Dale Money | November 22nd, 2019
Its been 35 years since both the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Ticats, met in a title game. Looking towards the present, these are now the only two teams without a Grey Cup win in this century. Hamilton’s last one being in 1999 when they won 33-21 over the Calgary Stampeders. For the Blue Bombers, you need to go all the way back to 1990 when they knocked off the Edmonton Eskimos in dominating fashion 50-11. Their last finals appearance being in 2011 when they lost to the B.C. Lions in Vancouver.
Orlondo Steinauer and Mike O’Shea are making their Grey Cup debuts as head coaches, but each has plenty of success in the Cup both as players and teammates. East Division coach of the year, Steinauer has played in three of them winning two, which included that last championship team with Hamilton. O’Shea won three championships as a linebacker with the Toronto Argonauts. He played alongside Steinauer, on that 2004 title-winner.
Hamilton won both games, in the regular season, although in each of those head to head games the opposing quarterbacks were different. Jeremiah Massoli and Matt Nichols played in the first contest, later on in the year Dane Evans and Chris Streveler would square off.
It was back in week 6 when starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, tore his anterior cruciate ligament, against ironically this Winnipeg Blue Bombers team. Backup Dane Evans would come in and finish that game, helping lead them to a 23-18 finish. After Massoli was declared done for the season. There were plenty of skeptics, as to whether the Ticats would survive with Evans leading the charge. Which is always to be expected once a starter goes down.
Instead of letting that negativity get to him, Evans would take this team on an incredible run. Winning all but two of his starts, and finishing the regular season with just over 4,000 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, along with 14 interceptions on 314 completions. They would end the regular season with the best record, at 15-3 earning themselves a first-round bye. Then host a game at Tim Hortons Field where they finished the season a perfect 9-0. This East Crossover final was never going to be an easy ride for the Edmonton Eskimos.
If anyone thought the Ticats might come out rusty, those ideas were put to bed early on. Jumping to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, Quarterback David Watford would only get the Football twice but made the most of it. Converting touchdowns on both opportunities at the goal-line. Hamilton finished out the game with a very sound 36-16 victory, returning to the Grey Cup after a five-year absence.
Down 28-13 with four minutes left in the third quarter, Edmonton had a great chance to claw their way back into the contest. Eskimos defensive back Godfrey Onyeka would recover a Luke Tasker fumble on the Tiger-Cats 36-yard line. However, they were only able to muster a Sean Whyte field goal out of it cutting the lead down to 28-16.
This is a team, that is known for being centered around that receiving core of Brandon Banks, Bralon Addison, and Jaelon Acklin. Both Banks and Addison contributed with 100-yard receiving games in the East final. For Banks, he gets a chance to right the wrongs of five years ago. It was in that Grey Cup in 2014, his potential game-winning touchdown on a 90-yard punt return with 32 seconds left. Was erased because of an illegal block in the back.
Allison the undeniable number two pass catcher on the team, he was second on the team this year in receiving with over 1,000 yards. If the Blue Bombers decide to spend too much of their attention on Banks, it could open things up in a big way for Allison. A true game-changing receiver.
Sunday’s Grey Cup will be a test of Hamilton’s daunting aerial assault, versus a ball-hawking Blue Bombers secondary led by defensive back Winston Rose. Rose was number one this year in interceptions. Unfortunately for the Bombers, they will be without the services of safety Jeff Hecht, who was placed on the injured list before the game against the Saskatchewan.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
The Blue Bombers were also a team that would need to find a way to survive the loss of their opening day starting quarterback. Matt Nichols having been Winnipeg’s main signal-caller, since 2016 when taking over from Drew Willy. The Bombers would start off the first nine weeks with a bang, leading the league in passing touchdowns and passer rating. However, in week 10 against the BC Lions, he would suffer an unforeseen upper-body injury in the fourth quarter. Nichols would be placed on the six-week injured reserve, but in October it would be revealed that he had undergone shoulder surgery.
It’s certainly turned full circle for Winnipeg’s starting quarterback Zach Collaros, getting the golden opportunity to go head to head with the team he had some of his best years. with. Which included an appearance in the 102nd Grey Cup, a 20-16 controversial loss against the Stampeders. Collaros threw for 342 yards and a touchdown in that Grey Cup, but it wasn’t enough. It hasn’t been an easy road this year for Collaros, being traded twice in three months and inactive for 134 days.
Starting the season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, he would get dealt to the Argos in August and then sent to the Bombers through the October deadline. For many players, you would expect that to hurt their effectiveness, being thrown into a new situation with no time to get properly situated. However, none of those pitfalls has seemed to have hurt his game. In only a week he was thrown into the starting role and has done a mighty fine job.
In those three starts since taking over the reins, the veteran quarterback has played as good as expected. Collaros would beat the Stamps twice in a row, including the West Semi-Final. Then he would get his chance to go back to Saskatchewan to get a bit of his own back. Throwing for 267 yards and a touchdown in the 20-13 victory.
It would take a nervous goal-line stand by the Bombers on third and goal with four seconds left. As Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo would have one last all or nothing pass attempt, into the end zone ding off the uprights. And fall hopelessly to the turf. Surprisingly their top offensive weapon had a quiet game, lead running back Andrew Harris was held to just over 40 yards rushing and no touchdowns on ten carries.
Ignored as the leagues most Outstanding Player, he led the league with 1,380 rushing yards, 70 catches for 529 receiving yards, and eight total touchdowns. This was despite being suspended for two games. Expect Harris to have a much more active presence come Sunday, as he is one of the main game-changers on this Winnipeg offense. Interesting enough in the two regular-season games, against Hamilton, he was more of a threat in the receiving game. Scoring his only touchdown through the air.
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