It wasn't just any ball. It was the game ball.
And in the jubilation -- and relief -- inside the Winnipeg Blue Bombers locker-room following their 34-12 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Canad Inns Stadium Friday night, quarterback Buck Pierce wanted reporters to know that the team had awarded this particular game ball to offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton.
"He works so hard and believes in what he does, no matter what anybody else says. The pressure the media and the fans put on him to be successful -- you know, he sticks to his guns," Pierce said of Crowton.
"And I think that speaks a lot to the kind of person he is and the kind of character he is. And the players want to win for him."
So if that's what Friday night's game ball meant to Pierce, what did it mean to Crowton, the man on the receiving end of all that criticism for the failings of Winnipeg's offence this year and now suddenly finding himself on the receiving end of the game ball in such a crucial win?
"I appreciate it. That was nice," Crowton said following his club's practice at Canad Inns Stadium on Wednesday. "I was very excited in what happened there, just because it shows the players believe in what we're trying to get done."
With an explosion of 427 yards in net offence on Friday against the Ticats, the challenge now, of course, is to do it all over again Saturday when Winnipeg hosts the Toronto Argonauts.
And that is far from a gimme for a Bombers offence that has laboured mightily all season long to string together strong performances in two games in a row. And Crowton knows it.
"I do feel like we're growing," said Crowton, "but what I didn't like previously was I felt like we did some good things and then we came back down (the next game). We've got to look to make sure that doesn't happen again this week."
After failing to score a touchdown for almost 16 complete quarters, Crowton was asked what changed so dramatically on Friday night that they erupted for three of them in just the second half. Was it the return of QB Buck Pierce? Was it an anemic Hamilton defence? Was it finally the maturation of an offensive scheme that's been in development since training camp?
Crowton suggested it was a mixture of all three, adding his offence remains a work in progress and suggesting more patience may be required.
"I understand the frustrations. I was frustrated myself," said Crowton. "I want to be very good on offence, not just an average offensive team... And I'm trying to take strides to get there and sometimes that takes a little bit of time. But I understand people want things to happen right now. I understand the society we live in."
What's more, at the same time his players have been learning his offence, there has also been a learning curve for Crowton, who has a deep coaching resumé in the U.S. but is a raw rookie in the Canadian game.
Bombers head coach Tim Burke -- who has been a defensive co-ordinator in each of the last four Grey Cups -- said he was a rookie once too and understands that there is a learning curve for American coaches in the CFL. "I know when I first came into the league, it took me about a half a year to really get into the flow of the league -- not so much the X's and O's as much as it was the rules, the motions, the width of the field and all that. The game just goes so much faster than the U.S. You don't have a lot of rest in between plays."
high marks for blue hoofers C3