Buck Pierce breathed some life into the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' offence and the team's faint playoff hopes.
Pierce and the Bombers scored three touchdowns en route to a 34-12 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday.
Pierce has been out since July with an injured foot. It was his first win since the season started and the first for interim head coach Tim Burke, who gave full credit to his starting quarterback's return.
"There's a combination of things that led to our offensive success and obviously Buck is a big part of that," said Burke, as the Bombers (3-9) now look ahead to the Toronto Argonauts next Saturday.
"You can see when he's out there he takes command of the huddle. I thought he did a great job using the clock going against the wind. He burned a bunch of time off the clock and just managed the game so well."
The wind was gusting to almost 60 kilometres per hour at the start of the game and the temperature was a chilly 8 C, falling about five degrees during the game.
It didn't seem to bother Pierce, who completed 21-of-31 passes for 288 yards and one touchdown to Kito Poblah in the third quarter.
Hamilton quarterback Henry Burris managed only 11-of-24 attempts and 156 yards as penalties either sapped the Ticats' (4-8) momentum or gave new life to stalled Bomber drives.
"Penalties killed us tonight and we just didn't make enough plays on offence," he said after the game, his voice hoarse from trying to be heard calling signals over a screaming crowd.
"It's something that we've got to figure out ASAP."
Coach George Cortez said the Bombers didn't surprise him with the effort they put in but his Ticats did.
"We had a discussion, not a discussion, a soliloquy about penalties," he said.
"I was very disappointed in how we came out tonight."
Burke said the rest of the offence stepped up, from the offensive line to the receivers and in particular running back Chad Simpson, who had the best night of his rookie season.
Simpson ran for 134 yards and picked up another 58 receiving as the Bombers used him more than they have all year to great effect.
"What running back wouldn't want the bull as much as I got it tonight," said a smiling Simpson as the Bomber dressing room got its first chance to celebrate a win since Aug. 16.
"But kudos to Buck, he came back, and kudos to the offensive line and the receiving corps, we just played a great collective game."
Fourth quarter win
Pierce said the way the Bombers won the game was important. Although they led 9-6 after the first half they only really broke away in the final quarter.
"We won it in the fourth quarter, that's big," he said.
The Bombers went into the game without an offensive touchdown in 13 quarters of football, ending that drought in the third from the one-yard line. Short-yards specialist and backup quarterback Alex Brink took it over.
Pierce was proud of what the offence managed.
"We took what they were giving us. … We used their defensive structure against them."
Justin Palardy kicked four field goals and added a single, and running back Will Ford ran 17 yards for Winnipeg's third touchdown in the fourth.
Hamilton lost its first game in Winnipeg this season thanks largely to turnovers. This time it was penalties. The Ticats haven't beat the Bombers since 2010.
The first half of the game was a field goal dual between Palardy and Hamilton's Luca Congi that Palardy won 9-6.
Congi had two more in the third quarter but Brink's touchdown kept the Bombers in the lead.