Canadian Football League

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

From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Thursday, July 31, 7 p.m. (ET).

GAME NOTES: The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are set for their second home game of the season on Thursday night as they host the resurgent Winnipeg Blue Bombers at McMaster University's Ron Joyce Stadium.

Hamilton, which is 0-3 on the road thus far and a mere 1-3 overall, would normally have to be worried about losing sight of the rest of the teams in the Eastern Division standings, but surprisingly the club is actually tied for first place with both Montreal and expansion Ottawa heading into Week 6 action.

Last weekend the Ticats, playing a home game in Hamilton for the first time in 637 days, snapped a three-game slide with a 33-23 triumph over the RedBlacks.

In his first career start, quarterback Dan LeFevour passed for 361 yards and ran for another 109 for the Tiger-Cats in the triumph. The only player in NCAA history with at least 12,000 career passing yards and 2,500 rushing yards, LeFevour carried the ball 13 times and converted 21-of-30 passing, leading to one touchdown and an interception.

Running back Chris Gable ran for 62 yards and also caught three passes for another 105 yards for the Tiger-Cats. Kicker Justin Medlock converted all four of his field-goal attempts for the hosts as they went up against former Hamilton QB Henry Burris, holding the signal caller in-check for most of the second half.

Clearly the performance by LeFevour, one that earned him the CFL Offensive Player of the Week honors, was an uplifting one. On Monday the Ticats announced fellow quarterback Zach Collaros was heading to the six-game injured list, due to issues with his head and back, opening the door for LeFevour to gain even more experience.

As for the Blue Bombers, a team which won a total of just three games all of last season as it wallowed in last place with the worst record in the league, they have four victories already, starting the campaign with wins over Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, before bowing to Edmonton.

Last week Winnipeg bounced back from the dismal 26-3 setback to the Eskimos in Week 4 by dominating British Columbia at BC Place, 23-6. However, the final score might be a bit deceiving, at least from the standpoint of how well the Bombers offense performed.

Winnipeg generated a modest 300 yards, but just 50 of those coming on the ground. Drew Willy managed to converted 18-of-26 passes for 250 yards and a score, but was also intercepted once and sacked two times. Really, the game ball should have been given to kicker Lirim Hajrullahu who did it all for his club.

Hajrullahu not only handled all of the punting and kickoffs for Winnipeg, who also knocked through all five of his field-goal chances and finished with 16 points, en route to being named the CFL Special Teams Player of the Week.

Hajrullahu is now second in the league among kickers in terms of points scored with 51, having converted all but two of his 14 field-goal attempts. Because of the efforts of Hajrullahu, the Bombers are the top scoring team in the league after five weeks with 28.2 ppg, even though they are sixth with only 311.4 ypg.

Also giving Winnipeg a lift is Nic Grigsby, who is second in yards from scrimmage (447) and second in rushing, turning his 67 carries for 287 yards into three touchdowns.

Hamilton may have new life with LeFevour, but he still has a lot of work in front of him to turn this group around for good. The Tiger-Cats are second-to- last in scoring (18.5 ppg) and a lot of that has to do with the fact that they are also second from the bottom in terms of turnover margin with a minus-four. The 'Cats have not only thrown six interceptions, they've also lost possession of six fumbles.

Winnipeg leads the regular season series by a count of 59-50, dating back to 1961. However, the most recent matchup was an easy victory for the Tiger-Cats in November of last season, 37-7, as Hamilton has won five straight over the Bombers.

While Winnipeg may have the better record at the moment, the Bombers have to remember that they don't have much tape to study on LeFevour and have to be ready for almost anything. For LeFevour, he must minimize the number of times Bombers defenders can get their hits on him if he wants to bring the Ticats out victorious.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hamilton 27, Winnipeg 23

07/30 10:31:07 ET

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