Saturday, September 12, 2015
NICHOLS, BOMBERS SET TO HOST ROUGHRIDERS
Nichols is the fourth different starting quarterback for Winnipeg (3-7), the most of any team during a campaign that features only three lucky clubs without injuries to their main pivots.
It's a distinction Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea never imagined his team would hold.
"When you build your roster, you look at contingency plans,'' O'Shea said Friday after his team's walk-through. "You have to build and have a plan for that kind of stuff, but you don't sit there at home at night thinking about four quarterbacks. Hey, teams are going through it. It's not something you really dwell on as a coach.''
O'Shea is also handling special teams co-ordinator duties after Pat Tracey was fired this week. The Bombers have lost four in a row and six of their last seven games.
With Brian Brohm under centre last weekend, the Blue Bombers dropped a 37-19 decision to the Roughriders (1-9) as Saskatchewan earned its first win of the season.
That outcome sparked the Bombers to get Nichols in a trade with Edmonton for a conditional seventh-round pick in next year's CFL draft. Original starter Drew Willy (knee) is on the six-game injured list for three more games, while recent starter Robert Marve hurt a knee a couple weeks ago and is done for the season.
After five full practices with the Bombers and Friday's walk-through, Nichols was happy to be at the helm of a team fighting to make the playoffs.
"I've had the most fun playing football this last week than I have in the last few years,'' said Nichols, who joined the Eskimos in October 2010.
The Bombers announced 34,250 tickets had been sold so far for Saturday's game, including extra seats installed for November's Grey Cup game.
Riders quarterback Brett Smith will making his sixth straight start. Kevin Glenn (torn pectoral) was practising this week and is eligible to play next week while Darian Durant is out for the season.
Calgary, Hamilton and Ottawa are now the only clubs using the same quarterback who started the season after B.C.'s Travis Lulay was injured last week and put on the six-game injured list.
"You wouldn't think that you've been through this many quarterbacks,'' Bombers receiver Clarence Denmark said of Winnipeg's quartet. "We believe in Matt. He came out and showed some good things. In his career, he's shown some good things so we trust him.
"He's a good quarterback. It's plug and play.''
Nichols started seven games for the Eskimos this year (5-2), but James Franklin finished two of the wins. One of Nichols's victories was a 30-5 home win over the Riders on Aug. 31, which was Smith's first start.
"I think it helps that we played against him earlier in the season and have an idea of how he plays, how mobile and everything he is,'' Saskatchewan interim head coach Bobby Dyce said.
The Winnipeg native and former Bomber and University of Manitoba assistant coach will have his own cheering section at the game, including 20 to 25 family members and friends.
Same for Riders receiver Nic Demski, a former Bison who scored his first CFL touchdown last week with a 60-yard punt return.
"It just puts confidence under our belt,'' Demski said of the team's first victory. "We've been close a bunch of times this season. We finally did it as a team.''