By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive lineman Willie Jefferson was understated about his fourth-quarter interception for a touchdown Friday.
The veteran snared a tipped pass by Hamilton quarterback Dane Evans to help seal Winnipeg’s 26-12 win over the visiting Tiger-Cats.
The Bombers (3-0) remained unbeaten to start the CFL season, while the Ticats were winless in three starts.
“It was a good night. A good night at the office,” Jefferson said. “Offence, defence, special teams came out and did what we needed to do, get the win.”
After sacking Evans early in the fourth quarter, Jefferson ran an interception back 30 yards to score with 8:40 remaining in the game.
Jefferson’s touchdown was the fifth of his eight-year career in the CFL.
“I’m living right. That’s all I can say, man,” Jefferson said. “Yup, just having opportunities to run to the ball. The ball just so happened to find me.
“Just got to be hungry. You don’t get rewarded for being lazy.”
Evans was 25-for-42 passing for 237 yards with two interceptions. Jefferson’s pick wasn’t the first Evans throw to deflect off a receiver’s hands and into enemy arms.
“Bad luck right now, man,” Evans said. “Every single one of those guys have been open and just unfortunate, man. Just a string of bad luck.
“Much like a hitter being in a slump, it’s kind of hitting us right now. Shoot, there’s only so many times that can happen, you know. Eventually, it will start going our way.”
Blue Bombers running back Brady Oliveira scored a one-yard touchdown, while Winnipeg kicker Marc Liegghio had a perfect outing.
Liegghio kicked field goals from 45, 30 and 41 yards, hit both converts and added three punt singles.
The Tiger-Cats relied on kicker Michael Domagala when they couldn’t find the end zone.
He was good on field-goal attempts from 27, 49, 32 and 41 yards, but was wide on tries from 45 and 52 yards.
Opening kickoff was delayed until 8 p.m. local time because of lightning as thunderstorms passed through Winnipeg.
The team had asked fans at IG Field to wear white for a “whiteout.” Many of the 23,600 in attendance did, but covered up with rain ponchos.
The Bombers wore their white road jerseys, which is what they donned for their back-to-back Grey Cup victories over the Tiger-Cats in 2019 and 2021.
“I really do think they’re a great football team. I don’t care what their record says,” Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros said.
“They’re going to be there at the end, for sure. Both teams have a mutual respect for each other. At the same time, we don’t like each other very much because we have played in some big games the last couple of seasons.”
Collaros completed 21 of 32 pass attempts for 302 yards with one interception.
The Tiger-Cats need to turn field goals into touchdowns, their head coach Orlondo Steinauer said.
“But I was definitely proud of our football team’s effort,” he said.
“I didn’t see any quit. I thought we just didn’t seize our opportunities when the momentum hit us.”
Winnipeg led 6-3 after the first quarter, 14-9 at halftime and 18-9 after three quarters.
Both quarterbacks connected on long passes in first-half scoring drives.
Collaros hit Greg Ellingson with a 46-yard completion to boost a drive capped by Liegghio’s 45-yard field goal.
Collaros and Rasheed Bailey combined for a 35-yard reception on the next series, which ended with Liegghio’s 30-yarder to make it 6-0 at 9:29.
After facing second down and 27 following a penalty, Evans scrambled and threw a 41-yard strike to David Ungerer III.
The drive ended with Domagala’s 27-yard field goal at 12:05.
Hamilton made it 6-6 just 21 seconds into the second quarter when Domagala booted a 49-yarder.
Winnipeg responded with a punt single at 3:35.
Domagala missed a 45-yard attempt, but was good from 32 yards with 2:22 remaining in the first half.
With 18 seconds left, Oliveira finished off a five-play, 59-yard drive with a one-yard TD carry.
Bombers receiver Nic Demski appeared to hurt his foot when he was tackled two minutes into the third quarter. He didn’t return to the game, and the club didn’t provide a post-game update on him.
Liegghio increased Winnipeg’s lead to 18-9 with a punt single at 3:33 and added a 41-yard field goal at 11:52 of the third.
After Jefferson hit pay dirt with a pick-six, Domagala made it 25-12 with his 41-yarder at 9:56 of the fourth. Liegghio added another punt single.
Evans was also intercepted by Winnipeg defensive back Nick Taylor late in the fourth quarter.