essentially a job interview in the most stressful environment in a cut-throat business.

So, don’t read too much into the score of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers preseason 25-12 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders Monday afternoon at Mosaic Stadium because the result isn’t the story here.

The Blue Bombers brought a mix of veterans and rookies to Regina for their first dress rehearsal of 2024 and the outcome was what you’d expect – some flashes of brilliance amidst the mistakes, penalties and blown assignments. In other words, the game film will give the coaching staff some answers to some pressing questions.

The Blue Bombers wrap up the preseason on May 31st at home against the Calgary Stampeders before the curtain rises on the regular season on June 6th against the Montreal Alouettes at Princess Auto Stadium.

More on the Blue Bombers first preseason action from our view from the press box…

CONSIDER THIS:

The Blue Bombers roster was without 11 starters – some remained, others still on the mend – in quarterback Zach Collaros, running back Brady Oliveira, receivers Nic Demski and Dalton Schoen, and guard Pat Neufeld on offense and defensive tackle Jake Thomas, linebackers Kyrie Wilson and Adam Bighill, halfbacks Deatrick Nichols and Evan Holm and safety Brandon Alexander on defense. The veterans that did make the trip, meanwhile, had their workloads limited.

All of this is to reinforce how inconsistent the scoreline was.

“We’re going to have an exciting football team and there’s lots of good stuff on that film, lots of stuff to learn from,” said head coach Mike O’Shea afterwards. “Some of the stuff we’ll pick up so easy it will make it so much clearer for them.

“It’s a pretty exciting time for us. We still have a lot of time (in camp) left. Even before the end of the previous practice week guys were starting to come on – a bunch of them were. So now we’ve got some time, and we can proceed at a different pace before our next preseason game.

“I just think we’re going to have a lot of difficult decisions and I don’t think it’s fair to make them now. We’ll keep this process going for eight or nine more days and see where that leads us.”

EYES ON THE QBs:

With Collaros remaining back home in Winnipeg the Blue Bombers brought three pivots to Regina in Chris Streveler, Eric Barriere and Terry Wilson.

“All three of them would like a couple plays back, I’m sure,” said O’Shea. “But they showed some poise in there, they ran the offense well and they managed game stuff very well. We put some points on the board and had some drives. It’s one of those things where we had certain packages in there to allow the guys to try to flourish, allow the new receivers and running backs to flourish. We’ll be able to do a little more stuff and the guys will enjoy that.”

Streveler, the only QB with CFL experience, got the start and in about 20 minutes of work, completed seven of eight passes for 65 yards, while rushing three times for 25 more, in what was essentially a snapshot of what he can bring to the attack.

His best stretch came during a 12-play, 79-yard drive in the first quarter that took seven minutes and seven seconds off the clock and resulted in a 26-yard field goal by Sergio Castillo. He didn’t attack downfield with his throws but put the ball in safe locations. What we didn’t see were any new wrinkles Buck Pierce might have planned for Streveler in the attack, with that clearly not coming until the regular season.

“For me, personally, it just felt so good to be get back out on the field, be back out with those guys,” he said. “It’s natural to have those pre-game feelings – that’s how you know you’re ready to go. I don’t know if it’s nerves, excitement, butterflies… all of it. It’s exciting and that’s how I know I’m ready to go, especially putting that blue back on. Even though it’s a preseason game, it still means something. You still want to go out there and move the ball, play clean football and be back out there with so many of the guys I love. It almost made emotional before the game thinking about how much this means. Being where I’ve been and being out of the game for a year, I don’t take any opportunity to put the pads back on for granted because I got hurt in the preseason with the (New York) Jets and how quickly that can happen. It means more to me know than it ever has.”

Barrière entered the game in the second quarter and, unofficially, finished his day three of six for 23 yards with two interceptions thrown into traffic over the middle.

“I personally feel I could have done a lot better adjusting and seeing things,” Barriere said. “This was my first game in a while and this is a different game. Now I just want to get back to work and see what I can do to get better.”

Terry Wilson replaced Barriere in the third quarter and was 11 of 16 for 116 yards, with a late strike to Kevens Clercius for the club’s only TD.

“It definitely took some time to get adjusted, seeing the defense, and it took some time to get the jitters out,” Wilson said. “Once I settled in, I started seeing my receivers clearly and then I just tried to get them the best look they could, get them the ball and let them run in space.

“Once I started trusting my reads… I know I’ve put in a lot of work, and everything was going to come together. There’s still a lot of things that need to be fixed, but I got more comfortable as the game went on.”

FYI

  • Eric Lofton started the game at right tackle, with Liam Dobson at left guard. Those two remain the front runners to lock up the starting jobs left vacant with the exits of Jermarcus Hardrick and Geoff Gray.
  • A dozen different receivers caught passes for the Blue Bombers, with Tyler Adams leading the club with four receptions for 61 yards – with one fumble on his last catch.
  • Four different players returned punts in Demetries Ford (1-12 yards), Isaiah Norman (1-1), Chris Smith (1-10) and Aron Cruickshank (1-7). Three players handled kickoff returns: Smith (2-48), Kody Case (1-24) and Cruickshank (2-35). Not sure any one of them separated themselves from the pack.
  • Tyrique McGhee and Tyrell Ford looked comfortable manning the corners while Tre Thomas (four tackles and a tackle for loss) also popped off the page. Veteran ends TyJuan Garbutt and Celestin Haba also flashed explosiveness off the edge.

NEXT: The Blue Bombers are back on the field on Wednesday at Princess Auto Stadium.

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