Toronto Argonauts win third straight in overtime thriller against Hamilton Tiger-Cats

CFL.CA STAFF
The Toronto Argonauts completed an impressive comeback in their 43-35 overtime victory against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Saturday. Quarterback Ricky Ray led the Argos to their first victory at Tim Hortons Field with 330 passing yards and three touchdown passes on 25 completions.

Receiver DeVier Posey also had a big game for the Double Blue, leading his team with 104 yards receiving and two touchdowns, including the game winning score. And while running back James Wilder Jr. did not have another 100-yard performance, the runner contributed a solid effort with 81 total yards and two key two-point converts.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats looked strong in all three phases of the game, with C.J. Gable showing exactly why he is the Ticats’ starting running back. Gable finished the game with an incredible 157 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the loss.

The Ticats had two receivers go over 100 yards, with Brandon Banks recording 100 yards and a score on three catches, and Jalen Saunders racking up 121 receiving yards on five catches.

The Argos clinched the season series against Hamilton with the win, and have improved their playoff chances in the East Division with three straight victories.

The Ticats came out flying right away on offence, finding the end zone on their very first passing play of the game. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli found receiver Brandon Banks in space with a short slant pass, and the speedy Banks took care of the rest. Banks took off down the right side of the field behind a couple key blocks for the 58-yard touchdown, giving Hamilton the early 7-0 lead.

Photo: The Canadian Press

Quarterback Ricky Ray got things moving through the air for the Argos on their second drive, taking advantage of the added attention given to red-hot running back James Wilder Jr. But the Ticats’ defence was ready, and a halfback blitz from defensive back Demond Washington caught Ray off guard and knocked the ball loose. Linebacker Simoni Lawrence recovered the fumble for Hamilton.

The Ticats were unable to capitalize on the turnover, however, and the Argos’ special teams stepped up with the first big play of the night for Toronto. Return specialist Martese Jackson caught a punt at the Toronto 18-yard line and took it the distance, outrunning the Ticats’ punt unit for a 92-yard return touchdown. The score was the third punt return touchdown for Jackson this season.

Ticats receiver Andy Fantuz made his season debut against the Argos, having recovered from the knee injury he suffered last season. The veteran pass catcher registered his first reception since October of last season, shaking off the rust as he took a hit over the middle from Argos’ defensive back Matt Black. Fantuz finished the game with three catches.

C.J. Gable got the start at running back for Hamilton, despite Alex Green’s big debut for the Ticats last week against the BC Lions. Gable looked impressive in the first quarter, racking up 41 rushing yards on his first four carries.

Hamilton’s rushing attack appeared to find the end zone at the start of the second quarter, but Masoli had two separate touchdown runs called back. Masoli was ruled down at the half-yard line on the first play, and a holding penalty was called against the Ticats on the second play. The Ticats were forced to settle for a field goal as a result, with kicker Sergio Castillo making the 35-yard field goal to give Hamilton the 10-7 lead.

Ray was under duress for much of the first half, facing constant pressure every time he dropped back to throw the ball. The Ticats’ pass rush overwhelmed Toronto’s offensive line early on, registering three sacks in the first half alone.

Wilder made his first big play of the game for the Argos with a leaping 18-yard catch near the sidelines. Wilder then broke multiple tackles on a five yard run to set the Toronto offense up in scoring position.

Ray made the most of the field position, hitting receiver Armanti Edwards for the 15-yard touchdown on a beautiful corner route in the left side of the end zone. Wilder gave Ray time to throw on the scoring play by picking up the pass rush in the backfield, giving Toronto the 14-10 lead near the end of the opening half.

Gable continued to move the ball on the ground for the Ticats after the Toronto touchdown, averaging nine yards per carry in the first half. Gable’s 16-yard run with under two minutes remaining set up a 19-yard Castillo field goal, bringing the score to 14-13.

Hamilton WR Brandon Banks hauling in a pass with Aldon Darby defending Photo: The Canadian Press

The Ticats defence stood strong in the final minutes of the half, forcing an Argos punt. Masoli then put together an efficient drive to take Hamilton down the field in a hurry. Masoli completed big passes to receiver Jalen Saunders for 17 and 30 yard gains, and then found Banks for a 21-yard catch near the Argos’ goal line.

Masoli finished off the impressive drive by hooking up with receiver Luke Tasker for the three-yard touchdown. Tasker also caught the ensuing two-point convert, giving Hamilton the 21-14 lead. The Ticats’ offense went 77 yards in 58 seconds to regain the lead before half.

The Ticats’ defense continued to impress after the half. Ray attempted to find receiver S.J. Green down the field, but the ball was thrown into double coverage and Ticats defensive back Courtney Stephen came down with the interception. But Toronto challenged the call, and it was ruled that the Ticats committed pass interference on the play.

Hamilton got the ball on offense after forcing another Argos punt, but Toronto’s defense stepped up and forced a fumble on Masoli. Argos defensive lineman Justin Tuggle stripped the ball from the Hamilton quarterback, and linebacker Marcus Ball recovered.

The Argos made the most of the turnover, and backup quarterback Cody Fajardo ran the ball in for the one-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21-21.

Gable and the Ticats’ rushing attack continued to win the battle at the line of scrimmage, and the talented runner took a carry for 46 yards near the end of the third quarter. Gable found a big hole on the left side and found daylight, bringing the ball all the way to the Toronto three-yard line. Gable score on the following play, finishing off the drive with a three-yard rushing touchdown to give Hamilton the 28-21 lead.

After getting the ball back with strong defensive play, the Ticats’ offence made their way down the field on another scoring drive. Masoli made a big throw to receiver Jalen Saunders for a 38-yard gain, and Banks drew a pass interference call a couple plays later. Gable did the rest after that, finding another hole for the three-yard rushing touchdown to give Hamilton a 14-point lead with just over ten minutes remaining.

The Argos rebounded with a clutch 47-yard field goal from kicker Lirim Hajrullahu, bringing the score to 35-24. Toronto’s defence forced a pivotal two and out after that, containing Masoli and the Ticats’ productive running game.

Ray put together a solid drive for the Argos, connecting with fullback Declan Cross for 26 yards, and Green for 17 yards. The Argos added another Hajrullahu field goal as result, bringing the score to 35-27 with under five minutes to play.

The Argos got the ball back and Ray led a comeback drive in the final minute. Receiver DeVier Posey played a major role on the drive, making a crucial third down catch for 31 yards. Posey capped off the drive with a 25-yard touchdown, and Wilder ran in the two-point convert to send the game to overtime.

Toronto received the ball in overtime, and Ray wasted no time moving the ball into scoring position. The Double Blue quarterback hooked up with receiver Armanti Edwards for 22 yards before finding Posey in the end zone for the game winning 13-yard touchdown pass. Wilder added another two-point convert on the ground to seal the victory with a 43-35 final.

Week 16 will see the Hamilton Tiger-Cats travel to Winnipeg to face the Blue Bombers next Friday night, while the Toronto Argonauts will host the Saskatchewan Roughriders at home next Saturday.

 

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