The Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats have vastly different jobs now that the regular CFL season is done.
The Tiger-Cats (10-8) are preparing for a playoff push after a commanding 37-7 whipping of the Bombers Saturday afternoon.
“I’ll be shocked if we’re not ready to play,” coach Kent Austin said after the Ticats overcame a slow start to completely dominate the final three quarters.
They have home-field advantage in the Eastern semifinal against the Montreal Alouettes.
“Any type of confidence you can get, you need it, and we’re a confident group right now,” said quarterback Henry Burris.
“But we know it’s going to take a lot of hard preparation to get in focus for us to go out and win that game next week.”
Burris completed 17 of 24 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns before Austin let him rest late in the game. He also didn’t throw any interceptions, one of his weak stats this season.
“He seemed like he completed a bunch of footballs,” said Austin.
“I don’t know what his stats were but he made great reads, delivered the football, threw a couple of touchdown passes, (I’m) really pleased with the way he played.”
Burris threw both touchdown strikes to Onrea Jones. Chevon Walker and C.O. Prime ran for two more and the Ticats picked up nine points on field goals.
After managing just two field goals and a single, the Bombers (3-15) need to build a team prior to 2014, starting with a quarterback.
Max Hall, at best third on the Bomber depth chart at the start of 2013, was left as their starter as the season ground to a close.
Saturday’s disaster, with fumbles, blocked throws and defensive miscues, while a disappointing end, wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone.
“That’s kind of the way this season’s gone,” said coach Tim Burke, the last survivor of the trio that led the Bombers into this season.
General manager Joe Mack and president Garth Buchko have already paid with their jobs. Burke’s future is, at best, uncertain.
“We’re playing the cards we’re dealt,” said defensive back Brandon Stewart.
“We had a bad season. There’s no sugar coating it. We’ve just got to come work in the off-season and see where it goes from there.”
What that off-season holds is anyone’s guess, although there is hope Winnipeg will score a starting quarterback with the Ottawa dispersal draft in the wings.
One of Winnipeg’s best players this season, middle linebacker Henoc Muamba, continued to shine in the losing effort with nine tackles, easily topping 100 for the season.
He has been named the team’s most outstanding player, most outstanding Canadian and most outstanding defensive player. But he’s also far from certain to return after failing to sign a new contract.
“It’s a possibility, it’s up in the air right now,” was all he would say Saturday.
Burke admitted there may be some relief throughout the organization now that the season is over and the team can look towards a building phase.
This year’s finish ties the worst on record in the 18-game era, set under former head coach Jeff Reinebold, now Hamilton’s special teams co-ordinator.
Hamilton’s finish meanwhile is their first since 2001 to break into double digits on the win side.
The announced attendance Saturday was 26,316, the lowest this season including the pre-season, at Investors Group Field, the Bombers’ new $200-million home.
As for actual fans in seats, despite a sunny day with temperatures that climbed to about nine during the game, the number was well under the announced figure. It dwindled even more by the end of the game.Report Typo/Error