Drew Willy rallies Bombers to stirring road win over Ticats
HAMILTON – Drew Willy did it again.
Willy’s two-yard TD pass to Nic Grigsby on the final play rallied the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to a stirring 27-26 comeback win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Thursday night. Grigsby’s catch capped an impressive 11-play, 95-yard drive that began with 1:40 remaining and ended with Lirim Hajrullahu’s winning convert.
On July 11, Willy’s 17-yard TD pass to Julian Feoli-Gudino with 28 seconds left gave the Bombers a 34-33 road win over the Montreal Alouettes. Feoli-Gudino had a hand in Thursday’s victory, his clutch 22-yard catch putting Winnipeg (5-1) at the Hamilton two-yard, nice redemption after losing a fumble earlier in the quarter to end a promising drive.
“We did it before against Montreal so I was saying in the huddle, ‘Hey, we’ve been in the same situation before. Let’s just go down there and get a touchdown,’ ” Willy said. “I think every single guy had a piece of that drive, it was impressive to be a part of.
“That’s everything a quarterback wants, you just want the ball in your hands to give your team a shot to win. Guys were just making terrific plays out there.”
Willy’s winning pass was hardly a thing of beauty. It was a high, fluttering throw into coverage that hung up in the air seemingly forever before falling softly into Grigsby’s hands.
“I was looking at Denny (Clarence Denmark) in the corner and I knew I had Grigsby in the flat and saw both were covered,” Willy said. “I just wanted to give enough air where those guys go up and make a play and luckily Grigsby came away with the ball.
“I’m not going to say it was a skillful play because it really wasn’t. We practise it all the time, we just made a play and sometimes that’s how it goes.”
Willy finished 31-of-41 passing for 361 yards and a TD. Former Ticat Aaron Kelly had seven catches for 101 yards — both game highs — while Grigsby ran for 56 yards and a TD on 13 carries and added six receptions and 63 yards.
Rookie Quincy McDuffie’s 66-yard punt return TD at 2:15 of the fourth earned Hamilton a 24-20 advantage, its first lead of the game. McDuffie, making his CFL debut, delighted a Ron Joyce Stadium gathering of 6,500 that was forced to endure a horrendous first half by the Ticats (1-4).
Hamilton managed just two first downs and 22 net yards in the first half after registering two TDs and 158 yards on its first five plays in a 33-23 home win over Ottawa on Saturday night. And when Grigsby put Winnipeg ahead 20-3 with a 16-yard run at 2:38 of the third, it looked like the game was over.
But quarterback Dan LeFevour — who threw for 361 yards and a TD and ran for 109 yards and a touchdown against Ottawa — hit C.J. Gable with a 48-yard scoring strike at 6:35. LeFevour, the CFL’s offensive player of the week, scored on a two-yard run 12 seconds into the fourth to cut Hamilton’s deficit to 20-17 before McDuffie’s electrifying return.
Hamilton went ahead 26-20 after Hajrullahu was forced to boot the ball out of the end zone for a safety following a high snap at 3:53. Feoli-Gudino then fumbled after a nine-yard catch that Rico Murray recovered at the Hamilton 31-yard line with under six minutes remaining.
“It’s a good win for us but we don’t want to keep having to do it that way, that’s for sure,” Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said. “We recognize we made some mistakes . . . it looked like Hamilton was ready to take it but these guys just believe in each other and no one gave up.
“When you get guys who are going to stick with their teammates, who are going to stick together, it’s a great thing.”
Hamilton’s offence, which had over 550 yards against Ottawa, mustered just 218 net yards against Winnipeg. Willy and Co. rolled up 396 net yards offensively.
LeFevour was impressive in his CFL debut as a starter against Ottawa but wasn’t nearly so prolific against Winnipeg. He finished 19-of-33 passing for 189 yards with a TD and interception while running for just 15 yards on five carries.
LeFevour was a dismal 4-of-12 passing for a paltry 17 yards in the first half but head coach/GM Kent Austin didn’t blame his quarterback for the offence’s early struggles.
“It wasn’t Dan in the first half,” Austin said. “No quarterback is going to be consistently in second and long against a defence like that and string first downs together.”
Instead, Austin blamed much of the loss on penalties as Hamilton was flagged 19 times for 114 yards.
“We’re not a good enough football team to overcome penalties,” Austin said. “We’re not that football team and I told the guys we play with great effort, we’re very resilient, we play hard, we play for 60 minutes but we can’t get penalized like that.”
Robert Marve had Winnipeg’s other touchdown. Hajrullahu booted two field goals and the converts.
Hamilton’s Justin Medlock added a field goal and the converts.
NOTES — O’Shea began his CFL career with Hamilton in ’93, being traded to the Ticats shortly after being drafted fourth overall by the Edmonton Eskimos. He was the league’s top rookie that year and spent three seasons in Steeltown before signing with Toronto as a free agent in ’96 after being released by the NFL’s Detroit Lions. The Argos dealt O’Shea back to Hamilton in ’01 but returned to the Argos as a free agent in ’02 and finished his playing career there through the ’08 season . . . LeFevour is the first Ticats’ quarterback to make consecutive starts this season. . . . Winnipeg had just five penalties in last weekend’s 23-6 win over B.C., only one on offence. The Bombers had 10 penalties for 79 yards versus Hamilton.
© The Canadian Press, 2014