The Labour Day Classic in Hamilton did not disappoint for the home fans. In front of a massive crowd at Tim Horton’s Field, the two southern Ontario Rivals went to battle, kicking off their two week home-and-home series.
The Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats, two 4-5 teams, engaged in a wildly entertaining shootout in front of the largest crowd at Tim Horton’s Field ever (24,512). The game capped off the Labour Day weekend with a 20-point Hamilton comeback Tiger-Cats win. Both passers Ricky Ray and Zach Collaros were in top form, the two quarterbacks combining for over 735 yards passing, seven touchdowns, and 85 points.
Hamilton Comeback to Win, What Went Wrong for Argos?
Thomas Gordon with Defensive Highlight of the Year?
A defensive player gets a sack, you give him a pat on the back and say good job. A sack fumble might earn a great job. A sack fumble plus recovering the ball, amazing. In the middle of a decent drive by the Tiger-Cats, Thomas Gordon absolutely cheat-coded the Hamilton offence. Gordon came off the edge on a blitz and levelled Collaros, knocking the ball loose. Then he got up and, in the ensuing scramble, scooped up the ball and broke for the end zone, giving Toronto a three point lead following the conversion.
Gordon was relatively modest on his outstanding play late in the first quarter. “The defensive line cleared everyone out and I came free. Instead of trying to just get the sack, I went for the ball like our coaches preach and stripped it from (Collaros).”
Gordon was just as surprised as anyone that the ball was still up for grabs moments later.
“I thought we recovered it after that, but then when I got up it just scooted free, it’s scoop and score drill after that. We work turnover circuits like that all the time. When things like that happen you just have to capitalize.”
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) September 5, 2016
Gordon was named the Argos starter at the weak side linebacker position following the release of Keon Raymond. Toronto wanted more production out of the position, and Gordon certainly gave it to them against Hamilton in this one superb individual effort.
Making Ticats Pay for First Half Turnovers
Scott Milanovich thought his defence played well the past few weeks, but the offence was unable to capitalize in situations that brought scoring chances. This week, in the first thirty minutes, the Argonauts defence put the ball in the hands of their quarterback and in turn, Ray went to work and absolutely carved up Hamilton’s defence. Ray went almost the entire first half without an incomplete pass. On four turnovers, the Argos were able to get a 20 point cushion from the free possessions courtesy of the Black and Gold. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t last for the remainder of the game.
Lack of a Killer Instinct
Hamilton was down but not out. The first half seemed to be all Toronto after the opening score by Collaros and company. Hamilton’s offence gave up the ball four times to the Argos for 20 points. Hamilton wasn’t just missing momentum, they were bleeding it out, until C.J. Gable ripped off a 53-yard run from a draw play.
From there, Hamilton fought their way back in the final three minutes of the half scoring twice to pull within thirteen points. After the break ,Hamilton came out firing with a mix of big plays and big receivers, starting off with a seven play 92-yard touchdown drive to open the final half. This pulled the Ticats within six points at the start of the third quarter, and from there Collaros and the Cats took over. The Argos had Hamilton in a stranglehold but failed to make their arch rivals tap out, costing them the divisional tie-breaker.
A Good Old Shot for Shot Shootout
After Toronto scored on a sensational grab by Tori Gurley to make the score 36-24, Hamilton responded with another drive of their own capped off by 39-yard Luke Tasker touchdown reception. This brought the score within five points with two and a half minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Toronto’s 20 point lead was all but erased by the Hamilton comeback, but instead of bowing out Ray threw a 65-yard bomb to Diontae Spencer, giving the Argos first and goal. The next bomb that Ray threw was self-inflicting, as right after the massive gain by Spencer, Ray, while trying to get the ball off before getting crushed by a big hit, overthrew Andre Durie for an interception in the Hamilton endzone.
Penalties Strike Again in Wild Fourth Quarter Finish
Deja Vu was in full effect for the Argos special teams unit. For the second week in a row, after Spencer broke free for a 52-yard gain on a fourth quarter punt return, the Argos were walked back on the field by the refs for an illegal block by Devon Wylie. The drive resulted in a twoand out for the Boatmen giving Collaros the ball at midfield, still down by five.
Four plays later the Ticats were celebrating a 10-yard Chad Owens touchdown. After Andy Fantuz caught the two-point convert, the Ticats were up 39-36.
— CFL on TSN (@CFLonTSN) September 6, 2016
An Emanuel Davis pick-six would further increase the Ticats lead to ten points. The penalties would kill the Argonauts chances of getting back in the game once again. After a large gain by Kevin Elliott the Argos were hit with a holding penalty charged to Tyler Holmes, cancelling out the gain. Two plays later, the Argos turned over the ball on downs at the the three minute warning, leading to a Hamilton field goal to make it 49-36.
Milanovich and the Argos are in the midst of a marathon session playing three games in eleven days. The Argonauts have a week to prepare for their rematch against the Ticats. On the disappointment of a high scoring loss Milanovich said, “it can can go one of two ways, they played their hearts out.”
As far as motivation for the rematch in less than a weeks time, coach says, “I don’t need to yell and scream at them, it didn’t go our way and that’s tough to swallow, we’re going to have to lick our wounds and get back down to business.”
Despite the loss, the Argos still have a fighting chance in the East Division. With just under half the season remaining, the East is still very much up for grabs as the Argos are only three points removed from the first place Ottawa Redblacks.