Second choice was Bombers' saviour

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' quarterback Buck Pierce hands-off to running back Chris Garrett (R) during...

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' quarterback Buck Pierce hands-off to running back Chris Garrett (R) during the first half of their CFL Eastern final football game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Winnipeg, Manitoba, November 20, 2011. (REUTERS/Todd Korol)

Mike Ganter, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:35 PM ET

Chris Garrett may not have been the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ first choice but were it not for him, their road to the Grey Cup may have already been stopped in its tracks.

Garnett was, without a smidgen of exaggeration, the major factor in Winnipeg’s 19-3 win Sunday at Canad Inns Stadium.

With his offensive line winning the battles in front of him, Garrett ran like a man possessed, chewing up yardage and — just as importantly — game clock, as the afternoon went on.

Garrett was actually cut by the Bombers, understandably in favour of the veteran Fred Reid, but when Reid’s season ended in Toronto with an injury midway through the summer, Garrett got the call back.

Sunday he was the Winnipeg offence. Buck Pierce did his part, hanging on to the ball for the most part — he did throw one pick — but it was Garrett’s time-consuming runs, particularly in the fourth quarter when the Ticats had the advantage of the wind at their backs, that was the difference.

He finished the game with 190 yards rushing on 29 carries and a touchdown but his greatest accomplishment was spearheading that fourth-quarter Winnipeg dominance.

The Ticats entered the quarter down by 10 points but with the wind. The only scoring by either team to that point had been with the wind at its back.

Garrett though ate up so much clock with his bullish running that the ’Cats offence only had the ball for two minutes of the final frame.

Three drives of 32 seconds, 37 seconds and 43 seconds in addition to the first eight seconds of the quarter with the ball were the only opportunities Hamilton’s offence had to use that wind advantage to its benefit.

And for that they can thank Garrett and the Bombers offensive line.

A FUNNY NOTION

Pierce is a strange man. In a pre-game interview that was taped, the Bombers quarterback was asked about wearing at least one glove to keep his hands a little warmer in the minus-16 temperatures. Pierce declined, saying he didn’t think a glove would keep his hand warmer.

Midway through the second quarter, after Pierce was having trouble hanging on to the ball, he walked over to the sidelines and was caught on tape about to put his hands directly above a propane flame. An alert teammate knocked his hands away but not before Pierce felt a little more heat than he wanted.

JUST PLAIN BAD LUCK

Ticats quarterback Kevin Glenn joked earlier in the week that he wouldn’t be sticking his arm into any piles to retrieve a loose ball like he did in the 2007 Eastern final when he had his arm broken when Kevin Eiben dove in to make the recovery.

Glenn, though, couldn’t have envisioned a simple scramble knocking him out of Sunday’s game. Glenn was on his way down when he got rolled up by 260-pound defensive lineman Rodney Fritz. His ankle appeared to get caught underneath him and before any of the Ticats could react, the Bombers were waving to the Hamilton bench calling for medical aide for the Hamilton QB.

Glenn not only didn’t return to the game, the scramble came up a yard short and the Ticats had to punt from deep within their own zone, which led to a Winnipeg field goal.

WHERE WAS THE FOCUS?

Two weeks ago Khari Jones let into his receivers because he didn’t feel they were paying attention to the drills in practice. He cussed them out pretty good, too. The receiving corps responded with their best game of the season. This week Jones, who admits he doesn’t like to be the screamer and yeller, didn’t have to be.

Maybe he should have anyway.

The Cats offence was not at all in synch, particularly in the first half. You can blame the noise at Canad Inns Stadium if you choose to, but it was much noisier inside the dome in Montreal a week ago and those problems didn’t come up then.

Tight ends were lining up on the wrong side of the formation. Receivers were lining up on the wrong side of the field. Running backs collided with receivers coming through the backfield on at least three occasions. It was a comedy of errors in the first half. By themselves the mistakes were minor, but with the Bombers not reciprocating with brain cramps of their own, these mistakes added up.

SHORT KICKS

A little luck never hurts in a big game, either. The Bombers fumbled the ball three times in the first half. They recovered all three ... OK, we understand the Ticats had to try something desperate late in the game, but why not go for it on third and nine from your 30 instead of a pitch backwards on a punt return after the clock had already been run down to only a couple of minutes? You needed two scores to either tie or win ... Winnipeg’s biggest blunder of the game came in the first half when Paul La Police left himself wide open to second guessing. Needing a yard on a third-and-one gamble from the Hamilton 30, he had his offence lined up in the shotgun formation. Stevie Baggs stepped up and filled a hole, stopping Garrett in his tracks and earning the turnover on downs. Unless the field was a skating rink, there is absolutely no reason your backs need a running start on third and one ... The Ticats didn’t even look Dave Stala’s way until there were four minutes left in the third quarter ... Hamilton had two potential momentum switches handed to them in the game. The turnover on downs at their own 30 and the 70-yard punt that Justin Medlock boomed to start the fourth quarter. Neither one moved the needle at all.


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