Ticats edge Bombers in pre-season CFL action

Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Henry Burris (1) dives in for touchdown the against Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Clint Kent (41) during the first half of their pre-season CFL game in Winnipeg Wednesday, June 20, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

WINNIPEG - Cornerback Jovon Johnson bristled at the suggestion the Hamilton Tiger-Cats were moving the ball at will Wednesday through what last season was arguably the best defence in the CFL.

Hamilton edged the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 26-25 in the last pre-season game for both teams.

Ticats quarterback Henry Burris used the first half to make a statement, marching 81 yards on his first drive while setting the tone and carrying the ball himself for the touchdown.

He scrambled through coverage repeatedly and even tried to bust his way over the goal-line a second time for a touchdown, although that manoeuvre failed and ended in a penalty with Burris settling for a field goal on the drive.

"What was he trying to prove?" asked Johnson. "He made throws to guys that were open, at the end of the day, he didn't do nothing that was that impressive if you ask me.

"We're going to be ready to play B.C. next week and that's all we care about."

He also noted that the Bombers were playing a very simple "vanilla" flavoured defence since it was just a pre-season game.

"We're as good as we were last year," insisted Johnson, the top defensive player in the CFL last year.

"We've just got to make corrections. We can't take as many penalties as we had and we've also got to cover guys. That's just the nature of the business."

Burris, who just turned 37, joined the Ticats after the Calgary Stampeders replaced him last season as a starter. He completed 16-of-22 passes for 188 yards before leaving the game.

The Bombers and Ticats gave their starting lineups playing time in the early part of the game but Winnipeg didn't look as sharp.

Quarterback Buck Pierce went 5 for 15 for 154 yards and was sacked on his first attempt to score, while Winnipeg fell just short after rallying from a 26-15 deficit at the end of the third quarter.

"We've got to clean some things up, it's still a work in progress," he said.

"We didn't hit some of the deep ones, we had a few drops."

But he said they have enough time before the season opener to make the adjustments needed.

One of the issues the Bombers need to settle is their kicking and punting game. It's debatable how much help Wednesday night was in settling the issue.

The first quarter ended 10-0 and Winnipeg kicker Justin Palardy hit a post on a 30-year field goal attempt to start the second on the Bombers' first shot at a point.

Eric Wilbur didn't have any more luck and a 29-yard attempt went wide near the end of the second.

The Ticats had more luck, with Josh Maveety kicking in three field goals and Luca Congi adding another during the game.

Winnipeg coach Paul LaPolice threw in his second-team defence in the second quarter.

Pierce finally connected with Kito Poblah with a 57-yard pass to set up a short yardage situation that backup quarterback Alex Brink turned into a one-yard touchdown before the quarter ended.

The Bombers sorely missed last year's sack leader Odell Willis as Burris repeatedly ran through open coverage.

Hamilton backup quarterback Quinton Porter took over from Burris and added another touchdown in the third with a 29-yard pass to Aaron Kelly.

Then Brink hooked up a 14-yard pass to receiver Doug Pierce for the Bombers' second touchdown of the game.

Palardy added a field goal for Winnipeg in the fourth then Joey Elliott, who replaced yet another Bomber quarterback, Justin Goltz, hit Kurt Adams for a touchdown.

But the Bombers missed on the ensuing two-point convert attempt, and Wilbur went wide on a 38-yard field goal attempt that could have given the Bombers the win in the final seconds.