The Hamilton Tiger-Cats committed five costly turnovers while Canadian quarterback Brandon Bridge threw for three touchdowns as the Saskatchewan Roughriders won 27-19 on Friday night.
The Ticats had a late chance to tie the game – they would have need a two-point convert as well – but it fell incomplete as time expired.
“We didn’t read it correctly,” head coach June Jones said afterwards. “We had a stand up touchdown unfortunately but that happens sometimes in the fog of war and we’ll just have to improve and get it done.”
The Ticats offence struggled mightily in the early going as they started the game with five straight two-and-outs and a pair of fumbles as they spotted the Riders a 17-0 lead.
Bridge, starting in place of the injured Kevin Glenn, threw an early touchdown pass, then celebrated with the “money” gesture made popular by Johnny Manziel. The Ticats have Manziel on their exclusive negotiation list and are reportedly talking to the former college star about coming to the CFL.
Masoli got the offence on track mid-way through the second, putting together a six-play drive that included the team’s inaugural first down and opening points. Masoli hit Jalen Saunders from 36 yards out for the major.
After another Saskatchewan field goal, the Ticats got the final points of the half with a late field goal and trailed by 10 after 30 minutes.
Hamilton looked set to close the gap further after a long Demarr Aultman punt return but a Masoli interception by former Ticat Ed Gainey – his CFL-leading seventh – set off a disastrous chain of events for the home side.
Two plays later, Ticats defensive back Demond Washington was ejected for spitting on an opponent – reportedly Riders receiver Namaan Roosevelt – an infraction that came with a whopping 25-yard penalty. On the next play, Roosevelt caught a nice throw from Bridge and scored giving the visitors a 27-10 lead.
“We did some undisciplined things that winners don’t do,” Jones said. “We had a couple of stupid penalties, a couple of turnovers.”
The Ticats declined to make Washington available to media after the game – he was long gone anyway – and Jones said he hadn’t spoken to him.
Sergio Castillo banged through two field goals – including a 50-yarder – to cut the Saskatchewan advantage to 11 early in the fourth.
Masoli had the Ticats in scoring range again but threw another interception to Gainey, losing a challenge for illegal contract, a borderline call that went the Riders way.
Castillo connected from 22 to make it a one score game with just under three minutes to play and the Ticats got the ball to the Saskatchewan 35 before Masoli was stopped on third down as he tried to run to move the chains.
After the defence forced Saskatchewan two-and-out, Hamilton got one final chance. Masoli looked for Brandon Banks in the end zone and got a pass interference call, setting them up at the one-yard line with five seconds to go. Masoli rolled left and looked for Saunders – who had an otherwise spectacular night with 10 catches and 138 yards – but the ball fell incomplete.
The Ticats fall to 2-9 on the season and while they remain in the thick of the race in the terrible East Division, this loss – a home game with plenty of critical mistakes – may prove costly in the end.
Hamilton travels to Vancouver to face a tough B.C. Lions team next Friday.
“We knew we were going to have to steal a couple on the road,” Jones said. “Now we have to steal one more.”
Notes: the Ticats recognized the return of Peter Dyakowski during the Riders second series, showing the offensive lineman on the scoreboard. He played ten years in Hamilton before being released in the off-season… Bridge is the first Canadian to pass for three TDs in a single game and record a win since Greg Vavra in 1984.