Quarterback Joey Elliott led the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to just their second win of the season Thursday, making the Hamilton Tiger-Cats pay for their six turnovers in a 32-25 victory.
“I was glad to get the ball,” Elliott said of his noticeably stronger second-half performance. “As a quarterback, in the second half, once you kind of figure what they’re doing, you kind of what to get down the field and get in the groove.”
It was only Elliott’s third start at quarterback since he put on a Bomber uniform three seasons ago.
“He made great decisions,” said Winnipeg head coach Paul LaPolice. “He didn’t throw a turnover. He didn’t have an interception or a fumble.”
He said the win is important in many ways for the Bombers, who now sit at 2-5.
“It allows us to keep pace with everybody else in the league ... More than anything, it’s a lift for our guys.”
Rookie running back Will Ford, a recent addition to the Bombers roster, scored the winning touchdown with less than two minutes left in the game.
The Ticats, now 3-4, went into the game hoping to gain ground on their East Division rivals but couldn’t overcome the six turnovers.
“The fumbles did it,” said dejected Hamilton quarterback Henry Burris. “I had three fumbles on the day, one that should have been a touchdown.
That was the deciding factor, I’ve got to protect the ball better.“
Hamilton coach George Cortez didn’t disagree, although he dismissed any suggestion he would go with someone other than Burris, who the Ticats picked up in a trade with Calgary.
“When you turn the ball over you don’t have many chances to win,” he said. “We were not taking care of the ball when we had people around us, it’s that simple.”
The Bombers started slowly again, putting only a single point on the board in the first quarter. It’s something LaPolice said they have to address.
And it was the veteran Burris who took command early, scoring a touchdown on his first drive with a 37-yard pass to Chris Williams.
The Bombers only point in the first quarter came on a single from a missed 49-yard field goal by Justin Palardy.
Williams scored a second touchdown in the second quarter on a punt return but Palardy kept the Bombers in the game with two field goals to end it 14-10 for Hamilton. He added another in the third.
Hamilton’s Luca Congi had one field goal, a 43-yarder in the third.
In the third, Elliott led the Bombers on a four-play 78-yard drive to their first touchdown with a handoff to Chad Simpson, tying the game at 17-17.
Winnipeg finally took the lead in the fourth when Elliott connected with Chris Matthews for the Bombers’ second touchdown and it was 25-17 after the convert.
But Burris came back with an 84-yard pass to Williams for his third touchdown of the night then Aaron Kelly added a two-point convert to tie the game again.
The Bombers replied on the next drive with Ford’s touchdown, after Simpson was injured and left the field.
It was the first home game of the season that wasn’t a sellout for the Bombers, although more than 27,000 showed up.
A couple of veterans in the secondary were happy they helped create game-winning turnovers but not as happy they allowed some big plays as well.
“If you can create turnovers more than likely you can win the game,” said Jovon Johnson, who recovered one of the Burris fumbles on Hamilton’s last play of the third quarter.
“We also gave up some big ones so we’re going back to the drawing board,” said Jonathan Hefney.