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Bombers set to host Stampeders in showdown of CFL's last two unbeaten teams

WINNIPEG — Mike O’Shea downplayed Friday’s battle of the unbeaten, but the Winnipeg head coach hopes CFL fans will be hyped.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea watches from the sideline during the second half of CFL football game against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver, on Saturday, July 9, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

WINNIPEG — Mike O’Shea downplayed Friday’s battle of the unbeaten, but the Winnipeg head coach hopes CFL fans will be hyped.

The 5-0 Blue Bombers host the 4-0 Calgary Stampeders at IG Field, with both clubs having the opportunity to come away with the league’s only unblemished record.

"I don't know what kind of ribbon you get for being unbeaten in Week 6," O’Shea told reporters after Thursday’s walk-through. "I don't know that it really matters.

"All three phases were rolling for them in their last game, too, so I think it should be an exciting matchup. I think it’s going to be good for the CFL and good for fans."

Both teams are coming off dominant victories.

The Bombers put up their most points this season in a 43-22 win over the previously unbeaten B.C. Lions in Vancouver last Saturday. The Stampeders did the same when they manhandled the Elks 49-6 in Edmonton last week.

Winnipeg is on an 11-game win streak at IG Field and is 21-1 (including the playoffs) at home since September 2018.

The Stampeders are riding a six-game road win streak, but have lost their last four games in Winnipeg.

Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros followed the lead of his coach and wasn’t making a big deal out of Friday’s clash.

"I treat every game kind of the same," Collaros said. "I've got nervous energy before every single game no matter who the opponent is."

Collaros had an impressive outing against the Lions, keeping drives going with his scrambling and precision passes. He was 23-for-30 passing for 288 yards and three touchdowns.

His performance wasn't lost on Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson.

"I respect the way he plays," Dickenson told reporters after practice this week when asked about Collaros.

"I think he's a leader and a winner. And like all quarterbacks, you've got to give him multiple looks and make sure they know you're there and hopefully you make them make some bad decisions."

Collaros will have a new, big target Friday. Six-foot-six receiver Carlton Agudosi, who spent last season on the practice roster, will make his CFL debut. He replaces Brendan O’Leary-Orange, who joined receiver Nic Demski on the six-game injured list.

Veteran Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell seems to be clicking after overcoming a series of injuries. The 32-year-old was 17-for-22 passing for 279 yards and two TDs against Edmonton.

"He's moving around well, he's playing with great confidence," Bombers defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said of Mitchell. "He's getting the ball downfield to his receivers.

"He looks good, and so we're going to have get back there and get some pressure on him and make sure that he's not comfortable."

Calgary has only allowed four QB sacks, one more than league-leader B.C. and half as many as the Bombers.

Jeffcoat hasn’t recorded a sack this season, but he's been in the face of opponents and has six defensive tackles, an interception and a forced fumble.

"We've taken the ball away from teams, we've gotten the ball back for our offence. That's bigger," Jeffcoat said.

"As much as I love my sacks, we're winning games. That's more important."

Jeffcoat also wasn’t anticipating Friday’s game more than usual.

"We're just trying to get better each week, to be honest," he said. "In the regular season, you don’t make games bigger than they need to be. It’s just the next game. We're trying to win every game we play."


Friday, IG Field

STINGY QBS: Mitchell has completed 73 straight passes without an interception. Collaros hasn’t thrown a pick in his last 44 passes. 

DOWN TO THE WIRE: In the last seven games between Winnipeg and Calgary, the winning points have been scored in the final three minutes.

TURNOVERS PAY OFF: The Bombers have scored 49 of their 130 total points off turnovers. The Stampeders have used their takeaways to score 59 of their 142 points.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 14, 2022.

Judy Owen, The Canadian Press