Pierce is leader Bombers need

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:55 AM ET

His numbers were not gaudy but they were certainly more than good enough.

In his debut as Winnipeg's starting quarterback, Buck Pierce proved to be the leader the Blue Bombers needed.

Pierce did not let the fact that Hamilton returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown bother him. Nor did a hard tackle by Hamilton linebacker Otis Floyd that left him bleeding.

Pierce hung in to complete 17 of 25 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns as he guided the Bombers to a 49-29 victory over the Tiger-Cats before 26,302 encouraged fans at Canad Inns Stadium on Friday night.

Pierce also scampered for 89 yards on six carreis and that included a 13-yard TD that put the game away in the fourth quarter.

THE CONCERN: It was near the end of the first quarter and Hamilton linebacker Otis Floyd caught Winnipeg quarterback Buck Pierce rolling out and threw him down hard. Pierce was slow to get up and later came off the field holding his chin. He was seen holding a towel to his chin on the sidelines to apparently stopped some bleeding and did get some attention from the trainer.

Pierce did return for the next offensive series but was ineffective until he finally connected with rookie wide receiver Cory Watson early in the second quarter.

CAREER HIGH: Pierce connected with veteran slotback Terrence Edwards for touchdowns of 90 and 27 yards.

Edwards had caught five passes for a career-high 191 yards before the fourth quarter started.

NIGHTMARE KICKOFF: It could have been a rookie head coach's worst nightmare. After assuring everyone that his troops were indeed ready to play as he made his debut as head man in a regular-season game, Winnipeg's Paul LaPolice could only watch helplessly as Hamilton's Marcus Thigpen returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. His first game was only 26 seconds old after the convert and his new team was already down 7-0.

REBOUNDING: Before the contest, LaPolice talked about the key to his squad's success would be how it handled adversity. Well, the Bombers sucked it up pretty good after the opening kickoff. The offence moved the ball and racked up a couple of field goals before the Edwards' heroics.

In fact, every time the Bombers faced adversity, they made a big play to rebound and answer with a score of some sort.

MONSTER DEFENDERS: Sophomore defensive end Philip Hunt was a monster for the Bombers, recording three defensive tackles, three quarterback sacks and forcing the Kevin Glenn fumble that led to the game-clinching TD by Pierce.

Middle linebacker Joe Lobendahn added eight defensive tackles and two sacks.

TWO SHORT: With a 50-yard run in the fourth quarter, Bomber tailback Fred Reid closed to within two yards of the 100 mark. He finished with 98 yards on 13 carries before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury.

HURTS: Bomber DB Keyuo Craver suffered a suspected hamstring injury during the second half and did not come back … CB LaVar Glover later suffered some sort of leg injury, forcing the Bombers to revamp their secondary. Ian Logan moved to corner and Shawn Gallant replaced Logan at safety.

CHALLENGES: Hamilton head coach Marcel Bellefeuille won two of his three challenges during the game (you get an extra one if you win two). LaPolice was 0-for-1.


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