Welcome back, C.J. Gable.
Coming into Sunday’s game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders with the CFL’s most anemic rushing attack, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats exploded for 168 yards on the ground on their way to a 31-21 win.
Gable, playing his first game for 2015, led the way as he rushed the ball 20 times for 135 yards. That gave quarterback Zach Collaros more time – he was sacked just once – as he threw for 284 yards and a score. Justin Medlock connected on five of seven field goal attempts.
With the win, the Ticats improve 2-2 on their season-opening four-game road trip and will now play nine of their last 14 at home, starting next Monday against the Toronto Argonauts. The Riders fall to 0-5, lost quarterback Kevin Glenn to injury and are likely to enter full-blown crisis mode.
After the Riders opened the scoring with Paul McCallum field goal, the Ticats put the first major on the board when Collaros connected with Junior Collins on a 42-yard touchdown strike. It was Collins’ first career CFL catch and it came after a sweet double move left him wide open.
Medlock made up for an earlier miss from 58 yards – it was his first of the year – by connecting from 43 yards out early in the second quarter. McCallum responded with 29-yarder of his own to cut the Hamilton lead to 10-6.
Medlock missed again, this time from 40, earning the Ticats just a single before hitting from 22 yards out to give Hamilton an eight point lead. But the Riders ran the hurry-up offence to perfection and Glenn connected with Rob Bagg for the touchdown. The two point conversion left the teams tied at halftime.
The Riders opened the third with another scoring drive, rolling 86-yards in eight plays and capping it with a one-yard touchdown plunge from quarterback Brett Smith. The Ticats responded with another nice drive of their own but had to settle for for another Medlock field goal.
Defensive back Rico Murray, who’d struggled much of the night, picked off Glenn on the final play of the third quarter and set up the Ticats at the Riders three-yard line. But a Brandon Banks’ unnecessary roughness penalty pushed the Ticats back 15 yards and they settled for yet another field goal.
But the interception also left Glenn with an injured arm and Smith couldn’t get much going on offence. After a quick Saskatchewan two-and-out, Collaros hit Andy Fantuz three times to move the ball to the Riders doorstep before short-yardage quarterback Jeff Mathews took it in from the one-yard-line. A two-point conversion gave Hamilton a 28-21 lead with just under seven to play.
The Ticats padded their lead with another grinding drive on their next possession and Medlock connected from 39 yards out to give the visitors a 10-point lead and the disgruntled green masses headed for the exits.
The Riders turned it over on downs and Gable – appropriately enough – ran out the clock with a nice catch and a couple of tough runs.
Notes: Ticats defensive tackle Ted Laurent, the East Division’s most outstanding Canadian last season, was scratched due to injury. Offensive lineman Jeremy Lewis was the other… attendance was announced at 31, 683….the Ticats were penalized six times for offside on defence and Brandon Banks took an unnecessary roughness early in the fourth that likely cost his team four points.