The first bombing run
As Hamilton’s defence tried to gain footing in the second quarter, Winnipeg quarterback Buck Pierce and running back Chris Garrett kept hitting the Tiger-Cats hard on the ground up the middle. Pierce, head down and eager, had nearly 30 yards on two runs, then Garrett’s crunching 16-yard charge set up an easy three-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Alex Brink to defensive end-cum-tight end Jason Vega. Winnipeg had 126 rushing yards by halftime.
The yard sticks
The noise and the wind were a problem for Hamilton’s offence in the first half, but the Ticats could do nothing to overcome relentless pressure and pursuit by Winnipeg’s defensive backs. Hamilton quarterback Kevin Glenn tried to mix passes and runs but Jovon Johnson, Jonathan Hefney and Johnny Sears were clearly reading from the same playbook. Hamilton had to deal with a number of second-and-long situations and any black, gold and white shirt with the ball was pulverized.
Around the time his right ankle twisted inside the armpit of Winnipeg defensive linemen Rodney Fritz, Kevin Glenn must have thought, for a moment at least, his career would be defined by the injuries he has suffered in two East division finals — Argos linebacker Kevin Eiben broke Glenn’s left arm in the 2007 final. Glenn got up from the collision near the start of the second half, but no amount of tape would bring him off the sidelines again.
The other Avon Cobourne
The Ticats’ defence appeared to have the Blue Bombers pinned inside their 20-yard-line early in the fourth quarter, and would surely benefit from forcing a tricky punt into the wind. But then Garrett blew through the middle on second down for 17 yards. Then two plays later the 5-foot-8 spark plug stormed down the left sideline for 14 yards. Winnipeg’s drive would eventually stall, but Garrett’s industry chewed four minutes off the clock. Garrett finished the 29 carries for 190 yards and a touchdown, the kind of influence Hamilton running back Avon Cobourne hoped to have. And each time Garrett or Buck Pierce pressed forward, Hamilton’s run defence buckled. The Blue Bombers had 271 yards total on the ground and, as a result, the Ticats had the ball for less than three minutes in the final period.
Hamilton returner Marcus Thigpen must have been thinking of the Music City Miracle with less than two minutes to play. The Tiger-Cats had been near the end zone only once all game and needed something positive to claw back a 10-point deficit late. And Thigpen probably thought he could be as smart as Tennessee Titans tight end Frank Wycheck, whose lateral to wide receiver Kevin Dyson gave the Titans a winning touchdown over the Buffalo Bills in a 2000 AFC wild-card game. Thigpen was perhaps too creative. Chris Williams peeled off to the right but the throw was closer to an official, who had to duck to avoid being hit. Bombers defensive end Alex Suber made the recovery to stifle any possible divine intervention.
The last chance
Winnipeg’s victory in the East final is the final game inside the 58-year-old Canad Inns Stadium before the Blue Bombers move to into a new 33,000 seat-stadium next season. The win also marked the final home game for defensive lineman Doug Brown, who has a chance to end his career, and Winnipeg’s 21-year drought, with a Grey Cup.