Grant hopes to relive epic game against Als

Hamilton Tiger-Cats' wide receiver Bakari Grant makes a touchdown catch against Montreal Alouettes'...

Hamilton Tiger-Cats' wide receiver Bakari Grant makes a touchdown catch against Montreal Alouettes' Seth Williams during the first half of their CFL Eastern semifinal football game in Montreal, November 13, 2011. (REUTERS)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:09 PM ET

HAMILTON - For the first time since last year's epic playoff game, Bakari Grant will get to line up against the Montreal Alouettes.

The stakes and stage, naturally, are entirely different, the outcome not as severe with so many games to be played before this year's post-season derby begins.

But for Grant, Saturday night's kickoff in the Hammer featuring Montreal evokes memories of that playoff game for the ages when the Ticat receiver genuinely came of age.

"That was the game where I really experienced what the CFL is all about, big plays, big scores," began Grant on Thursday following his team's workout at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

"It goes down to the last play of the game because it's such a high scoring league and it's a passing league. I learned a lot."

History, of course, will recall Hamilton would venture into Montreal's Olympic Stadium and win a 52-44 shootout that required overtime.

Had Brandon Whitaker not dropped a third-down reception in the flat, the Als and Ticats would still be playing because neither defence seemed capable of stopping anyone on that Sunday afternoon.

Grant would haul in seven passes for 113 yards and one touchdown, numbers that are eerily similar to this year's total following three games.

As he develops a better feel for quarterback Henry Burris, it's just a matter of time before Grant has one of those breakout games, the kind he manufactured in Montreal where just about any ball, catchable or not, thrown in his area would result in a reception.

When fans in the Hammer were poised to write the Ticats off following losses to Saskatchewan and B.C., lost in the hysteria was the inevitable learning curve Burris would have to experience with his receivers.

Part of Anthony Calvillo's success in Montreal has been the consistency in running an offence that hasn't changed, playing behind an offensive line that's remained constant and throwing to a group of receivers that undergoes the occasional tweak when players such a Ben Cahoon decides to call it a day.

Granted, expectations in Hamilton are high, the team's fan base clamouring for post-season success following a decades-long run of disappointment and disappearance.

Typical of Hamilton's inconsistent play from a year ago, the team would follow up its sublime day in Montreal with a stinker the following week in the East final against the host Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

When Grant began his off-season, his thoughts quickly turned to Hamilton's post-season and his rookie season as a whole.

"Initially, that loss (in Winnipeg) stuck with more,'' he added. "But looking back, I learned a lot from all the games, especially the Montreal one."

Whether it's Saturday night or some night in the coming weeks, Hamilton's offence appears poised for a break-out performance.

When they beat the Argos last week, Chris Williams returned a punt and missed field goal for majors, producing the trifecta when he hauled in a touchdown pass thrown by Burris.

The Ticats, who led 29-13 at intermission after building a 21-0 lead, would hang on for a 36-27 win, the game's most decisive sequence courtesy of Burris' feet in the fourth quarter when he twice converted second-down conversions in leading Hamilton to its game-sealing scoring drive.

At the end of Burris' touchdown pass was Grant, who recorded his first touchdown of the season.

"This year and this offence, my mentality is all about us,'' continued Grant, who can get lost in the shuffle when names such as Williams and Andy Fantuz line up on offence. "It's about us and how we're playing.

"It's not about who we're playing because as long as we execute what we have in the game plan, then it doesn't matter who's on the other side of the ball."

But part of Grant is likely to reflect on last year's game in Montreal, albeit briefly.

"You've seen glimpses in games,'' said Grant, referring to stretches in back-to-back games where the Ticats have shown a big-play capability. "Like I tell people, it takes time to get that chemistry."

For Grant, there's no time like the present.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos