It only took an act of God to get the Hamilton Tiger-Cats their first win of the season.
And some replay help. And a missed field goal.
After one of the worst weeks in franchise history, the Ticats survived a two-hour weather delay that included heavy, almost biblical rain and frequent lighting strikes, then rallied to defeat the Toronto Argonauts 24-22 on Labour Day.
Toronto’s Lirim Hajrullahu missed a 37 yard field goal with under a minute to play that would have tied the game, giving new head coach June Jones a win in his first game after replacing Kent Austin. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli also won his first start in place of Zach Collaros. They are now 1-8 on the season.
The game started with much of the same dumb luck and ineptitude that has plagued the Ticats for much of this season. Canadian receiver Giovanni Aprile was hurt on the opening kickoff. Their first play from scrimmage was a time count violation. Their third was an interception. There were dropped passes and stupid penalties and the general ineptitude that you’d expect from an 0-8 team.
The Argos were hardly much better, managing just a couple field goals before the rain came with 8:15 remaining in the second quarter after a nearby lightning strike. Players were sent to the locker room while fans headed to the concourse to wait it out for more than two hours.
When play resumed, Toronto extended their lead with a single off a missed field goal and the Ticats finally got on the board with a 57-yard field goal from Sergio Castillo, just a single yard shy of the Hamilton record. They should have had more but botched their clock management as time wound down in the first half.
The teams took a short break instead of a full half time and the Ticats burst out of the gate in the third. Masoli, making his first start in place of Zach Collaros, hit Brandon Banks with a 64-yard bomb, a rainbow that Banks used his top end speed to catch up to. The play was the team’s longest from scrimmage this season and gave them a must-needed blast of confidence.
Then, on the very next play, a bit of luck. Argonaut return man Martese Jackson fumbled the ensuing kickoff after a nice strip by Osagie Odiase and Felix Flabuert-Lussier scooped it up and took it into the end zone. A team that had struggled to score all season had suddenly put up 14 points in 25 seconds and led 17-7.
But the Argos responded with a touchdown drive of their own and then, following a missed Castillo field goal, marched down the field for yet another major. DeVier Posey had both touchdown catches and the Argos led 21-17.
The Ticats had a 50-50 replay call go their way on possible Masoli fumble, then used a late challenge from new head coach June Jones to get a late pass interference call in the end zone that set up Hamilton at the one-yard line. C.J. Gable punched it in to give the Ticats the lead with just over two minutes to play.
The Argos drove the ball into field goal range but missed a potential game-tying field goal. Late penalty issues made the last minute more interesting than it had to be but the Ticats ultimately prevailed.
Notes: The Ticats are offering fans who bought tickets for Labour Day two free tickets for another game this season, while supplies last. Details to be released later this week… for the second time this season, the Ticats were forced to make an emergency roster change due to illness with offensive lineman Ryker Mathews starting in place of Lamar Holmes.