Kyle Myers | Ticats.ca Staff
HAMILTON -- When Henry Burris set a new Tiger-Cats record by passing for 5,367 yards in 2012, he defied the odds by doing so as a 37 year-old in his first season with a new team.
His second season may be even more impressive.
With 375 yards in Saturday’s win over the BC Lions, Burris is on pace to throw over 5,700 yards this season, and he’s doing it not through a single-minded approach, but through variety in his targets.
“Across the board we’ve been spreading the ball around,” said Burris. “Guys have been catching the ball from the receivers down to the running backs. We’re trying to keep things balanced.”
Saturday’s game was the embodiment of this philosophy, with C.J. Gable, Greg Ellingson and Andy Fantuz all recording 100 receiving yards in the game, the first time a Ticats trio has surpassed the century mark in the same game since 2004.
It’s certainly no coincidence that the same feat was achieved by Kurt Ondash, Shane Savage, and Grant Gellatly at Cornell in 2011, with Austin at the helm and Tommy Condell as receivers coach.
That year, the Big Red offence was as diverse as the Ticats is this season, with the team’s top three receivers each catching 50+ passes for 800+ yards and a combined 21 touchdowns.
This season, Greg Ellingson and Bakari Grant are both already over the 500 yard mark, with Andy Fantuz and Sam Giguere trailing not far behind. Spreading the ball has been a priority for the Ticats this year, and Burris believes it’s paying off in the standings.
“We always try to make sure we throw a lot at the opposition,” he continued. “It puts them in a bind that in only two to three days of practice time they have to really cram in each and every look that we’ve thrown out in the past number of games. We try to make it difficult for teams to prepare.”
But it isn’t simply by spreading the ball around that Austin and Condell are confusing the opposition. Heads were turned around the league in week nine when backup pivot Dan LeFevour – who has been used in short-yardage and as a change of pace this season – caught a touchdown pass from receiver Onrea Jones against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The Ticats offence has been sure to keep opponents uneven in defence, and it seems that the playbook continues to get bigger and bigger each week.
According to Henry Burris, the best may be yet to come.
“We have a number of things we haven’t unveiled yet, different looks we’re capable of running,” Hank said with his trademark grin a little wider than usual. “Coach still has a few more gifts and presents under the tree.”