Argos finally give Ticats their first win of the season
C.J. Gable and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats finally have something to smile about.
Gable's one-yard TD run with 2:30 remaining earned Hamilton its first win of the season, a lightning-delayed 24-22 decision over the Toronto Argonauts on Monday night. The victory not only halted an ugly eight-game losing streak, but capped a miserable week highlighted by the franchise rescinding its controversial decision to hire former Baylor coach Art Briles.
"All the things that happened this week I think pulled everybody together," said Hamilton coach June Jones, who won his CFL head-coaching debut. ``In tough times teams come together and I think that's what happened this week.
"The guys put it on themselves to make a difference and we did."
Gable scored after Jones successfully challenged a pass interference call against former Ticat Rico Murray, who was defending Luke Tasker in the endzone. That gave Hamilton the ball at the Toronto one-yard line.
The Argos drove to the Hamilton 30-yard line but Lirim Hajrullahu missed a 37-yard field goal that went for a single with 45 seconds remaining. Toronto got the ball at its 35-yard line with two seconds left but backup Cody Fajardo couldn't pull out the miracle victory.
Jones was promoted to head coach following Hamilton's 37-18 loss to Ottawa on Aug. 18 when vice-president of football operations Kent Austin relinquished those duties. Last Monday, Jones hired long-time friend Briles as a Ticats assistant.
The 61-year-old Briles was fired last year as head coach at Baylor in the wake of a sexual assault scandal that included members of the football team. Less than 12 hours after hiring Briles, the Ticats reversed the decision amid pressure from the CFL and a serious backlash from fans, sponsors and the media.
Following Hamilton's decision, a letter of support written by Baylor's general counsel for Briles emerged. Then came word the Ticats had recently worked out Johnny Manziel, the former Heisman Trophy winner who was released in March 2016 following two turbulent seasons with the NFL's Cleveland Browns.
There were also reports the Ticats had discussed trading veteran quarterback Zach Collaros to the Saskatchewan Roughriders and had also received an offer from Toronto. And the Cornell Daily Sun reported that Cornell University was suing Austin for $100,000 over his departure in 2012 to become Hamilton's head coach, GM and vice-president of football operations.
Austin spent three seasons as Cornell's head coach (2010-12) and according to the report, his five-year, $1.4-million contract with the school included a penalty clause if he left early.
But Jeremiah Masoli, who started Monday in place of Collaros, said the Ticats players were oblivious to all the off-field stories.
"We have nothing to do with any of that as football players, it really didn't matter," he said. "Our record and where we're at right now that's what we were worried about.
"Just getting a win."
It was by no means a pretty victory. Hamilton managed just 261 net offensive yards, had the ball just over 25 minutes and were a dismal 33 per cent in second-down conversions.
But Jones felt Hamilton came out strong after the two-hour, eight-minute lightning delay in the first half.
"I could really see when they (Ticats offence) came back out after the delay that they were on, they were hitting a lot of passes," Jones said. "A win is a win.
"It's not pretty. We tried to screw it up, myself included, about three times. But the kids kept fighting, kept going, and I was really proud of the defence because we battled through some injuries. Then Jeremiah made some throws and plays at the end and that was good to see."
Masoli finished 19-of-33 passing for 219 yards and a TD.
Ricky Ray's 16-yard strike to DeVier Posey at 4:05 of the fourth put Toronto (4-7) ahead 21-17 after falling behind 17-7 in the third. The Argos fell to 0-4 at Tim Hortons Field and remain second in the East Division, one point behind the Ottawa Redblacks (4-6-1).
Ray hit Posey on a 10-yard touchdown pass at 10:36 of the third to pull Toronto to within 17-14. He finished 34-of-37 passing for 325 yards and two TDs.
But Hamilton scored touchdowns 25 seconds apart in the third to take a 10-point advantage.
Masoli hit Brandon Banks on a 64-yard TD strike at 1:10. Just 25 seconds later, Felix Faubert-Lussier recovered Martese Jackson's fumble on the kickoff and returned it 14 yards for a touchdown and 17-7 advantage before a handful of fans. The majority of the 23,926 Tim Hortons Field sellout left during the first-half delay.
Play was halted at 6:45 of the second with Toronto leading 6-0. During the delay, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie personally delivered pizza to media assembled in the pressbox.
It was no longer raining when play resumed. And the brisk 39 kilometre-an-hour wind that blew to open the contest was non-existent.
"Our guys did a great job," Toronto coach Marc Trestman said. "We did a walkthrough, we got them stretched out, I think we came out and played reasonably well.
"Right now we're a good football team not playing good football . . . we're not playing well enough to win. We're doing too many things you can't do to win football games in this league and our guys know it."
Hajrullahu booted two field goals, two converts and two singles for Toronto.
Sergio Castillo kicked a field goal and three converts for Hamilton.