The Bombers are gearing up for the talented Rourke and the hype machine with the Lions coming to town for the West Final

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive coordinator Richie Hall sat down for his online media availability on Tuesday and knew exactly what was to come.

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Questions about BC Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke.

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Many of them.

Rourke is in the news again in the Canadian Football League after returning from a lisfranc sprained foot to make the playoffs and led the Lions to a win over the Calgary Stampeders in the West Division semi-finals .

The 24-year-old quarterback will then lead the Lions against the two-time defending champion Bombers in Sunday’s West Final at IG Field (3:30 p.m.), and the hype machine is already buzzing.

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Like the former defensive back that he is, Hall handled Tuesday’s media offense well, even when asked if Rourke could be placed in an elite tier of quarterbacks that includes all-time greats. from the CFL like Doug Flutie, Warren Moon and Dieter Brock – a bit of a stretch considering the Lions quarterback has started just 12 games in his career.

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“I think it’s unfair for the guys mentioned and also unfair for (Rourke) to start comparing him in such a short time,” Hall said.

“He got off to a good start. When you start evaluating people’s careers, you’re evaluating them on how it starts and how it evolves to the end, not as it unfolds. He got off to a good start, had a great year, phenomenal. But this is his second year. When you’re talking about the other guys, you’re talking about a period of time.

Obviously, it’s not quite time to start preparing for Rourke’s Hall of Fame bust yet, but there’s no doubt the young Canadian has had a special season, albeit a reduced one. half by injury.

In 10 games, Rourke threw for 3,349 yards and 25 touchdowns, while leading the league with a 78.7 completion percentage and a 123.6 save rating.

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He was named CFL Player of the Week five times.

Although the Bombers have an equally dynamic quarterback in Zach Collaros — who beat Rourke as the West’s nominee for best player and comes with much more big-game experience — Rourke is clearly a dangerous opponent and he has plenty of weapons at his disposal. , including star receiver Dominque Rhymes and powerhouse running back James Butler.

“They’re a very good football team, offensively, defensively and special teams, and that’s why we have to play our best game,” Hall said. “But we also have a very good football team. It’s about going out there and executing, minimizing mistakes and making it a game where you don’t give up easy yards, easy plays. If we do this, we increase our chances of winning.

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“They can lead the football, they have good receivers, but we can also stop the run and we can also defend the pass. It’s a good back and forth chess match.

The Bombers have faced the Lions three times this season, but only one of the games was a true indication of how the teams have faced each other.

Back July 9in Vancouver, the Bombers (4-0) and Lions (3-0) were undefeated and had their No. 1 quarterbacks in action the entire game.

The Bombers came away with an emphatic 43-22 victory, with Collaros (288 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions) edging Rourke by a wide margin.

Rourke finished that game with 278 yards and three touchdown passes — including two on deep balls to Rhymes — but also threw two picks.

“What have we learned? Hall wondered Tuesday. “You can’t give up the big play, the explosion plays. You have to play hard because (Rourke) is a very smart quarterback who gets rid of the ball quickly.

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“Coming into this game, what we’re asking our guys to do is nothing we didn’t ask of them in Week 1. If we go out there and do this stuff, let’s minimize our mistakes. , limit big games, give ourselves a chance to win.

Rourke was still injured and Collaros was resting — the Bombers had already clinched first place — when the two teams met Oct. 15 in Vancouver (a 40-32 win for the Lions), and both quarterbacks didn’t play. only the first quarter of a season – the Bombers’ 24-9 victory on October 28 at IG Field.

One stat that stands out from Rourke’s games against Winnipeg: His completion percentage was just 63.9, well below his season average.

Although he limped noticeably at times, Rourke was brilliant in the West semifinals last Sunday, throwing for 321 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-16 win over the Stampeders. He became the first Canadian quarterback since Gerry Dattilio in 1980 to win a CFL playoff game and only the second since Russ Jackson did so in 1969.

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Bombers defensemen – including big-name players like Willie Jefferson, Jackson Jeffcoat, Adam Bighill and Brandon Alexander – will likely be sick of talking about Rourke by the time he arrives in Winnipeg, and you have to wonder if all that hype media will serve as motivation for the home team 15-3.

“I don’t know, it depends if they read the paper or watch the news,” Hall said. “All we know is we’re playing the BC Lions and that’s what they bring to the table. We have to go and we have to play well if we hope to win. It doesn’t matter who we play against.

“All the conversation about all these other things comes from people, such as the media and other people, the fans, who build it. For us, it’s a game of football that we have to play and play well, no matter who is it.

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Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

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