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CFL Preview - Winnipeg (1-6) at Hamilton (3-4)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Saturday, August 24, 1:00 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: For the second time in as many weeks, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats collide on the football field, this time at Alumni Stadium at the University of Guelph on Saturday afternoon.

This game marks the third meeting of the 2013 season between the clubs, with the Tiger-Cats having won the first two, including a 37-18 romp last week. On the road in Winnipeg, the Ticats jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, registering at least one touchdown in every frame, en route to a second straight win and the third on the campaign overall.

Henry Burris converted 22-of-36 passes for 333 yards and a score, but he was also sacked three times. Burris has now played in eight consecutive games against the Bombers and has not been intercepted. Fellow signal-caller Dan LeFevour not only hit two of his three passes, one of which resulted in a major, he also carried the ball four times for 40 yards and another score.

C.J. Gable generated 147 all-purpose yards and scored once, setting a new personal high in both rushing (75) and receiving (72) yards.

While Hamilton was producing 456 yards of total offense, Winnipeg was coming up with just 321 yards and at the same time being flagged a staggering 17 times for a loss of 137 yards. Max Hall got the start at quarterback for the Bombers, hitting 18-of-30 passes for 241 yards and a score, but he was sacked once and picked off two times, yet he is still going to be the starter for this week according to head coach Tim Burke.

While he failed to put points on the board, Terrence Edwards was still a huge playmaker for the Blue Bombers in the loss as he caught eight balls for 172 yards, both of which were game highs. Heading into last week, the receiver had just 12 total receptions for 118 yards in 2013.

Getting used to Hall under center is just one major change for the Blue Bombers these days, the other being Marcel Bellefeuille's move into the offensive coordinator position after the team relieved Gary Crowton of his duties over the weekend. Somewhat ironic is the fact that Crowton was once the head coach at BYU (2001-04), which is where Hall played beginning in 2007 and also served as a coach until recently.

A loser in five straight and six of seven games overall this season, placing the program at the bottom of the East Division standings, Winnipeg has needed a shake-up for quite some time and hopefully these key changes will provide some spark for the offense.

The Bombers have scored the fewest points of any team in the league (21.9 ppg) and have but five passing scores. The squad is second-to-last, ahead of only Montreal (hard to believe), in passing yardage with 224.4 ypg and it also doesn't help that the program has been penalized for a league-high 662 yards either.

No other team in the CFL has thrown more than seven interceptions through seven games, yet Winnipeg has already reached double figures in that category, tossing a pick on 4.6 percent of attempts. As a result, the Bombers have the lowest team efficiency rating at the moment at 70.3.

As if an inefficient offense were not bad enough, Winnipeg's turnover margin is by far the worst as well, with the team showing a minus-17 in that area. Hamilton, which has forced a league-low six turnovers, has the second-worst margin at minus-eight.

Despite still being a game under .500 at the moment, Hamilton still finds itself second in the division standings, trailing Toronto which is the only team in the East with a winning record right now.

Trying to keep the Tiger-Cats moving in the right direction is Burris who is on pace to break his career high for passing yards in a single season, after putting up 5,367 just last season. With an average of 305 ypg through the air, Burris could come close to reaching 5,500 yards this year if he is able to keep up the hectic pace.

Hamilton has won three straight meetings in the series, yet dating back to 2004 the advantage in the relationships lies with the Blue Bombers who own a 16-13 advantage during the stretch. Dating back to 1961 and only taking into consideration games played during the regular season, the Bombers are ahead by a count of 59-48.

The squads are also slated to battle in the regular-season finale on Nov. 2 in Winnipeg.

As much as the Blue Bombers would like to completely reverse their fortunes right now, the change will have to be a gradual one. Chances are Hall isn't going to be the answer long-term at quarterback, but at least he's shown some enthusiasm while he is at the helm. Unfortunately, Hamilton showed last week that it can easily take care of business in this matchup and being at home should only make the job that much smoother for the hosts.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hamilton 31, Winnipeg 20

08/21 10:41:07 ET

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