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WINNIPEG –The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are going to BC.
Chris Garrett ran for 190 yards and a touchdown, as the Bombers downed the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 19-3 in the Eastern Final at Canad Inns Stadium, punching their ticket to the 99th Grey Cup in Vancouver.
The Bombers will meet either the BC Lions or the Edmonton Eskimos, who will play later today in the Western Final.
On a brisk afternoon in Winnipeg, the Tiger-Cats won the toss and opted to return the opening kickoff. A line-drive kick was recovered by Chris Williams on a bounce, who returned it to his own 50-yard line for the game’s opening drive.
After Avon Cobourne ran his first carry of the game for a two-yard gain, quarterback Kevin Glenn completed a 16-yard pass to receiver Marcus Thigpen. The reception was challenged by Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice, however, the initial call on the field was confirmed, giving the Ticats a first down.
Two plays later, however, the Ticats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille was forced to send out Justin Medlock, who sent a 35-yard punt inside Winnipeg’s 10-yard line.
Winnipeg’s first two plays from scrimmage saw tailback Chris Garrett run for a combined 13 yards, giving the Bombers a fresh set of downs to start their opening possession.
But the Bombers were also forced punt it away.
On Hamilton’s ensuing possession, Glenn continued to implement Thigpen and Cobourne into the offensive game plan, completing consecutive passes to his two running backs for a first down.
After Cobourne’s reception brought the Tiger-Cats inside the red zone, Glenn was unable to find the endzone, prompting Bellefeuille to send out the field goal unit.
Medlock continued his strong post-season play, as he split the uprights from 18 yards out for the first points of the game.
On Winnipeg’s following possession, quarterback Buck Pierce took off twice on run attempts, but failed to register a first down, forcing LaPolice to send out Jamie Boreham for his second punt in as many possessions.
After a two-and-out by the Tiger-Cats, Pierce and the Bombers offence went back to work in hopes or garnering some traction on the offensive side of the ball.
Despite a completed pass to receiver Greg Carr and an 11-yard run by Garrett, the Bombers still weren’t able to pick up a first down. After a failed gamble on a third-down situation, the Bombers turned the ball over on downs, ending the opening quarter at 3-0.
But the second quarter brought new hope for the Bombers faithful, as Pierce and Garrett took off for significant gains for a pair of first downs.
Garrett’s big half continued, as one play after Pierce ran for another first down, Garrett answered with a big gain of his own, bringing the Bombers inside the five-yard line.
With Alex Brink now in the game for a short-yardage situation, the Bombers took a 7-3 lead thanks to a perfectly executed three-yard bootleg pass to rush end Jason Vega.
Hamilton would embark on their next drive in hopes of responding to Winnipeg’s touchdown.
After Glenn completed a 40-yard strike to receiver Bakari Grant, the deafening crowd at Canad Inns Stadium took over, forcing the Hamilton offence to take a five-yard illegal procedure penalty, stalling the drive in the process.
Garrett’s huge half in the Winnipeg backfield continued, as he took off for a 13-yard run. Garrett’s run set up 36-yard pass by Pierce to receiver Terence Edwards for his first reception of the game.
The drive would eventually come to a standstill, forcing Justin Palardy to connect on a 22-yard field goal to extend Winnipeg’s lead to seven.
After a promising opening quarter, the Tiger-Cats were unable to produce any traction offensively in the second, punting on third down on three consecutive possessions.
The Tiger-Cats would embark on one last drive before the half would come to a close. However, the confusion in the Hamilton backfield due to the noise from the home crowd would force them to punt it away to close the half.
After both teams warmed up in the cozy confines of their respective locker rooms, the Bombers got the ball to start the second half.
The Tiger-Cats received some bad news on their first play of the second half, as Glenn went down with an ankle injury after being tackled on a rush.
Backup quarterback Quinton Porter entered the game in relief for Glenn.
With the success of the run game in the first half, the Bombers continued to produce offensively on the ground. Garrett took off on two solid gains, bringing Winnipeg into field goal range.
After Pierce was unable to find a receiver on his second down attempt, Palardy connected on his second field goal of the afternoon, extending Winnipeg’s lead to 10.
On Hamilton’s ensuing possession, Porter was unable to generate much offence of his own, forcing Medlock to come out and punt.
With the cold weather affecting every facet of the game, Medlock’s punt was a short one, as it travelled just 28 yards, giving the Bombers good field position for their next possession.
However, Winnipeg was unable to take advantage of the bad punt and had to punt it away as well.
Porter would complete his first pass of the game on his second drive, connecting with Dave Stala for his first reception of the game.
But that would be all Porter could muster on his second drive, as Medlock was forced to punt it away for a ninth time.
As the third quarter came to a close reports surfaced that Glenn would not be returning to the game.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Winnipeg defence was putting together a strong performance, as they limited Hamilton’s offence to just 182 yards through the air and on the ground.
Despite the low score and low temperature, Garrett continued to run wild over the Hamilton defence, as he eclipsed the 100-yard mark with a 17-yard run.
Once again, however, the drive would stall as Boreham was forced to punt it away.
With the wind in their favour and time winding down, the Porter-led offence would have to improve on their offensive production on their ensuing drive.
But, as the script would have it, the Bombers defence continued to stifle the Hamilton attack, as Rodney Fritz would sack porter for a six-yard loss.
Canad Inns Stadium would erupt on the very next play, as Alex Suber intercepted Porter for their first turnover of the game.
After Winnipeg’s defence came up with two big plays, the offence would go to work on extending their lead late in the game.
However, after it looked as though Pierce and Garrett would capitalize on the turnover, the Hamilton defence came up with a big play of their own.
One play after Garrett brought Winnipeg into Hamilton territory with a 25-yard run, Pierce would see his pass intercepted by Justin Hickman.
Again, Hamilton’s offence was unable to take a step towards attempting a comeback, as they continued to stall offensively.
With 2:30 remaining in the game, Hamilton embarked on another drive, desperately trying to muster some sort of offensive rhythm.
But the Winnipeg defence continued to suffocate their attack as Fritz registered his second sack of the game for a 10-yard loss.
Following a short drive by the Bombers, Hamilton again tried to develop some traction offensively.
However, a botched desperation pass by Thigpen to Williams proved costly, as the Bombers recovered the pass in the backfield, taking over in Hamilton territory.
Unlike the Ticats, the Bombers were able to capitalize off the turnover, as Garrett would punch it in from in close, giving the Bombers a 19-3 win, and a trip to Vancouver for a chance at the 99th Grey Cup.