Tiger-Cats outlast Ottawa REDBLACKS to earn first win

HAMILTON — In a four-quarter battle between East Division opponents, each in search of their first win, it would take a last second touchdown for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to earn their first win of the season.

Dane Evans and a resilient group of Ticats left Tim Horton’s field with a 25-23 win over the Ottawa REDBLACKS to close out Week 6 of league action.

Evans led the Ticats efforts, completing 21 of his 28 passing attempts for 342 yards and two touchdowns, including a game-winning touchdown pass to receiver Tim White.

White was among the favourite targets for the Ticats pivot, catching six of his nine targets for a team-high  70 yards. Anthony Johnson saw just two targets, but made the most of his opportunities, turning his targets into 66 yards and a touchdown.

Appearing in just his second game of the season for the Ticats, running back Don Jackson made the most of his return to action, carrying the ball 11 times for 34 yards while adding another 36 yards receiving.

» Box Score: REDBLACKS, Ticats by the numbers
» Through the Lens: REDBLACKS at Ticats
» Watch: Darby leaps from impressive INT


Making his season debut as the starting quarterback for Ottawa, Caleb Evans wasted no time making the most of his opportunity. Evans engineered a six play 66-yard scoring drive to open the game for the REDBLACKS.

It was the former Ticat, Jaelon Acklin who got involved in the action early in the game. On the opening drive he reeled in two passes for 31 yards, including a nine-yard touchdown reception to strike first against his old team.
On the ensuing drive for Hamilton, the team looked poised to respond to the Ottawa score as Evans connected with Anthony Johnson on a 41-yard completion. However, Ottawa’s Hakeem Bailey forced the ball loose at the end of the run and the REDBLACKS recovered the fumble.
Ottawa would not be able to manage any points from the turnover, and were forced to punt the ball back to Hamilton. On the kick, Ticats’ returner Lawrence Woods fumbled the return and the REDBLACKS were once again able to recover the loose ball.
Fortunately for the Ticats, their defence was able to stave off the REDBLACKS offensive attack following the turnover. Ottawa’s drive was stalled by a sack from defensive linemen Mason Bennett. Ottawa was forced to bring out kicker, Lewis Ward to attempt a 50-yard field goal, his longest of attempt of the season, Ward’s kick missed wide right as Ottawa’s lead remained at just one score.
With the ball back late in the first quarter, Ottawa’s pivot was once again looking downfield for a big play, but it was Hamilton defensive back, Kameron Kelly who was able to break on the ball and come away with the interception, marking the game’s third forced turnover.
With just under two minutes remaining in the first quarter, the REDBLACKS were in scoring range following a completion from Evans to Acklin. Ottawa wouldn’t be able to find the end zone, but Ward would get redemption for his earlier miss as he knocked through a 20-yard field goal to give Ottawa a 10-1 lead to end the first quarter.
Hamilton started the second quarter of action with a spark as Evans line up in the slot, taking a jet sweep from Matthew Schiltz before finding Tyler Ternowski downfield for an 18-yard completion. On the very next play both Evans and Schiltz were lined up in the backfield as Evans narrowly missed Steven Dunbar Jr. for what would have been a big gain.
The Ticats couldn’t find the end zone, but kicker, Michael Domagala split the uprights on a 28-yard field goal attempt to cut the Ottawa lead to four.
After a two and out forced by the Hamilton defence, the Tabbies offence proceeded to string together a dynamic scoring drive that once again featured both Evans at Schiltz at quarterback. Schiltz completed two passes for 27 yards and rushed for another 15 to help get the Ticats into striking distance.
On a third and goal from the Ottawa three-yard line, the Hamilton offence stayed on the field. Evans took the snap and appeared to have receiver Tim White open in the end zone, however the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage by linebacker Adam Auclair and fell incomplete as Ottawa took over possession on downs.
The Ticats defence continued to apply pressure, as Evans once again looked deep downfield for Acklin, Hamilton’s Alden Darby jumped in front of the pass for his team’s second takeaway of the game.
Hamilton wasted no time taking advantage of their opportunity, needing just three plays to find the end zone. Evans completed a 39-yard pass to fullback Felix Garand-Gauthier before Schiltz was able to convert the the quarterback sneak to give his team their first major of the game and take the lead.
With their offence on the field late in the first half, the Ticats continued their electric second quarter. Dunbar Jr. sparked the drive with a highlight-reel one handed catch on a 36-yard pass from Evans. Three plays later, on the Ottawa 15-yard line, Evans found Johnson in the end zone to push his team to an 18-10 lead to close the first half.
Much like the start of the game, Evans engineered a five play scoring drive with the opening possession of the second half. The drive was highlighted by a 19-yard gain from receiver Nate Behar, helping to set up an Evans touchdown on a goal line quarterback sneak play.
A meticulous defensive battle would engulf the third quarter, stifling much of the offensive back and fourth fans were treated to in the game’s opening half.
Following the score from Ottawa the next four drives featured the two defences exchanging blows and forcing back-to-back two and outs against one another.
Leading by just one-point midway through the final quarter, Hamilton’s offence was on the field with a chance to extend their lead after stalling a good Ottawa drive and forcing a punt.
On second down, Evans dropped back looking to put the ball in the air, however REDBLACKS’ defensive back Antoine Pruneau found his way into the backfield for the sack-forced fumble on the Tabbies pivot. The fumble turned form bad to worse as the ball rolled all the way to the one-yard line with Ottawa recovering the ball.
The REDBLACKS immediately signaled for their short-yard heavy package to take the field, as Evans plunged forward on the goal line for his second touchdown of the game, giving his team a 23-18 lead with just over seven minutes remaining.
With just over two minutes left in the game, Ottawa was forced to punt the ball back to the Ticats and it was Woods who gave his team the much needed jolt, breaking free for an 88-yard punt return to put his team on the REDBLACKS’ eight-yard line.
As Hamilton looked to take advantage of their scoring opportunity, the Ottawa defence managed to hold the Ticats out of the end zone on their first two attempts.
On third-down and seven, needing a score, Schiltz fired a pass towards the end zone, but Ottawa’s Bailey was able to come up with his second big play of the game. Reading the pass all the way, he intercepted the pass and appeared to slash Hamilton’s hopes of a win.
With under a minute to play the Ticats would have the ball back with one more chance to win the game. Evans completed two quick passes for 41 yards to give his team a chance for the game-winning score.
Once again facing a third down to decide the game, Evans and the Ticats wouldn’t miss twice as he fired a strike to receiver Tim White in the end zone, to seemingly give Hamilton their first win of the year.
However, Ottawa would have one final attempt as Ward lined up to attempt a 54-yard field goal for the win. The kick boomed off Ward’s foot and it had the line, but not the distance as the kick fell short, sealing the Hamilton victory.
Looking ahead to next week, the REDBLACKS will be hosting the Montreal Alouettes to kickoff Week 7, while the Ticats will be travelling to Vancouver as they take on Nathan Rourke and the BC Lions.

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