Brady Oliveira wants to take a bite out of the “Doughnut Boys.”
The CFL’s leading rusher and his Winnipeg Blue Bombers host the B.C. Lions and their top-ranked defence Thursday at IG Field.
The West Division-leading Lions (6-1) are coming off a 27-0 shutout of Edmonton last Saturday, which was the team’s second blanking of the Elks this season.
The feat prompted B.C. head coach Rick Campbell to call his defence the “Doughnut Boys” in a locker-room video.
Oliveira is ready for a Lions’ defence he described as a fast group that’s benefitting from continuity.
“I love the challenge. The bigger the challenge, the better it is,” Oliveira said Wednesday after Winnipeg’s walk-through. “The sweeter it will taste at the end of the game when we have that victory, knowing that we put it on a great defence.”
Oliveira tops the league’s ball carriers with 526 yards off of 103 rushes, including one touchdown. His 75.1-yard average through seven games is also a league high.
B.C. sits third in the league in allowing 67.3 yards rushing. Winnipeg is sixth (94.9).
Campbell didn’t take credit for coming up with a sweet nickname for his defence, explaining some players were discussing pitching a zero.
“They were talking and I said ‘I’m OK with the Doughnut Boys,'” Campbell said Wednesday upon arrival in Winnipeg.
He knows the shutout was a rare accomplishment and praised the group effort of players and coaches.
“I call it a strength in numbers,” Campbell said. “We don’t rely on superstars, and at the same time we don’t really have someone that we need to hide. It’s kind of that operation where it’s a 12-man crew and they’ve been playing well together.”
The Lions allow the fewest points per game (13.4). Opponents have scored just five touchdowns through seven games.
The Blue Bombers are second in the West at 5-2. A B.C. win secures the season series between the two clubs for the Lions.
The teams clash again Oct. 6 on the West Coast.
The visiting Lions handed Winnipeg its biggest loss in June when a 30-6 victory included the sacking Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros a season-high seven times.
Winnipeg all-star left tackle Stanley Bryant doesn’t want a repeat of watching his quarterback hit the turf.
“It was uncharacteristic of us,” Bryant said. “We’ve got to be better.”
He said the O-line has improved since then and he shoulders a lot of responsibility for how it plays.
“We take pride in how we do things, and I also take pride in myself and how I do things,” Bryant said. “I’m the leader of the group and things start with me, so if I’m having a bad performance I feel like it’ll be a trickle-down effect with the whole group.”
Both teams have registered a league-high 25 sacks this season. Winnipeg has allowed 18 sacks. B.C. has allowed 19, including five in each of its last two games.
Lions defensive end Mathieu Betts leads the CFL with 10 sacks in his first seven games, including three versus Winnipeg.
“I think what can set him apart on a lot of plays is he’s relentless. He does not stop,” Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea.
Bombers defensive end Willie Jefferson ranks second to Betts with eight.
Betts said the Lions’ defence feels good these days. As for the doughnut moniker, he explained captain and defensive back T.J. Lee has brought doughnuts for the group all season.
The clubs are almost even in point production. Winnipeg has scored a league-high 27.1 per game, while the Lions rank third at 26.
B.C. quarterback Dane Evans, making a second consecutive start in place of injured Vernon Adams Jr. (knee), needs to watch out for some strong-arm tactics from Winnipeg’s defence.
The Bombers lead the CFL with 38 pass knockdowns – 16 more than No. 2 Saskatchewan (22). Jefferson has seven of those.
“I told the coaches it’s like throwing over a small tree or trying to throw around it,” Evans said of Jefferson. “Willie is such a special player. It’s pretty amazing that a D-lineman can affect the pass game not rushing every time.”
B.C. LIONS (6-1) AT WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (5-2)
Thursday, IG FIELD
REST IS GOOD: The Bombers are coming off their first bye week of the season. They’re 11-7 after a rest week since 2017.
WELCOMED RETURNS: Winnipeg linebacker Kyrie Wilson and defensive back Winston Rose both make their season debuts Thursday. Wilson tore his Achilles tendon in July last year. Rose injured a foot in training camp. The Lions get back veteran receiver Dominique Rhymes, who missed the last game (knee), and leads the league with five TDs in five outings.
HISTORY FAVOURS BOMBERS: Winnipeg and B.C. have met 20 times since 2014, with the Bombers winning 13 of those matches. Ten of the games have been decided in the final three minutes.
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