'Cats claws sharp in pre-season win over REDBLACKS
Jeff Mathews and Jacory Harris were both sharp, while the Ticats return game shined as Hamilton handled the Ottawa REDBLACKS 37-10 in the CFL's 2015 pre-season opener Monday at Tim Hortons Field.
The two Tiger-Cats backup pivots put together three touchdown drives and receiver Quincy McDuffie ignited the lopsided win with a 98-yard kickoff return touchdown in the victory.
With Zach Collaros firmly planted as the starter in TigerTown, Hamilton went with Mathews under centre who was looking to carry over some of what he learned at Cornell under offensive coordinator Tommy Condell to the pros.
On his second possession of the game, Mathews handed the ball off to RB Nic Grigsby for a pair of runs before calmly stepping into a pass which he delivered with accuracy over the top of the Ottawa secondary. Rookie receiver Terrence Toliver had a step on the defender and reeled in the pass on the post route for a 73-yard touchdown and a 7-0 first quarter lead.
Toliver played four seasons in the NFL before making his way to Hamilton, was looking to make a name for himself with top players such as Brandon Banks and Andy Fantuz not dressed and Luke Tasker seeing limited reps.
Of note on the drive was the convert which was hit from the 32-yard line, reflecting a new rule in the CFL this season after the League’s Board of Governers approved a host of changes which included moving the extra point attempts back.
The REDBLACKS countered with the veteran Henry Burris who is no stranger to the rhythm of pre-season football. The future hall-of-famer, who turned 40 this week, played the entire first quarter before giving way to Thomas DeMarco.
Burris finished 5 of 7 for 56 yards.
Mathews continued to play in the second quarter, engineering a 7-play, 31-yard drive on the strength of a 17-yard completion to WR Bakari Grant. The drive resulted in a 31-yard field goal by Justin Medlock to increase the lead to 10-0.
After DeMarco’s ensuing drive stalled, Mathews once again made the big play, connecting with Grant again, this time for 46 yards, to get the Cats in scoring position. Medlock knocked a 37-yard field goal through to increase the lead to 13.
With Mathews offering a cushion, the defence started to jump routes. One interception was called back on an offside but DeMarco’s second tipped pass of the game deflected off a receiver and into the waiting arms of McMaster graduate Mike Daly, who helped put the Ticats near midfield.
Mathews then delivered two passes to put Hamilton on the board again as he found local product Matt Coates over the middle for a 23-yard touchdown with 2:25 remaining to take the Ticats to halftime with a 20-0 lead.
Mathews finished the game 9 of 15 for 188 yards and 2 touchdowns.
DeMarco sat and Danny O’Brien started the second half for the REDBLACKS under centre but before he was even able to take the field, the deficit grew. On the opening kickoff of the second half, McDuffie took a 63-yard boot back 98 yards for the Hamilton touchdown.
McDuffie is fighting for a spot in a very crowded receiving corps, one that is contributing heavily on special teams. He and incumbents Brandon Banks and Terrell Sinkfield Jr. are all in the mix not only on offence but on kick returns.
The Ticats defence forced Ottawa to punt on the ensuing possession and then handed the ball to QB Jacory Harris.
Ticats receiver Matt Coates dives over the goal line in a dominant Hamilton pre-season win at home.
Harris took less time to make his mark than Mathews, going two-for-two on his first possession, spotting newcomer Tiquan Underwood for a 39-yard pass-and-run. Harris then finished the drive himself with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. The drive, which was set up by an impressive punt return by Sinkfield Jr put the game well out of reach at 34-0 midway through the third quarter.
Harris is in his second year, first with Hamilton after one season backing up in the Edmonton Eskimos system.
He followed that with another impressive drive, finding Coates for 20 yards and then scrambling and finding running room up field for 25 but had his next pass picked off in the endzone as Hamilton was looking to pad its lead with 3:43 left in the third frame.
The REDBLACKS broke the shutout as the fourth quarter got underway as O’Brien led a scoring drive capped off by a Torrance Hunt touchdown reception.
Brock Jensen entered the game after that to close things out for the REDBLACKS.
The ‘Cats added a 32-yard field goal off the foot of Medlock on the ensuing drive to put the score at 37-7 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the contest.
McDuffie almost had another punt return touchdown, this one for 103 yards, but offsetting penalties wiped it out.
Not to be outdone, Hunt took a punt of his own back on the next change of posession 46 yards but back-to-back sacks on Jensen by Adrian Tracey ensured that only a 35-yard field goal by Anthony Alix was the damage.
The REDBLACKS look to close out the pre-season with a 1-1 record next week when they play the Montreal Alouettes at Laval while the Ticats look to continue their momentum into the season in Winnipeg.