CALGARY — A historic first half by Andrew Harris ended the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ dubious championship drought and continued the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ Grey Cup misery.
The 32-year-old Winnipeg native scored rushing and receiving TDs as the Bombers stunned Hamilton 33-12 in the 107th Grey Cup before 35,439 spectators at McMahon Stadium.
Harris put an exclamation mark on his stellar performance Sunday by becoming the first player ever to be named the game’s top player and Canadian.
— WPG Blue Bombers (@Wpg_BlueBombers) November 25, 2019
Harris (134 yards rushing, six catches for 35 yards) becomes the first Canadian to be named Grey Cup MVP since the legendary Russ Jackson of the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1969.
Harris and Co. earned $16,000 apiece while Hamilton players — who wore their home black uniforms and were 10-0 this season at Tim Hortons Field — received $8,000. More importantly, the Bombers secured their first Grey Cup title since 1990.
Hamilton’s last title came in ‘99 and suffered its 16th straight loss at McMahon Stadium, the previous 15 coming against the home-town Calgary Stampeders.
Sunday’s victory was especially sweet for Harris and Winnipeg starter Collaros.
Harris, who earned his first Grey Cup in 2011 with B.C., served a two-game suspension for a positive drug test. That led to his being snubbed in voting for the league’s individual honours despite leading the CFL in rushing for a third straight season (1,380 yards).
Collaros had spent time this season with Saskatchewan and Toronto — ultimately he was traded by both teams — before landing with Winnipeg in October. He’d missed significant time recovering from a season-opening concussion suffered against Hamilton, which earned Ticats linebacker Simoni Lawrence a two-game suspension.
Hamilton came in as the solid favourite after a dominant ‘19 season. The Ticats posted a CFL-best 15-3 regular-season mark, a single-season franchise record.
Hamilton’s high-power offence led the CFL in points per game (30.6), yards per game (395.8), passing yards (313.3 per game), first downs (398) and TDs (57). It featured receivers Brandon Banks (CFL’s top player after 112 catches, 1,550 yards and 13 TDs) and Bralon Addison (95 catches, 1,236 yards, seven TDs).
On Thursday night, Banks was named the CFL’s outstanding player. He was joined on the podium by teammates Chris Van Zeyl (lineman), Frankie Williams (special teams) and head coach Orlondo Steinauer (coach).
Winnipeg (11-7, third in West Division) became the first third-place finisher to win the Grey Cup since the ‘05 Edmonton Eskimos. And after going 3-6 during the season on the road, the Bombers ended their dubious streak with a third straight road victory and fourth overall under Collaros.
— CFL (@CFL) November 25, 2019
Winnipeg’s tenacious defence certainly did its part with seven turnovers — three coming on Ticats’ first four possessions — and six sacks. The Bombers had a plus-13 turnover ratio in the playoffs and didn’t commit one themselves.
Hamilton pulled to within 24-12 with Evans’ four-yard TD strike to Addison at 11:43 of the third but the two-point convert was unsuccessful. Banks suffered a lower-body injury in the drive and didn’t return. Justin Medlock booted a 41-yard field goal with three seconds left in the third and a 17 yarder with 6:33 left in the fourth to stretch Winnipeg’s lead to 30-12.
An 18-yard Medlock field goal with three minutes to play put Winnipeg ahead 33-12. His 38-yard boot at 3:48 of the third gave the Bombers a 24-6 advantage.
Medlock finished with two converts, six field goals and a single.
Hamilton’s Lirim Hajrullahu kicked two field goals.
The combination of Harris and an aggressive defence staked Winnipeg to an emphatic 21-6 half-time lead. Harris ran five times for 53 yards and a TD while registering four catches for 35 yards and a touchdown.
Collaros was an efficient 13-of-17 passing for 105 yards as Winnipeg’s offence held the ball for over 17 minutes.
But Hamilton’s offensive line had no answer for Winnipeg’s rugged defensive line, which continually pressured starter Dane Evans. The Bombers’ defence was especially staunch in the first with three turnovers on the Ticats’ opening four possessions.
Hamilton forced Winnipeg to settle for Medlock’s 16-yard field goal at 14:45 of the second. Bombers’ backup Chris Streveler put Winnipeg ahead 18-6 at 8:34 with a 17-yard TD strike to Harris, the four-play, 50-yard march was set up by Janarion Grant’s 32-yard punt return.
Medlock booted a 45-yard field goal at 4:55 to stake Winnipeg to an 11-6 lead. It came after Hajrullahu’s 47-yard boot 28 seconds into the quarter but the Bombers’ lead to 8-6.
Harris opened the scoring with a 15-yard TD run at 3:23 of the first. It was set up by Adam Bighill’s recovery of Evans’ fumble at the Hamilton 15-yard line.
Hajrullahu provided Hamilton’s first points with a 44-yard field goal at 6:18 before Medlock missed from 48 yards out for the single at 8:42.
THE CANADIAN PRESS