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CFL Preview - Winnipeg (1-1) at Hamilton (0-2)

From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Saturday, July 13, 6:30 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: The last team in the CFL still searching for a victory hits the field on Saturday, as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats entertain the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at University of Guelph's Alumni Stadium.

The Tiger-Cats were taken out in the season opener versus Toronto at home (39-34), and then had to fight the elements and Edmonton last weekend in what turned into a 30-20 setback at Alumni Stadium.

Hamilton not only had to battle the visiting Eskimos on Sunday, the team also had to deal with Mother Nature and a wicked downpour which made it that much more difficult to catch up to an Edmonton squad which opened the meeting with 16 straight points.

Hamilton generated a modest 300 total yards in the meeting, but at the same time the squad fumbled the ball five times, losing possession once, and saw quarterback Henry Burris toss a pair of interceptions. Add to that a staggering 15 penalties for 120 yards and it was clear that the Tiger-Cats were fighting themselves just as much as the weather and Edmonton.

Burris finished the meeting 19-of-36 for 234 yards and tossed one touchdown, but that score didn't come until the fourth quarter when the team was already in desperation mode. Burris also led the unit with 30 rushing yards, although those gains were offset by four sacks.

Although the outcome was far from what the Cats were hoping for, there was a bit of a bright light for the squad as rookie receiver Ed Gant stepped in, just days after signing with the club following his departure from Edmonton, and made two catches for 54 yards, including a 40-yard scoring strike from Burris.

A product of North Alabama, after transferring from Southwest Mississippi Community College, Gant was signed by both the Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers between 2009-2012 but never made a significant contribution, something the Cats hope might be on the horizon for them and their newest receiver.

While Hamilton tries to find more opportunities for Gant, the Blue Bombers take a moment to celebrate their efforts against the once-mighty Montreal Alouettes on July 4. Winnipeg, which dropped the season opener versus the Als at home, 38-33, turned around and not only clamped down on Montreal, they seriously beat up quarterback Anthony Calvillo with seven sacks in what turned out to be a 19-11 victory.

Defensive lineman Bryant Turner couldn't be stopped, recording three sacks and forcing a late fumble, which Winnipeg recovered, en route to being named the CFL's Defensive Player of the Week. Even though it has only been two games, Turner is now tied for the league lead in sacks, while teammates Zach Anderson, Alex Hall and Kenny Mainor each have two sacks. As a unit, Winnipeg leads the league with 11 quarterback takedowns.

The win could have easily been even more lopsided in favor of the Bombers if not for the fact that they lost four fumbles and Buck Pierce was picked off once. Pierce finished 19-of-31 for 257 yards, but he failed to get a completion into the end zone and was sacked five times.

Slotback Cory Watson caught six passes for a game-high 114 yards, but it was Justin Goltz with his four rushing attempts for a collective seven yards that made the bigger impact, finding the end zone twice.

As well as Pierce has played at times for the Bombers in the past, he has gotten off to a very shaky start in 2013. Pierce already has thrown four interceptions, against only two touchdowns, which is why he has the second- worst efficiency rating of any regular starter with a mark of 68.4. Then again, the only notable name with a worse rating is Montreal's Anthony Calvillo at 65.9 and you have to assume that will not be the story at the end of the season.

Because of the picks thrown by Pierce, the Bombers are already minus-six in the turnover department, easily the worst number among the eight clubs. Unfortunately for the Tiger-Cats, they too have been bitten by the turnover bug and are seventh in the league with a minus-three in that category. More than anything else, the team has shown an inability to force turnovers, coming up with just a single fumble recovery at this point.

Dating back to 2004, the Bombers own a mark of 16-11 against Hamilton after taking two of three battles a season ago. However, the Ticats came out on top in the most recent matchup back on Oct. 27, capturing a 28-18 victory at home.

Winnipeg was a slow starter during the 2012 contests, scoring just 19 combined points in the first half before erupting for 65 in the second half. In the case of the Cats, they started out positively with 25 points in the first quarters of those three matchups, but the team got progressively weaker, eventually delivering only 11 points in the final frame.

These two squads are set to meet three more times during the regular season, including back-to-back matchups in August, followed by a season-ending clash on Nov. 2 in Winnipeg.

Obviously the Blue Bombers have shown that they can score points, but until they figure out how to keep from making so many mistakes, they are doomed to come out on the short end of decisions for sure.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hamilton 30, Winnipeg 25

07/10 10:35:39 ET

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