There is a school of thought in the CFL that says it’s perfectly OK for a defence to give up a bunch of short-range stuff underneath, challenging offences to complete pass after pass to move the ball down the field. Only the elite quarterbacks, the thinking goes, are accurate enough to get it done.
It might be time to start considering Jeremiah Masoli in those terms.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats pivot was spectacular in Friday night’s 31-17 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, throwing for 369 yards and strafing the predominantly zone coverage with a ruthless efficiency that slowly broke the Bombers’ will. He completed 76 per cent of his passes and was his usual unflappable self in the process.
The Ticat defence, meanwhile, made Winnipeg rookie quarterback Chris Streveler look very much like a first year player, taking him out of his comfort zone and pummelling him with regularity. In the critical third quarter, Hamilton held the Bombers to eight offensive yards.
The Bombers got the first points of the game set up by a rare offensive miscue, Masoli’s pass for Terrence Toliver picked when the receiver fell and the ball hung up in the decent breeze. Four plays later, Andrew Harris crashed in from the one yard-line and an early 7-0 lead.
Masoli responded on the very next drive, using a long pass to Brandon Banks and a couple of solid runs by Canadian running back Sean Thomas-Erlington to bring them to the doorstep and Mercer Timmis hammered it home.
The teams traded field goals, the Bombers getting theirs after a nifty fake punt extended the drive and Lirim Hajrullahu responding with a 52 yarder for Hamilton. The Ticats added another triple after a 10-play drive – their second of the first 30 minutes – then another on the final play of the half to hold a six-point lead into the break.
Masoli went right back to work on the opening possession of the third, marching the Ticats down the field with six straight completions and then handing it off to Timmis for his second score of the night. The two-point attempt fell incomplete.
He wasn’t done. After the defence forced a Bomber two-and-out, Masoli carved up the Winnipeg secondary for another three completions and a 25-yard touchdown pass to Toliver. It put Masoli over the 300-yard mark for the eighth straight game, one off the CFL record held by Sam Etcheverry and some guy named Kent Austin.
The game was pretty much over after three quarters – it was 31-10 – though the Bombers did enough to keep it interesting (and keep Johnny Manziel from making a cameo appearance.)
But Canadian running back Sean Thomas-Erlington picked up a huge first down with just over four minutes to play, capping a terrific game from the 2017 eighth-round pick. A week after Timmis’ breakout, Thomas-Erlington posted 92 yards on 11 rough-and-tumble carries.
With the win, the Ticats improve to 2-1 for the first time since 2009 and will face off against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the first half of a home-and-home next Friday in Regina. With the way Masoli and the Ticats are playing right now, it should be fun.