Hamilton quarterback Henry Burris threw two touchdowns in a 25-20 Tiger-Cat victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, but his biggest play may have been a 10-yard run in the final two minutes to keep possession and hang on for the team's first win of the season.
Hamilton's defence had just held its ground against a surging Winnipeg squad. The Tiger-Cats were facing second down on their own 35-yard line with 1:20 on the clock.
"Our job at that point was: 'Hey our defence has done enough, let's go out here and do what we can to move the chains and milk this clock,'" said Burris. "And when things weren't there I made sure I pulled it down and tried to get what I can. Protect the football and get down and keep that clock running."
Hamilton improved its record to 1-2 and joined a log jam in the East Division with Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg, all with the same record. The game was played in front of a near-capacity crowd of 13,085 at the University of Guelph's Alumni Stadium, the Tiger-Cats home venue for the season.
Sam Giguere scored a 61-yard touchdown catch-and-run on Hamilton's first possession of the game and John Delahunt scored his first career CFL TD reception, this one from 12 yards.
Bombers running back Chad Simpson, who has had a slow start to the season, shifted gears against Hamilton and scored a 75-yard rushing TD in the first and a 15-yard TD run in the fourth.
Short-yardage backup quarterback Justin Goltz also scored for Winnipeg. Bombers kicker Justin Palardy missed his lone field-goal attempt from 40 yards out.
Winnipeg quarterback Buck Pierce said his team did some good things, but "not just consistently enough.
"That's the bottom line. We need to play better four quarters," he said after completing 15 of 26 pass attempts for 186 yards and no touchdowns. He said he was sore after being sacked six times.
Hamilton kicker Luca Congi hit two of four attempts, missing from 44 and 28 yards, and hitting two 24-yard shots. He added a kickoff single and punter Josh Bartel added two punt singles.
"We've still got to get better because there are things offensively we can do better," said Burris, who completed 26 of 32 pass attempts for 362 yards and rushed for 47 yards. He was sacked seven times. "We kept shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties and just missed assignments and that's why we had to settle for field goals. And (those mistakes) stopped some of our drives instead of moving downfield and putting the ball in the end zone."
Hamilton had seven penalties for 65 yards, but the Bombers recorded 19 penalties for 161 yards.
"We sputtered around a little on offence," said Hamilton head coach Kent Austin. "But we were able to pull out a victory against a pretty good football team, I think."
Hamilton took a 17-13 lead into the fourth quarter. Congi's missed 28-yard field goal made it 18-13. The Tiger-Cats hadn't scored a touchdown since the first drive of the game, but midway through the fourth, Burris led them on a 60-yard drive, hitting Delahunt for a 12-yard score and a 25-13 Hamilton lead with 8:48 left to play.
But with 2:40 left in the game, the Bombers capped a 62-yard three minute scoring drive that ended with Simpson's 15-yard touchdown run to make it 25-20.
When the Ticats' offence couldn't keep possession, the much maligned Hamilton defence shut the door on the next Winnipeg series.
"I'm really proud of the way our defence played tonight," said Austin. "The last possession, we got a huge sack (an 11-yard loss for Pierce back on the Winnipeg 26). They've taken some heat and they really stepped up and played really well."