Last night was a meeting of teams who were both trying to redeem themselves from poor performances in the previous weeks. Both teams were coming in hungry to correct their play.
Justin Medlock started the game off with a screaming 90 yard punt that went all the way to the Hamilton end zone before being conceded for a single point by Hamilton, to give Winnipeg a 1-0 lead early on.
After an early fumble by Hamilton’s Luke Tasker, the Blue Bombers drove themselves into prime field goal position, but then a very strange plan ensued. Former NFL kicker Justin Medlock came onto the field, as did the rest of the Winnipeg special teams formation, except the holder. The ensuing confusion and the league’s quick 20-second play clock led to the Bombers receiving a time count violation on the play, moving the kick back five yards.
The ensuing 54-yard attempt sailed wide and was recovered by Hamilton’s star kick returner Brandon Banks, who took the ball 120 yards to the house to give Hamilton the lead. After the convert the score was 7-1 to the Tiger-Cats.
The Blue Bombers were looking to respond after such a shocking start and began to put some completions together, but could not find the end zone. They had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Justin Medlock to make the score 7-4. That would remain the score through the first quarter.
To begin the second quarter, Hamilton looked hungry on defense and was able to get a sack in on Drew Willy, much to the delight of the Hamilton faithful. Later on in the quarter the team honoured Canadian Forces Sgt. Brent Schriner and the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
Hamilton’s defense was bending, but not breaking, as they would let the Bombers drive down until they got into the red zone. Once in this dangerous position, the Tiger-Cats did not give Winnipeg an inch, resulting in yet another Blue Bombers field goal by Justin Medlock, who tied the game 7-7 on an 18-yarder.
Later on, a sloppy fumble by Ticats starter Jermiah Masoli led to Winnipeg gaining possession as they went down, and although Medlock missed the field goal, the succeeding field goal miss was conceded by Hamilton for a single to make it 8-7 Winnipeg.
Then the craziness started, on their next possession Masoli was picked off by Winnipeg defender Maurice Leggat, who ran it all the way for a touchdown to give the Blue Bombers a big 15-7 lead.
Hamilton continued to get bad breaks. On the succeeding kickoff, Blue Bombers defensive end Macho Harris had lined up onside to receive the kick and recovered the punt deep in Hamilton territory.
The Tiger-Cats defended admirably for a few plays before taking a pass interference penalty that gave the Bombers a new set of downs. From this, Winnipeg eventually converted for a 22-7 lead, after the convert. Ryan Smith made a particularly spectacular catch on this play as Drew Willy’s pass lodged itself between his arm and his body for the highlight-reel catch.
A late field goal by Brett Maher made the score 22-10 to Winnipeg heading into half time, and the Tiger-Cats had nobody to blame but themselves. They made key mistakes in key situations to put themselves in a hole.
The Tiger-Cats started the second half on a mission, with a big 20-yard run by star running back C.J. Gable to set the offense up early. This led to a great field position for Jeremiah Masoli to find Andy Fantuz for a nice touchdown in the corner of the end zone. After the convert it was 22-17 as Hamilton looked to be gaining life. Justin Medlock added another field goal in response to make it 25-17 in favour of the Blue Bombers.
The Tiger-Cats once again went down the field, determined to claw back, and Masoli led his team on a 75-yard drive that ended with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Chad Owens and all of a sudden it was a one point game, with the convert making it 25-24.
Justin Medlock added yet another field goal late in the third to put Winnipeg up 28-24.
There was no scoring in the fourth quarter, but Hamilton refused to give in and drove hard down the field to try and score the game winning-touchdown late on. The Blue Bombers got a clutch late sack that forced a fumble as Masoli looked a bit indecisive on the play, and Winnipeg were able to seal a huge 28-24.
For the Blue Bombers, this may have been a job saving win for head coach Mike O’Shea as there was much discontent after two tough seasons and a tough start so far. For Hamilton this is a tough pill to swallow, as even after all the turnovers and mistakes they still had a chance to win in the end but failed. Credit must go to the Blue Bombers for making Hamilton pay for their mistakes. Drew Willy went 32/42 for 279 yards and one touchdown, while Jeremiah Masoli went 29/39 for 367 yards with two touchdowns but also two interceptions.
All in all, Winnipeg could be primed to go on a run after a big win like this. After two tough losses in a row for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, they must rebound in a big way as Zach Collaros still has a bit of time left in his recovery from injury. Hamilton does not play a home game again until August 20. They play next in Montreal on July 15 at 7pm EST. The Blue Bombers go to Edmonton on July 14 at 8:30pm EST.