Before Jacory Harris makes his first career start at quarterback for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Saturday, he’d like to clear one thing up: he’s not a running quarterback.
“Most black guys are labelled running quarterbacks: it’s a stereotype I get all the time,” Harris said, chuckling. “I do have the ability to run but I’d rather deliver it to the receivers and leave it to them.”
With Jeff Mathews out with a concussion suffered in last Sunday’s loss to the Redblacks, head coach Kent Austin has decided to go with Harris over Jeremiah Masoli – whose been with the team one year longer and started single game last game – after the two split reps in practice last week.
Austin said Harris is somewhere on the quarterback continuum between the exceedingly mobile Zach Collaros (out for the season with a knee injury) an a pure pocket passer like Mathews.
“Jacory earned the back up position for a reason,” Austin said. “He’s tall, he’s got a live arm and he’s accurate but he can also get out of trouble.”
Masoli, who has been used situationally in each of the last two seasons, could still see some action or if Harris struggles.
“Depends on the complexion on the game,” Austin said. “I’m not going to tule out any possibility.”
The Ticats head into Saturday’s re-match with Ottawa – they lost 12-6 last Sunday – needing to win six or more points to secure first place in the East, which would earn them a week off and a first-round playoff bye. A loss or a victory by five or less and the Ticats host the semi-final against the Toronto Argonauts on Nov. 15 at Tim Hortons Field.
“The goal of winning of first place but we cant lose sight of the fact that we’re trying to put ourselves in the best possible position when it comes to performing in the playoffs,” Austin said.
The first game of the home-and-home between these two teams fraught with controversy: Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris took exception to a hit by Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawrence, sparking a war of words between the former teammates. The CFL said this week the play was clean, though Lawrence was fined for his comments which were both critical of the officiating and derogatory to women (he apologized for both.)
Burris, meanwhile, says its all in the past. Unless it isn’t.
“Once that game was over, I forgot all about it. I don’t even remember what was said,” Burris said Friday. “Both teams know the best way to truly get back at somebody is to go out and get a victory. That’s the statement that will be heard.”
The game was also marred by two officiating blunders on a key fourth quarter interception return that would have given the Ticats a late lead. The CFL acknowledged this week that both flags were thrown in error and the touchdown should have stood.
Austin – no stranger to dealing with distraction, injury and controversy in his nearly three seasons in Hamilton – says it’s up to his team to block out the noise.
“All they are is distractions and we don’t want to focus on that stuff. We try not to,” Austin said. “All that stuff is just a bunch of nonsense.”
Harris certainly has other things to worry about. Saturday’s start will be his first since 2012, when he was a senior at the University of Miami. He started this season as the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart – Masoli was banished to the practice roster – whose main job was to wear a red jacket on the sidelines and pass along play-calling information.
“That jacket was comfortable and we’ve had some great games, some great signals together,” Harris said, still laughing. “But it’s time to play football now.”
Notes: Austin said there’s no timetable for Mathews’ return. “We’ll just have to wait and see how things go,” he said… the Ticats added Mitchell Gale, the quarterback they signed this week, to the roster as the No. 3.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats (10-7) at Ottawa Redblacks (11-6)
Saturday, Nov. 7
Game time: 4 p.m. EST
TV: TSN Radio: TSN 1150
The storyline for Ottawa: A win or a loss by five points or less gives Ottawa first place in the division and a first round bye, meaning the East Final would be played at TD Place on Nov. 15. Should the Ticats win by six or more and the Redblacks will host the semi-final against Toronto on Nov. 22.
Key injuries: Safety Jermaine Robinson returns for the first time since suffering a wrist injury week one. Running back William Powell will play despite being hurt late in the win over Hamilton, though punter Ronnie Pfeffer is out so Chris Milo will handle all the kicking duties. Halfback Jerrell Gavins won’t play.
Five funky Ottawa stats:
1. Each of the last four Ottawa games have been decided by seven points or less, something that hasn’t happened to a CFL team since 1996. Ottawa is 3-1 in those games
2. In their last six contests, 37 out of a possible Ottawa 42 players have played every game.
3. The Redblacks have been outscored 426 to 420 this season. Only one club in CFL history has ever finished five games or more above .500 and been outscored.
4. Henry Burris will likely lead the league in passing yards this year but the last player to accomplish that feat and win a championship was Damon Allen in 2000. Since 1954 (61 seasons), the leading passer in the league has won the Grey Cup just 9 times.
5. Greg Ellingson needs 81 yards to become fourth Redblack receiver with 1,000 yards, a feat accomplished by just two teams in CFL history (Montreal in 2005 and 2005.)
The storyline for Hamilton: A war of words between former teammates, officiating blunders that cost them they go-ahead touchdown last week and yet another starting quarterback: it’s been another interesting week for the Ticats. They need a win by six points or more to win the division and earn a first-round bye, otherwise they host the Argonauts a week from Sunday in the East Semi-Final.
Key injuries and roster changes: Quarterback Jacory Harris gets his first career CFL start after Jeff Mathews suffered a concussion late in last Sunday’s loss and is out. Mitchell Gale, signed this week, comes on as the third quarterback. Look for defensive back Rico Murray to be the extra defensive back in place of Jalil Carter.
Five funky Hamilton stats:
1. In their ten wins this season, the Ticats have a plus-28 turnover ratio. They are minus-13 in their seven losses and have gone minus-5 in their last two games.
2. The Ticats have been outscored in the fourth quarter in each of their last six games (53-14 in total.)
3. Last week’s loss was only the second time all year that the Tiger-Cats did not score an offensive touchdown in a game. Six points was their lowest total since a 37-0 loss to Saskatchewan on July 21, 2013.
4. The Ticats will start three different quarterbacks in a season for the second straight year. Prior to 2014, the last time that happened was 2008 (Casey Printers, Quinton Porter and Richie Williams).
5. Since 1960, no team has won the Grey Cup starting a quarterback with fewer than five regular season starts.
TSN play-by-play: Rod Black and Duane Forde.
Referee: Al Bradbury.
The weather forecast: partly cloudy, 9 degrees, 40 per cent chance of rain, winds 15 km/h out of the west.