From the Canadian Press
WINNIPEG -- What a difference a year makes in the CFL.
Last year's Labour Day Classic was Michael Bishop's first start for Saskatchewan after being traded from Toronto, and he led the Roughriders to a 19-6 win over the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
This time he hopes to notch another victory wearing blue and gold.
"I'm sure they'll probably boo me and a couple other guys that played there in Saskatchewan before," Bishop said as the Bombers (3-5) prepared for Sunday's sold-out battle (4 p.m. ET) against the Riders (4-4).
"That's something that we'll deal with. We won't worry about what they're saying and what not. We'll go out and do what we need to do on the football field."
Saskatchewan is 24-18 overall in Labour Day games. Winnipeg hasn't won the holiday tilt since 2004, when it also defeated the Riders in the rematch at home, the inaugural Banjo Bowl.
Bishop followed up last year's Labour Day victory with a Banjo Bowl win. He's aiming to repeat that feat.
"To go out to Regina and get a win and come back here to Winnipeg and get a win would be a major plus for me," said Bishop, who was released by Saskatchewan after last year's playoffs and joined the Bombers in late July.
Brought in to boost a struggling Winnipeg offence, Bishop has been hot and cold, completing only 48.7 per cent of his passes (56-of-115 for 708 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions).
The team has two wins since the eight-year veteran took over from Stefan Lefors, including its last game, a 37-10 kicking of B.C.
That victory featured Fred Reid's single game Bomber rushing record of 260 yards and rookie running back Yvenson Bernard's 112 yards.
The CFL's offensive player of the month for August, Reid leads the league in rushing with 795 yards on 115 carries and has five TDs. Bernard has rushed 22 times for 179 yards.
A repeat of the B.C. ground game is a lot to ask for, but Bishop believes Reid and Bernard can continue to be the offence's sparkplugs.
"With the things that we're doing now, if those guys carry the ball like that it'll open up lanes down the field for me to get the ball down to some of the receivers to make some big plays," said Bishop.
"I think we're right on track with the schemes we're running now. The people that are outside, they might not see it, but as a team we definitely see it and we're striving week in and week out to make it better."
Saskatchewan pivot Darian Durant has completed 56.8 per cent of his passes (126-of-222 for 1,833 yards, 11 TDs and a league-leading 11 interceptions).
Defence may be the key to the game.
The Riders have allowed an average of 326.8 total yards per game, good for second in the league. The Bombers are fifth at 356.6.
Saskatchewan is tied for first with Montreal in quarterback sacks (23), with defensive end Stevie Baggs leading the league with seven and teammate John Chick tied for second with six. Winnipeg has 16.
The Bombers are second in the loop in takeaways with 30, including a league-high 19 interceptions, nine fumbles and two turnovers on downs. The Riders have seven interceptions, 15 fumbles and five turnovers on downs.
Bombers centre Obby Khan said the offensive linemen are ready to protect Bishop and pumped up after the B.C. rout.
"Saskatchewan's front seven in one word is very unorthodox," Khan said.
"They run a lot of different looks, a lot of different alignments to try to confuse you, but when they run an unorthodox defence it leaves their defensive holes wide open."
What's crucial is tuning out the rabid Rider fans.
"I tell the guys, especially on offence and some of the younger rookies on the team, that it will be the loudest, most crazy stadium we will play in all year," Khan said.
"That really affects us as far as our mental prep and making signals and play calls on the line of scrimmage."
Bernard is one of the rookies being primed by his teammates about the game's atmosphere, but he knows about rivalries. He played for Oregon State University, which has games against the University of Oregon dubbed the "Civil War."
"They tell me it's just crazy, that (Saskatchewan) fans are very different and pretty crazy," said the 24-year-old.
"They just told me to watch out for bottles."
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