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CFL Preview: McGuire starts under center as Bombers visit Alouettes

MONTREAL — Having played just a week ago, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Montreal Alouettes meet again for a rematch at Percival Molson Stadium.

Coming off a 31-21 win against the Als and a playoff position well solidified, Mike O’Shea is turning the offence over to Sean McGuire who will get his first start of the season.

McGuire, 25, has appeared in 12 games for the Bombers recording 55 rushing yards and has been a complementary piece of the offence. Prior to his time as a Blue Bomber, McGuire spent his collegiate years at the University of Western Illinois. During his years there, he set new school records for passing yards (9,819), passing touchdowns (72), completions (771) and his 9,819 passing yards places him second all-time in the history of the Missouri Valley Conference.

While Zach Collaros has commanded the huddle since the start of the season, McGuire has had his fair share of touches. In serving as a short-yardage specialist, McGuire’s eight touchdowns on the year leads the league and has been a secret weapon of sorts for the Bombers in their goal-line packages.

Having his first start just days away, McGuire took the time to express his feelings ahead of Saturday’s game.

“I feel excited,” said McGuire. “I feel grateful to have this opportunity and be in this position. I feel really grateful; I play with a lot of gratitude, that’s something I try to do. I’m excited and working hard every day, excited to get to it.”

Having the luxury of a veteran quarterback like Collaros is something that McGuire has not taken for granted and has turned to him for advice and guidance in preparation for the game.

“Me and Zach have talked a lot, we’re real close,” said McGuire. “Each week he kind of says, ‘You know what my process is,’ and then, obviously, he’s our starter. I try to follow in his footsteps, he’s such a great leader – someone I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from him this year. Even in a short stretch in 2019 when he played the last four games, I can’t explain how much I’ve learned from him and how great of a teammate and friend he is.”

Speaking on what he can expect from the Alouettes’ defence, McGuire is anticipating getting Montreal’s best.

“I think they’re a really good team, they’re well-coached, good defence, have respect for them,” said McGuire. “They do different things on defence and it was a good challenge this past week, it’s a good challenge this week.”

As for the receivers McGuire will be throwing to, Drew Wolitarsky touched on what he believes are McGuire’s going to be like come kickoff.

“He’s going to sling that thing, I know he loves to throw the ball,” said Wolitarsky. “We’re going to have opportunities and he’s a smart guy and he’s going to give everything he has for us.”

The option to elect McGuire over Collaros as the starting quarterback comes in the wake of the team’s league-leading 11th win of the season and ninth in a row. With a home playoff game at IG Field locked up, the health of the Bombers’ impact players was made a priority to ensure their longevity for what the team hopes to be a deep playoff run.

As for the Alouettes’ quarterback, they will be turning to Trevor Harris again who is eager for another chance to dethrone the Bombers.

“I thought we did a lot of good things offensively,” said Harris. “It’s about tightening up the details and we all took our turns offensively, that starts with me. I’m going to be better in certain situations where we can move the ball and capitalize on certain coverages that they play. That’s a good defence and they’re a good team; they’re going to make it tough on us, but we plan on making it tough on them as well.”

Though the Alouettes only lost by 10 points to the Bombers last week, they are poised to make it another close one.

Montreal and Winnipeg alternate placing in first or second in a plethora of offensive categories this season, showing they have a lot in common under the surface. Where Winnipeg leads the CFL in net offence with 4,580 yards, Montreal is right on their tail with 4,410. An area that the Als have an edge over the Bombers in, and look to be leaned on in the rematch, is their ability to run the ball, recording 1,800 on the season. But their ability to do exactly that may be hindered due to injuries to their offensive line piling up.

In recent weeks, the Als have had to shuffle along the offensive line to keep the run game, led by William Stanback, a threat. After losing Philippe Gagnon in last week’s contest, head coach Khari Jones mixed and matched his offensive line during this week’s practices in hopes to better protect Harris and make room for Stanback.

“It’s a bit concerning,” said Jones on the Alouettes’ offensive line injuries. “I think we’re going to get some guys back and so that’s a good thing. Sean Jamieson has been practicing. This is his first week of practice so he’s feeling good. David Brown may be back, Gagnon may be back. We may get all these guys back when we absolutely need to, but in the meantime, we will do what must be done.”

Kickoff is slated for 1:00 p.m. ET and can be watched on TSN, RDS and ESPN+ or followed along on CFL.ca’s Game Tracker.

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