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From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
DATE & TIME: Friday, July 6, 10:00 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: Losers of eight straight CFL season openers, the Hamilton Tiger- Cats try to bounce back from a disappointing effort last week as they challenge the British Columbia Lions at BC Place on Friday night.
Hamilton is trying to get the job done in 2012 with a new starting quarterback in Henry Burris, most recently of the Calgary Stampeders, but his first game with his new squad didn't go nearly as well as he may have hoped.
The signal-caller converted 28-of-39 passes for 284 yards, but much too often he had drives stall when it appeared the Cats might have been building momentum. Burris, who had a down year in 2011 when he threw for just 3,687 yards after posting seven straight campaigns with at least 4,200 yards, likened his new situation to that of Rome not being built in a day as the squad suffered a lopsided 43-16 loss to Saskatchewan at home in the opener.
Running back Chevon Walker gave the hometown fans a glimpse of what could be the norm as he blasted over the left side and raced 89 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Walker, who was in for Avon Cobourne, finished his night with a game-high 132 yards on seven attempts, but that still wasn't enough to keep Hamilton close.
Receiver Chris Williams reeled in nine balls for 109 yards for the Ticats, but while he was finding holes in the Saskatchewan defense, the Roughriders were doing even more damage as they produced more than 500 yards of total offense.
As for the Lions, the defending Grey Cup Champions, they celebrated the start of the new season in grand style as they set down Winnipeg, the team they defeated in the 99th Grey Cup, by a score of 33-16 in front of the hometown crowd.
While picking up a victory is always the ultimate goal from week-to-week, British Columbia also had another item on the agenda and that was to get receiver Geroy Simon into the record books as the league's all-time leader in receiving yards.
Simon, who began his career with the Blue Bombers back in 1999, reeled in five passes for 105 yards to give him 15,192 yards for his career, eclipsing the mark of 15,153 yards set by Milt Stegall in 2008. The milestone came on a 56- yard pass from Travis Lulay in the fourth quarter, after which the game was stopped for a brief presentation to celebrate the accomplishment.
Lulay connected on 17-of-25 passes for 233 yards and a score, offsetting three sacks and an interception. He also kept the Winnipeg defense on its toes as he scored twice and accounted for 44 yards on eight rushing attempts.
Also playing a key role for the Lions was kicked Paul McCallum, who stepped up to finish off stalled drives by knocking through all four of his field goal attempts as he finished with 15 points. Last season, McCallum led the league in scoring with 203 points as he converted a staggering 94.3 percent of his field goal tries. Clearly, having McCallum coming in from the sidelines is often a safe bet that points will be scored.
The BC defense was all over the Bombers, limiting the visitors to just 204 yards of total offense and knocking out starting quarterback Buck Pierce with an apparent knee injury late in the first half.
British Columbia's defense last year was one of the best in the league, ranking second only to Winnipeg in yards allowed (318.0 ypg) and tops in points permitted (21.4 ppg), which is something that new head coach Mike Benevides would like to keep up.
With regard to the all-time, regular-season series dating back to 1954 between these two squads, BC owns a 46-32-3 advantage over the Ticats, even though it was Hamilton which won the most recent matchup, 42-10, at home in October and has claimed victory in five of the last six encounters.
The clubs have one other date on the calendar for this season, an October 12 matchup in Hamilton.
Burris has the talent around him to put up wins this season, but Hamilton has to learn how not to shoot itself in the foot and avoid costly penalties that not only halt drives, but also wear on a group's confidence. By all means, if the Tiger-Cats play a near-flawless game they could make it interesting, but they'll also have to get into the head of Lulay and Simon to come out on top.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: British Columbia 34, Hamilton 23
07/04 11:35:57 ET
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