It was the work of Harris and the offensive line in front of him that set the tone for the night, writes Ed Tait.
The numbers aren’t exactly jaw-dropping, nor do they scream out absolute dominance.
The black and white of Andrew Harris’s totals in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 33-25 win over the Toronto Argonauts last Thursday go like this: 17 carries for 81 yards and two touchdowns, with an additional 13 yards on two receptions.
But it was how the Winnipeg product had to grind for every inch while working behind the Bombers offensive line that still had his teammates talking when they returned to the practice field Monday morning.
Yes, some yards just seem to pile up easily, others are really earned.
“That was tough-nosed, old-school football,” said Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols when asked Monday about Harris and his effort in the win over Toronto. “He grinded for every yard. I talked about it after the game: there’s a big difference between second and nine and second and four.
“He put us in some of those situations where we could get into second-and-medium and that’s where we got some of our bigger plays in the game and had he not been fighting for those yards we would have been in second and long and it makes us a lot more difficult for us.
“He’s a game-changer for us.”
There were definitely rough edges in Winnipeg’s win last week, a result that pushed them to 2-1 early in the season. The kick-cover units would just as soon torch the game film. And even with some solid pressure from the Bombers defensive line, Argos QB Ricky Ray still threw for 330 yards.
But it was the work of Harris and the offensive line in front of him that set the tone for the night. It was “old school”, as Nichols suggested and the Bombers dominance of the line of scrimmage had a certain raw, smash-mouth feel to it.
So, even though the statistics might not portray it, Harris’ teammates are willing to shout it out at full throat: he’s a game-changer, all right. And a tone-setter.
“His teammates are quite willing to get on his back whenever they can,” said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea of Harris after practice on Monday. “He just, once again, showed his tenaciousness, his fire and drive. We talk about this all time… he’s really smart in (pass) protections, he can run routes, he can catch the football. It’s that grit that everyone likes about him.
“It’s not anything new, he’s shown that time and time again.”
Harris turned 30 in April, a number of significance for anyone who makes a living driving his body in, at and around large men paid to shake and rattle his molars with every hit.
It’s a time when running backs are thought to be vulnerable to the wear and tear of the profession.
What Harris has shown instead through the first three weeks of 2017 is just the opposite: there’s still plenty of miles left on his tread.
Ed Tait is the Blue Bombers Director of Content. His columns appear weekly in the Metro. Follow him daily at bluebombers.com.