It has been ten very long years for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers football club since they were last fortunate to host the Eastern finals. If there was ever a time to host it, it could not have come at a better time than when the club is preparing to close down their stadium.
Since then, Winnipeg has been involved in two Grey Cups, losing to Calgary in 2001 and most recently to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2007.
The weather was what you have come to expect from Winnipeg in November with temperatures around -21 with the windchill. It was almost a guarantee that Winnipeg and Hamilton would look towards the running game.
Coming into Sunday's game, Winnipeg was on a two-game losing streak and had questions surrounding their offensive presence while their defense has been on fire consistently all season.
On Sunday, quarterback Buck Pierce managed the game clock effectively, holding onto the ball for 40 minutes, even though they were unable to put up any majors.
Earlier in the week, Winnipeg made the shocking announcement that they had released receiver Terence-Jeffers Harris who immediately signed with Hamilton. It became a question as to what Harris may be able to provide but at the end of the day made no difference in the outcome.
Regardless of what their game plan was, the Hamilton defense had no answer to Chris Garrett as he rushed for 190 yards on 29 attempts. Both numbers were a career high for Garrett and will certainly increase his stock for next season.
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The leading receiver of the game was Bombers veteran Terrence Edwards who caught five catches for 80 yards. Meanwhile Garrett, since taking over the starting RB job from Fred Reid who was lost do to injury, has averaged over 100 yards each game.
During the week, Hamilton running back Avon Cobourne confirmed that the Tigercats would walk away victorious Sunday afternoon. Following 60 minutes of action, Cobourne finished the day with 67 all-purpose yards, 28 of those on the ground. This comes following Cobourne rushing for 97 yards against his former team a week ago in Montreal.
This was a big game for Winnipeg defensive tackle Doug Brown, who stated at the start of the season that this would be his last and he would be retiring at the end of the season. With the passing of assistant coach Richard Harris in July, Brown would love nothing more than to collect a win next weekend.
Looking over the tape, you would have to give the Bombers offensive line some acknowledgement for their hard work in opening holes for Chris Garrett while at the same time keeping Buck Pierce relatively standing.
Obby Khan was relegated to the bench for three weeks near the end of the season and has since paid off. Khan was able to rest his body and returned to the lineup this week, resulting in playing some of his best ball.
On the other side of the ball, Kevin Glenn came into the game looking for retribution after Winnipeg let him go three years ago and joined Hamilton. Hamilton has made the playoffs in the last three seasons; however, they lost the semi-finals in all three attempts.
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Last Sunday, Hamilton went into Montreal and shocked the community by putting up 52 points after an overtime win over Montreal to put them one win away from the Grey Cup. The next week, however, the Winnipeg defense flanked all the receivers and held Avon Cobourne to just 28 yards rushing and the Tiger-Cats to three points.
Kevin Glenn left the third quarter following a leg injury and Quinton Porter took over, putting up 40 yards of offense on three completions after 11 attempts and one interception. Hamilton had the ball for 21 minutes and were only able to convert nine first downs.
In the end Winnipeg was mentally, physically and emotionally prepared for whatever Hamilton was looking to throw at them and succeeded in the trenches. This win earns Winnipeg a trip to the Grey Cup, their second in four years and will face a very stiff B.C. Lions team.
Offensive Player of the Game: Chris Garrett rushed for 190 yards on 29 carries for a career best and will look to take the starting job from Fred Reid should he return in 2012.
Defensive Player of the Game: Rodney Fritz came into the game with one sack and four tackles and finished the game with four tackles and two sacks.
Special Teams Player of the Game: Justin Palardy connected on both his field goals and an extra point to contribute seven points of Winnipeg's 19.
Canadian Player of the Game: Obby Khan was relegated to the bench a month ago after struggling for a few weeks. He was put back on the line this week and was effective in the trenches opening many holes for Garrett to rush through.