The Winnipeg Blue Bombers finally pulled in for their first pit stop of the Canadian Football League season with one blemish against nine wins through the first 10 weeks of a nightmarish schedule.
And so, as the club’s first bye week of the season is upon us, we thought we’d focus on 10 numbers/stats through the 10 weeks, focusing both on what is in the rearview mirror and on the horizon ahead.
The Blue Bombers are off to one of the best starts in franchise history, with only the 1960 side that cranked out 10 straight wins to open their season off to a superior jump out of the blocks.
The club has played four home games through the first 10 weeks, meaning the last eight games will feature five at home: August 25th vs. Calgary; the Banjo Bowl against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on September 10th; another visit from the Riders on September 30th, a date with the Edmonton Elks on October 8th and then the finale on October 28th vs. the B.C. Lions.
Included in the remaining schedule are two more bye weeks – in Week 16 at the end of September and in Week 20 before the showdown with the Lions in Winnipeg. The remaining road trips include the Labour Day Classic in Regina, a trip to Hamilton in mid-September and a visit to Vancouver on October 15th.
Try not to separate a shoulder patting yourselves on the backs, Bomber Nation, but Winnipeg leads the CFL through the first chunk of the season with an average attendance of 27,600 through the first four home dates.
That is significant knowing the upcoming home schedule features another showdown with the Stamps, two games with the arch-rival Riders, the date with the Elks and the matchup with the Lions at the end of the year that could – *could* – be for first in the division and the right to host the West Final.
The club also announced this week the Banjo Bowl is sold out for a 17th consecutive year. The only Banjo Bowl not played in front of a capacity crowd was the inaugural edition, which drew 27,160 fans at old Canad Inns Stadium in 2004.
The Blue Bombers ‘Dark Side’ defence has allowed just 13 touchdowns through the first 10 games which is the fewest in the CFL even though four teams won’t hit the halfway mark of their season until this week. Winnipeg is averaging just 18.2 points against through its 9-1 start.
Touchdown passes thrown by Zach Collaros through 10 starts this season, second-most to B.C.’s Nathan Rourke, who has 23. The best TD passing total in Collaros’ career came in 2015, when he threw 25 as a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He had 20 in last season’s condensed schedule.
FYI: Khari Jones holds the Blue Bombers record with 46 passing touchdowns in a single season, set in 2002.
One more on Collaros – he needs just 801 passing yards to move past both Joe Kapp (22,725) and Danny Barrett (23,419) into the Top 25 on the CFL’s all-time passing list.
The receiving yardage and TD total for Blue Bombers receiver Dalton Schoen through the first 10 games of his CFL career.
That has him ranked third in yardage heading into this week’s action behind only Eugene Lewis of Montreal (750) and Hamilton’s Jaelon Acklin (715) and has him considered one of the early-season front-runners for Most Outstanding Rookie, along with Calgary linebacker Titus Wall.
There’s a lot of highway still to travel this season, but it’s worth noting that a Blue Bombers player has been named the CFL’s top rookie six times previously with half of those honours going to receivers – Chris Matthews in 2012, Albert Johnson III in 2000 and Joe Poplawski in 1978. The others: defensive end Gavin Walls in 2005 and running backs Michael Richardson (1992) and William Miller (1980).
One more on the receivers – specifically two of the faces in the receiving corps: Schoen and Greg Ellingson began the season as the players asked to step in after the departures of Kenny Lawler and Darvin Adams in free agency.
Schoen’s numbers are above while Ellingson has 37 receptions for 572 yards and three TDs, despite missing three games. An important stat here: Schoen’s 22 second-down conversion catches are leading the CFL heading into this week’s action, while Ellingson has 15.
Yards rushing by Brady Oliveira through 10 games. That total put him atop the CFL rankings heading into this week, understanding that he had played two more games than some of the other players on the list.
That said, it isn’t the total which is the most significant number, but the way his yardage is trending upwards. Through Oliveira’s first six games he had 196 yards rushing and a 3.16 yards-per-carry average. In the last four games he has 348 yards and a sparkling 5.8 yards-per carry average.
Kick-return touchdowns for Janarion Grant so far this season – one on a punt return and, so far, the CFL’s only kickoff return score.
Grant now has six kick-return touchdowns as a Blue Bomber, tying for first in franchise history with Keith Stokes. Grant has his six in just 27 games; Stokes cranked out his half dozen in 37 games as a member of the Blue Bombers.
The total number of defensive plays made and tracked so far by the CFL for Blue Bombers linebacker Donald Rutledge, Jr. That number includes a team-high 38 tackles, one more on special teams, along with a sack, forced fumble, interception, four passes defended and three tackles for a loss.
Those totals are lost with the magnificent work of Schoen through 10 games, but in many years would have him in the top rookie discussion.
Discipline matters in football and the Blue Bombers have taken 66 penalties for 508 yards so far this season. That 508-yard total is second-fewest in the CFL to Ottawa’s 485, although the RedBlacks have played two fewer games.
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