Even a couple hours after the game was over Kevin Glenn still couldn't figure out how the Hamilton Tiger-Cats lost to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Friday night.
Hamilton held a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and were up 16-9 at half time, but were held scoreless in the second half as the Blue Bombers raced past the Tiger-Cats 24-16 in both teams' opening game of the CFL season.
"We came out strong. I don't know what happened, honestly," Glenn said. "We'll have to go back and watch the film. We just didn't keep the gas pedal down."
What made the loss even more galling for Glenn was being pulled for back up Quinton Porter with 8:45 left in the game and the Tiger-Cats down by four points after the Hamilton starter threw his third interception of the game.
"Real frustrating," said Glenn about how the game progressed. "Especially getting the loss, getting pulled in the first game of the season. It just felt like a smack in the face."
Glenn completed 18-of-31 pass attempts for 187 yards and one touchdown pass.
After trailing 16-9 to start the third quarter the Winnipeg defence turned the game on its head by holding Hamilton scoreless during the second half, culminating in Blue Bomber defensive back Alex Suber's 65-yard interception return for a touchdown. The major gave the Blue Bombers its first lead of the game. Winnipeg safety Ian Logan had two interceptions on the night, one off Glenn and one off Porter.
Blue Bomber's head coach Paul LaPolice said the defence didn't make any adjustments in the second half.
"I think we played a little bit better coverage in the second half," he said. "And certainly we made some great plays."
And one of those "great plays" was Suber's touchdown.
The Blue Bombers had pulled within three points early in the fourth quarter, making the score 16-13, when Suber tipped an overthrown Kevin Glenn pass. Originally intended for Dave Stala, Suber ran it back for a touchdown to make it 20-16.
The score gave Winnipeg a lead they would not relinquish in front of an opening-day crowd of 23,852 at Hamilton's Ivor Wynne Stadium.
"Basically, they kept running the play we saw on film and I just happened to be in position," said Suber, who had a clear lane down the sidelines to the end zone. "They spread their offence out so much, there really wasn't anybody there, and I wasn't planning on being caught."
Blue Bombers receiver Terrence Edwards scored Winnipeg's other touchdown, while receiver Maurice Mann scored for the Tiger-Cats.
Winnipeg quarterback Buck Pierce made 12-of-26 pass attempts for 151 yards, one touchdown pass with one interception, and he also took what looked like a devastating — legal — hit from Jamall Johnson in the third quarter that knocked off his helmet.
"Quarterbacks get hit," Pierce chuckled later. "Sometimes it looks worse than it is. Sometimes it's worse than it looks. That was a good hit and I'm sure it'll be shown on CFL loops for years and years. Thanks Jamall Johnson, for that."
Special teams were huge for the Blue Bombers, with 277 total return yards compared to Hamilton's 54. Perry Floyd led the Bombers with 182 return yards — 136 of those off the kickoff. Hamilton also registered five turnovers to Winnipeg's two.
Hamilton kicker Justin Medlock was good on all three field goals, hitting from 42, 13 and 37 yards. Winnipeg kicker Justin Palardy hit both field-goal attempts, from 39 and 34 yards. Palardy and punter Mike Renaud also scored singles.
Making his debut
Avon Cobourne was making his debut for the Ticats. He rushed for 75 yards on 15 carries and caught five passes for 36 yards. Bomber running back Fred Reid led all rushers with 87 yards on 16 carries and he also caught three passes for 27 yards. Hamilton's Mann led all receivers with nine receptions for 120 yards.
Hamilton built up its halftime lead thanks to three field goals by Medlock and a 19-yard TD pass from Glenn to Mann. Edward's 49-yard reception and a safety accounted for Winnipeg's offence.
But the Blue Bombers made it 16-12 with 4:12 left in the third quarter after Winnipeg linebacker Joe Lobendahn intercepted Glenn at the Ticats' 26-yard line, to set up Palardy's 39-yard field goal two plays later.
Palardy's single off the ensuing kickoff made it 16-13 and set the stage for Suber's heroics. After Glenn's pass sailed over Stala, Suber tipped the ball to himself before running the ball back down the right sideline for a touchdown 1:54 into the fourth quarter that finally gave Winnipeg the lead.
The teams then traded interceptions on back-to-back plays. Hamilton's Marcell Young picked off Pierce at the 50-yard line and the Ticats looked to have some momentum.
But on the very next play, Logan picked off Glenn at the Winnipeg 37-yard line. That was the last of Glenn, as Porter replaced him on the next Hamilton series. Porter would also give up an interception, to Logan, with 1:29 left in the game.
Perry Floyd's 42-yard punt return later in the fourth set up Palardy's second field goal of the night, this one from 34 yards, to give the Bombers a 23-16 lead with 4:25 remaining. Renaud's 58-yard punt single with 2:02 left in the game gave Winnipeg the eight-point lead.
Hamilton took a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter and then went up 10-0 when Markeith Knowlton blocked a Mike Renaud punt at the Winnipeg 38 and Jonathan Hood recovered it and ran it seven yards to the 19. On the very next play, Glenn hit Mann down the middle for the score.
But the boisterous crowd soon quieted down when Winnipeg answered on its next possession. Perry Floyd ran the kickoff back 56 yards to the Hamilton 49 and two plays later Pierce found Edwards heading to the end zone, two steps ahead of the coverage for the 49-yard touchdown and a 10-7 score.
Hamilton found its way down to the Winnipeg five-yard line, led by a 22-yard run by Avon Cobourne and a pass-interference call against Winnipeg. But the Tiger-Cats had to settle for a 13-yard field goal 37 seconds into the second quarter.
A Renaud punt pinned Hamilton at its own five-yard line and when the Tiger-Cats couldn't move the ball, Glenn conceded the safety for the 13-9 score.
Medlock hit his third field goal of the half, a 37-yarder, to make it 16-9 with 2:58 left on the clock and Hamilton took the lead into the dressing room.