It was selfie stick giveaway night at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday but only the Hamilton Tiger-Cats were ready for their close up.
The Ticats bulldozed yet another opponent – this time on the road – demolishing the Edmonton Eskimos 49-20 in what was billed as a potential Grey Cup preview. While the locale may have been different – Hamilton has won 10 straight at home – the methodology was more or less identical to their recent run of victories: storm out to an early lead using smash mouth defence and efficient offence then do enough from there.
The Hamilton defence generated three turnovers in just over a quarter of play – they had eight on the night – and quarterback Zach Collaros took advantage, converting all three into major scores. Terrell Sinkfield had two touchdown catches – both spectacular – and another 62 yard reception to set up the third.
The D also held fast when running back Ray Holley put the ball on the turf in the second quarter, as Edmonton managed just two plays before settling for a field goal. A 60-yard scamper by running back Nic Grigsby, playing in his first game of the season, set up Hamilton’s fourth touchdown of the first 30 minutes – Brandon Banks punched it in – and the visitors led by 21 points at halftime.
How dominant have the Ticats been early? They’ve outscored opponents 70-6 in the first quarter of their last five games and held halftime leads of 31, 21 and 21 points the last three weeks.
The Eskimos showed some life to start the third quarter. With quarterback James Franklin in for an ineffective Nichols, they put up a quick touchdown to close the gap to 14. But the Ticats responded quickly, Luke Tasker making a highlight-reel catch to set another scoring toss from Collaros, this one to Terrence Tolliver.
Another interception for Daly, another great catch by Tasker and another touchdown for Collaros, this time on the ground. It gave the Ticats a 42-14 lead with more than six minutes left in the third. It felt like enough.
But the Eskimos were threatening to make it a two score with just over nine minutes remaining, set up at the Hamilton four-yard line. But Franklin fumbled and the loose ball was scooped up by Hamilton defensive end Eric Norwood who returned in 106 yards the other way for a touchdown.
The return was the longest in team history and the third longest in CFL history. The defensive now has eight scores in eight games. The league record for a season: 11.
Collaros finished with 325 yards on 18 of 30 passing for with three touchdown passes and another on the ground. Both Tasker cracked the century mark in receiving yards and offensive line didn’t surrender a single sack.
With the win, the Ticats improve to 6-2 and appear to be the best team in the CFL at the moment. They host the Montreal Alouettes – who fired head coach Tom Higgins earlier Friday – next Thursday before facing the Toronto Argonauts in the Labour Day Classic.
Both those games will take place at Tim Hortons Field where the Ticats are – what else? – picture perfect.