SPORTS

Willy back in lineup as Bombers prep for their last shot at a playoff spot

10/21/2014 05:22 EDT | Updated 12/21/2014 05:59 EST
WINNIPEG - With their season hanging by a thread, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers can at least look forward to the return of their regular starting quarterback on Saturday.

Drew Willy looked good in practice Tuesday after missing last week's game due to injuries.

"More than that, I liked what he said," coach Mike O'Shea said after practice. "He said he'll be fine."

The Blue Bombers (6-10) will try to end a seven-game losing skid on Saturday against the B.C. Lions (8-7). Winnipeg will be eliminated from playoff contention with another defeat as the Lions are four points ahead in the race for the crossover spot in the CFL West.

Even if Winnipeg wins, the Blue Bombers would need a lot of help for a playoff spot to be possible. They would also need to beat the CFL-leading Calgary Stampeders and hope for a combination of B.C. and Toronto losses.

The Lions would need to lose their final two and the Argonauts (6-9) would have to lose two of their final three.

But first, the Bombers have to win, something they haven't managed to do since Aug. 22.

"We know we've got a good B.C. team coming in here," Willy said after practice Tuesday. "Their defence has been playing really well lately. They're not giving up touchdowns."

And the Bombers haven't been scoring them.

"We've got to work extremely hard this week in the red zone to be efficient," he said. "We've been struggling in the red zone for sure at this part of the season so we've got to make sure we're executing at all phases."

Willy added he would be good to go "unless I wake up so sore tomorrow that I can hardly grip the ball."

His most nagging injury has been to his throwing hand.

It's been a season of highs and lows for Willy in his rookie year as a starting CFL quarterback. He was signed away from the Saskatchewan Roughriders, where he was the No. 1 backup.

His personal numbers have looked good and he led the team to a great start before their victory drought. Willy has battled with Toronto veteran Ricky Ray for the lead in passing yards for much of the season.

The Blue Bombers, who were 3-15 last year, looked to be a much-improved team at the season's midway point. But a 35-30 loss to Saskatchewan on Aug. 31 started Winnipeg's tailspin and the team has been unable to recover.

Making things worse was the move to the much stronger West Division with the Ottawa Redblacks' arrival in the East this season.

Winnipeg won five of its first six, the only loss a rather humbling 26-3 debacle at the hands of the Edmonton Eskimos that was an early warning sign of the trouble ahead.

Most of those early wins were against weak East teams and some games were very close. The backbreaker for the Bombers was probably a 42-20 road loss to the lowly Redblacks earlier this month — it was Ottawa's second win this season.

There were signs of life in the Bombers' last game against the Stampeders but Winnipeg still dropped a 33-23 decision.

Veteran offensive lineman Glenn January could come off the injured list Saturday. The Blue Bombers have gone with Paris Cotton as the starting running back after the release of Nic Grigsby.

Grigsby was the team's leading rusher this season but asked for his release last week after being told he would be a backup. He later signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

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