The Grey Cup drought in Hamilton is going to last at least another year after the Ticats dropped the 107th Grey Cup 33-12 to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Calgary in front of 35,439 people.
Why? Well if you ask the Ticats, it was pretty simple. Winnipeg was just the better team.
“We just didn’t execute and they did,” said quarterback Dane Evans. “They made more plays than we did.”
Walking around the Hamilton locker room after the game, the message was the same from every single player and coach. They tipped their hat to the Bombers as the better team on the night.
It’s pretty hard to argue against it either. It was simply put a fully earned butt whipping that left no doubt who the better team was on Sunday.
Hamilton turned the ball over seven times to Winnipeg’s one and the Bombers lone turnover was on downs late in the game when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
“I don’t think they did anything special. They were just executing a little bit better than we were,” said Ticats head coach Orlondo Steinauer, who added they weren’t surprised by anything the Bombers did.
Despite the barrage of turnovers, three of them in the first quarter alone, the Bombers only held a five-point lead through the first 15 minutes. The door was still open for Hamilton to settle in and start playing their game.
We’ve seen plenty of teams withstand an early surge from a team, keep close and eventually take over the game and comeback. That wasn’t the case in Calgary. Hamilton did hang around for a little while, but eventually Winnipeg’s run game was just too much for the Ticats.
“We didn’t tackle well,” said Steinauer. “Sometimes it’s like a hot shooter in basketball. They’re hot. You have to find a way to turn the ball over. We had our chances. If you want to be champions you have to make those plays.”
The Bombers not only made bigger plays and got big performances out of guys like Harris but also the big men up front. The Ticats had no answer for the likes of Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat as Evans was under siege most of the night. Something he hadn’t experienced much during the season at all. To get your first real taste of that during the season’s biggest game? Well, that’s a lot to ask of a young quarterback who wasn’t supposed to be the starter this year.
“They got after us. That happens,” said Evans.
Jefferson finished with a trio of sacks, two for Jeffcoat and another for Drake Nevis. The Bombers also continued their string of stopping opposing offences in short yardage.
On the other side the Ticats defensive line couldn’t muster much of anything against the Bombers vaunted offensive line. Zach Collaros was clean most of the night and Andrew Harris was virtually unstoppable on the ground, including what was essentially a game sealing run on second and 17 with eight and half minutes to go. That was one of those moments where you knew it wasn’t going to be the Ticats night.
In all, Harris rushed for 134 yards and one touchdown. He added another 35 yards and a score through the air to be named the game’s most valuable player and Canadian.
If that wasn’t enough, Hamilton didn’t get much help from the injury bug when the league’s most outstanding player Brandon Banks left the game with a lower body injury.
Before the injury, Banks was one of the few Ticats, along with Tyrell Sutton, who were proving to be effective against the Bombers. Banks had racked up 72 yards on just six catches before leaving the game.
Banks wasn’t in the locker room after the game, having left the stadium because of the injury. Steinauer wasn’t able to provide an update on Banks’ condition after the game.
“When you lose the MOP, it always hurts,” said Evans who did praise the play of Anthony Coombs who came in for Banks and didn’t use the injury as an excuse for the loss. “You can’t replace the MOP.”
Despite all of this, the coach remained proud of his team for everything they’ve accomplished this season as much as it stings.
“They needed to keep their head up. At some point, they’ll be able to reflect,” said Steinauer. “I told them to let their emotions out, there’s nothing wrong with that. The hard work, the effort but there’s only one champion every year. (I’m) proud of them.”