The man they call Smilin’ Hank had plenty of reason to be in a good mood after a terrific performance Friday.
Henry Burris completed 22-of-36 pass attempts for 333 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats dumped the reeling Winnipeg Blue Bombers 37-18.
The victory put the Ticats on a two-game winning streak with a 3-4 record, while the Bombers continued to tumble downhill with a 1-6 record and five-game losing streak.
“We were able to play with confidence and have the trust to know that each guy is going to be where he needs to be and all I need to do is make the reads and the guys are making the plays,” said Burris.
The loss came a week after Bombers brass made changes it hoped would shake up the team in a good way when team president and chief executive officer Garth Buchko and general manager Joe Mack were fired last Friday.
That was followed by a switch at starting quarterback to CFL rookie Max Hall, the signing of kicker Sandro DeAngelis and the hiring of former Hamilton head coach Marcel Bellefeuille as an offensive consultant.
“Extremely disappointing,” Bombers head coach Tim Burke said of the performance in front of 32,409 fans in their new $200-million Investors Group Field, where they remain winless.
“I expected us to come out and play extremely well. I think we played with good effort, I thought our guys played hard, but we didn’t execute and we certainly had way too many penalties.”
Winnipeg had 16 penalties for 137 yards, while Hamilton was flagged 13 times for 101 yards.
Hamilton’s offence also had the execution and creativity the Bombers lacked.
Rookie fullback John Delahunt caught a one-yard pass from backup QB Dan LeFevour and Andrew Jones hauled in a 25-yard pass over his shoulder from Burris.
LeFevour punched in for a one-yard TD run and running back C.J. Gable took a direct snap and ran 15 yards into the end zone after Hall was intercepted.
Congi made field goals from 41, 46 and 27 yards and went wide left on a 37-yard attempt.
“We’re really playing hard and we’re getting better as a football team,” Austin said.
Hall did record his first touchdown in his CFL debut when he threw a six-yard pass to Rory Kohlert in the second quarter.
Bomber linebacker Ian Wild returned a fumble 54 yards for a late TD, DeAngelis made his one and only field-goal attempt for his new team and connected on an 18-yarder and Mike Renaud had a punt single.
Hall completed 18-of-30 pass attempts for 241 yards with the one TD and two interceptions, while Bomber slotback Terrence Edwards led all receivers with eight catches for 172 yards.
Hamilton led 10-0 after the first quarter, 17-7 at halftime and 24-7 after the third quarter.
“I thought we made good halftime adjustments,” Hall said. “I thought we had good conversation at halftime.
“I think we may have pressed a little bit being down, maybe tried to force a few things, which happens when you’re down. So I think that’s what kind of caused some of the bad things that happened in the second half.”
Penalties helped both teams in their early touchdown drives.
After a pair of Greg Ellingson catches of 14 and 23 yards in their first series of the game, the Ticats moved down the field, but only came away with Congi’s 41-yard field goal at 3:35.
A Bomber penalty led to Delahunt catching his second career TD.
Winnipeg defensive back Alex Suber was flagged for tripping Ellingson in the end zone, setting the ball on Winnipeg’s one-yard line. LeFevour then stepped back and lobbed the ball to a wide-open Delahunt.
The eight-play, 101-yard scoring drive — including a 42-yard catch by Gable — stretched Hamilton’s lead to 10-0 at 10:29.
Winnipeg had what appeared to be a 96-yard punt return for a TD by rookie Aaron Woods wiped out 23 seconds into the second quarter after Bombers fifth-year linebacker James Green was called for offside and seven-year cornerback Jovon Johnson was flagged for illegal participation.
The Bombers rebounded and marched 103 yards down field for Kohlert’s six-yard TD catch in the corner of the end zone.