GUELPH - Tim Burke this week told his Winnipeg Blue Bombers veterans, those who would not be travelling to southern Ontario, to gradually build to a peak on June 27, the date of the Bombers’ regular-season opener against the Montreal Alouettes.
The vets will have to make sure they side-step the large hole the second-teamers and others dug against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the pre-season finale on Thursday night.
The Ticats led 35-0 at the half and managed to hang on for a 52-0 victory at the University of Guelph’s Alumni Stadium.
Burke, the Bombers’ head coach, should have left everyone at home. The score might have been a little more flattering.
We get that Burke might not have wanted to run the risk of his best players, notably quarterback Buck Pierce, getting hurt, but those who made the trip made out like they had read the playbook upside-down.
Though his team cruised, Ticats general manager/head coach Kent Austin couldn’t have been thrilled. How is he supposed to properly evaluate his team against a group of Bombers, whether on offence, defence or special teams, who really had no business being on a Canadian Football League field?
The answer is Austin couldn’t have gleaned much at all. For the Ticats, the game before a crowd of 12,732 was a glorified practice. For the Bombers, or many of them, it was proof they don’t belong in the CFL, never mind that it was pre-season.
AT THE HALF
Henry Burris connected with Andy Fantuz for a 14-yard catch on the Ticats’ first play from scrimmage, a combination the Hamilton faithful expects to see a lot of this season. Later, Fantuz reached over Bombers safety Teague Sherman for a five-yard touchdown reception ... Though he was playing against a bunch of no-names, Burris was in command in his first pre-season appearance. Burris finished with 198 yards, completing 13 of 17 passes. He was in synch not only with Fantuz, but also Sam Giguere and rookie Greg Ellingson, who hauled in two passes for 85 yards and one touchdown ... Bombers quarterback Justin Goltz didn’t have a clue. He was intercepted twice, and on both plays, a receiver was not in the immediate vicinity. An exclamation point was slammed on Goltz’s night when Raymond Brown picked him in the Hamilton end zone and took the football 115 yards for a touchdown. Goltz, who completed 12 of 21 passes for 101 yards, gave way to Chase Clement to begin the third quarter. Buck Pierce won’t be losing any sleep ... Chris Garrett, trying to forget that he missed all of the 2012 season with an Achilles tendon injury, had a tough night. Garrett fumbled in the first quarter, but it didn’t help that Goltz had to corral a high snap on the play. Erik Harris, who also had an interception, recovered the ball for the Ticats ... The Bombers advanced past midfield once in the first half. They gave up the ball on downs during one series when Garrett was stuffed on third-and-two at the 54-yard line ... There’s reason to forget about Chris Williams in Steeltown on punt returns, and that reason is Lindsey Lamar. A Mike Renaud punt was taken 78 yards for a touchdown by Lamar in the second quarter, this after Lamar ran a punt back 88 yards for a major in Montreal last week ... Discipline was the Ticats’ enemy in the opening 30 minutes, as they were dinged for three 15-yard penalties ... Before Winnipeg defensive back Dekota Marshall was burned on a 58-yard touchdown catch by Ellingson, he made a smart play to slap a pass away from Justin Hilton. Had Hilton made the catch, he was gone. Ellingson, by the way, has done just about enough to wrap up a starting role at slotback ... Hamilton’s C.J. Gable, trying to knock running back Chevon Walker out of the No. 1 role, had two carries for minus-7 yards. Walker rushed for a one-yard touchdown.
Brown had three interceptions for a Ticats defence that has been re-made after giving up a CFL-high 576 points a year ago ... Perhaps it was a moral victory for the Bombers to hold the Ticats to nine points — three field goals by Luca Congi — in the third quarter ... Winnipeg appeared ready to finally score early in the fourth quarter when slotback Quintin McCree fumbled at the Hamilton nine-yard line. Ticats tackle Hasan Hazime recovered ... After the Ticats were forced to punt, McCree was open and dropped a Max Hall pass ... Just to ensure that Austin knew his players remained in the game mentally, Emanuel Davis had an interception and lateralled to Harold Mutubola for a touchdown in the fourth quarter ... The Bombers finished with nine turnovers. Nice ... Burris doesn’t think that the Ticats’ home away from home will be a detriment in the form of unusual travel. “For a lot of us, we always had to drive 25-30 minutes to Ivor Wynne for a game anyway, so really, not much changes,” Burris said. “For us to flash back to younger days and playing on college campuses, we know these fans here in Tiger-Cats land, from Waterloo to Kitchener to Guelph, they are all going to be excited about us developing it into a home stadium for this year.” ... It was pre-season, but that was no excuse for the stadium announcer to refer to Ellingson as “Ellington,” and it happened more than once ... A squirrel ran on the field during halftime and scampered through an end zone to take a 6-0 lead on the Bombers.