After 620 long days, the CFL was finally back in full force last night as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (0-0) headed to Winnipeg to take on the Blue Bombers (0-0) in the CFL season opener. The last time these two teams met, it was for the right to call themselves Grey Cup champions. Of course, the Blue Bombers took that game and after waiting for nearly two years to unveil their banner, they got the chance to do so last night.
After the opening kickoff, the Ti-Cats held the Bombers to a two and out, forcing them to punt the ball back to Frankie Williams, a dangerous returner in his own respect. If you were expecting some rust early on for Jeremiah Masoli, you wouldn’t see it. The Tiger-Cats led a drive lasting seven plays and 89 culminating in a beautiful touchdown pass by Masoli to Jaelon Acklin.
A beautiful throw and catch combined with two two and outs early in the game for the Blue Bombers offence had the Tiger-Cats in the driver seat early in this game. It was at this point where the Hamilton offence went a little bit cold, however.
Hamilton would punt from the Winnipeg side of the field after a short second drive. Now with possession and looking to make something happen, the Blue Bombers started driving and turning to veteran Nic Demski. He was targeted twice on the drive for 55 yards before Collaros would find Kenny Lawler in the endzone on second and seven from the Hamilton 25 yard line.
After a made convert from newcomer, Tyler Crapigna, the Bombers took their first lead of the game. The teams would exchange two and outs before the first quarter expired, and Hamilton possessed the ball heading into the second.
Second Quarter (HAM: 6 @ WPG: 7)
The second quarter started with a solid drive from Hamilton that was slightly derailed by what was a rather poor taunting call on Brandon Banks who was throwing the ball to the official but hit a Winnipeg player in the head in what was surely an accident. Nevertheless, the Tabbies continued to drive down the field getting all the way to the Winnipeg 22 before Masoli threw his first interception of the season.
Willie Jefferson was the Bomber who made the game-changing play defensively. He’s certainly no stranger to the spotlight that comes with being a game-changer, and it’s no surprise that he made a play of this magnitude in a game as big as this one.
Nothing would come of either team’s next drive other than the fact that the Bombers began to establish the run game with back up, Brady Oliveira who will come up a little more later.
The Bombers weren’t done with their first-quarter scoring just yet though. They managed to piece together a long drive that started at their own 16-yard line. The drive lasted 10 plays and ended with yet another Lawler touchdown. It was his second of the night and gave the Blue Bombers a 14-6 lead after a made convert from Crapigna.
After Hamilton went two and out yet again, Winnipeg thought about potentially adding a field goal to take a bigger lead into halftime. They got to Hamilton’s 44 and could have tried a long field goal, but instead elected to try for the endzone. Collaros was never able to get the pass off and was sacked for a loss of 23 to end the half.
Third Quarter (HAM: 6 @ WPG: 14)
Everyone who was expecting some rust early in the game was surprised when they didn’t see it, but little did they know, they would need to wait until the third quarter to see it. Both offences would go cold with multiple two and out and very little scoring. In fact, the only scoring play of the quarter would come from the Blue Bombers when Hamilton decided to concede a safety instead of punting out of their own endzone.
The biggest play of the quarter would come when Mike Jones forced Banks to fumble. Jonathan Kongbo would recover the ball, but nothing would come of the drive and they would punt the ball back just three plays later.
Fourth Quarter (HAM: 6 @ WPG: 16)
Much like the third, the fourth saw little to no scoring, but it was time for Oliviera to take over the game. He would eclipse the 100 yard mark for the first time in his career, but if he is actually as good as he looked last night, there should be many more nights where he does the same.
There was only one scoring play in the fourth, and it was the Blue Bombers adding three to their total and taking a 19-6 lead after Crapigna added a 15-yard field goal early in the quarter. It was nearly over at this point, but the Bombers needed one more big play to ensure they would win their home opener and the first game in nearly two years.
As they had all night long, they made the play at the end of the game. It was an unlikely source with Jontrell Rocqumore coming up with a big interception, but that was the theme all night long. Down Darvin Adams and Andrew Harris, the Bombers needed some other players to step up and make big plays and they got that in a big way.
The final score: Hamilton Tiger-Cats: 6 @ Winnipeg Blue Bombers: 19
Passing Yards: Trevor Harris (EDM): 333
Rushing Yards: James Wilder Jr. (EDM): 89
Receiving Yards: Derel Walker (EDM): 98
Touchdowns: Abdul Kanneh (OTT): 1
Tackles: Avery Williams (OTT): 14
Sacks: Kwaku Boateng (EDM) & Mike Moore (EDM): 2
Interceptions: Abdul Kanneh (OTT): 2
13th Man Sports Player of the Game
POTG: Kenny Lawler (WPG)
2 tochdowns, 69 yards