Hamilton Tiger-Cats fall to 0-3 after losing Grey Cup rematch


Published June 25, 2022 at 12:05 am

Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Dane Evans (file photo)

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats and quarterback Dane Evans face that donut in the win column for another week.

A rain-affected Grey Cup rematch went to the league-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who earned a characteristically workmanlike 26-12 win against Hamilton on Friday. A defence that has come under fire for a lack of disruptiveness had a season-most four sacks was a bright spot for Hamilton (0-3). However, the Evans-led offence did not score a touchdown, never ran a play inside the Blue Bombers’ 20-yard line and gave up a fourth-quarter defensive TD for the second week in a row when Winnipeg defensive end Willie Jefferson housed an interception with a 30-yard return.

The Blue Bombers defeated Hamilton in both the 2019 and ’21 Grey Cup games (with a COVID-19 cancellation of the ’20 season in between).

That touchdown from Jefferson with 8:40 left, which was created when Winnipeg safety Malcolm Thompson rocked Tiger-Cats wide receiver Steven Dunbar as Evans’s pass arrived, opened a fairly safe 16-point lead for Winnipeg (3-0).

The Tiger-Cats have been outscored 63-19 in the second halves this season. All three of their contests have been against the West Division, the traditionally stronger half of the Canadian Football League. They play another interdivision matchup at Tim Hortons Field on July 1 against the Edmonton Elks (0-2 entering their game at Calgary on Saturday).

The CFL season is 18 games long. Hamilton has only one East Division opponent — the Ottawa Redblacks led by ex-Ticat QB Jeremiah Masoli come to town on July 16, after a Hamilton bye week — during their first six games.

Friday, Evans completed 25-of-42 passes for 237 yards with a third consecutive two-interception game. The second INT also came when Dunbar was hit by a defender as the pass arrived. Nick Taylor made that interception after Adam Bighill lowered the boom on Dunbar.

Tim White gained a team-most 78 receiving yards, catching 6-of-8 targets. Dunbar had a tough night, gaining 53 yards by catching 6-of-15 targets. Hamilton had only 32 rushing yards.

All of Hamilton’s scoring came through kicker Michael Domagala, who was 4-of-6 on field goals. His Winnipeg counterpart, Marc Liegghio, was 3-for-3 and also had two converts and three punt singles.

Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros, an ex-Ticat, was 21-of-32 passing for 302 yards with one interception. Nic Demski had a game-most 96 receiving yards (on 6-of-7 targets), including a 40-yard gain that set up a go-ahead touchdown in the last minute of the first quarter. Greg Ellingson, another ex-Ticat, tallied 73 yards by catching 3-of-4 targets.

Brady Oliveira had 15 rushes for 56 yards and a touchdown.

Defensive back Richard Leonard made the Tiger-Cats’ interception, his first of the season, at Winnipeg’s 27-yard line on the last play before the three-minute warning in the first half. Hamilton’s offence was only able to turn the short-field setup into three points.

The next exchange of punts flipped the field. Liegghio booted a 56-yarder, and a holding penalty against Tiger-Cats star linebacker Simoni Lawrence negated Lawrence Woods’ return and backed Hamilton up to the three-yard line.

When Hamilton punted after making two first downs, Janarion Grant made a decent return for Winnipeg. Seizing momentum, Collaros authored a 59-yard drive in just 33 seconds that put Winnipeg ahead to stay with a 14-9 edge at the break.

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