Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

In what was billed the as game of the week, the Calgary Stampeders took on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Week 5 finale featuring two of the league’s toughest teams.

The Ticats were coming off a poor outing against the Montreal Alouettes, while the Stamps were running with Nick Arbuckle at quarterback as Bo Levi Mitchell is still out due to injury. Arbuckle tore through the Roughriders in Week 4 and was hoping to do the same in his second start.

Offence’s sputtered for most of the game but special teams on both sides put in herculean efforts and the Ticats escaped with the 30-23 win.

Defence ruled early. A missed 36-yard field goal attempt by Rene Paredes was the first quarter’s only point. The teams exchanged sacks and a combined 126 yards of offence in the opening 15 minutes.

The Stampeders found their offence on their fourth drive. Receiver Reggie Begelton was given a hand-off from six yards out who scored on the counter. A spearing penalty aided their seven-play 83-yard series. A missed two-point convert later and it was a 7-0 lead.

Special teams were a storyline throughout the tilt.

Right after the Stamps defence forced a two-and-out, Lirim Hajrullahu’s punt was blocked, recovered and ran in by running back Ka’Deem Carey to extend the lead. This play came after a successful fake punt toss on the Stampeders first drive.

But Hamilton’s special teams would not be outdone.

On the ensuing kickoff, Will Likely tore off a 110-yard touchdown return to get the points back, trimming the deficit to 14-8.

During the Ticats next drive Jeremiah Masoli was sacked by Mike Rose for eight yards, putting the Tabbies on their goal line. They opted to play the field positioning game rather than punt into the wind, conceding the safety and their lead trimmed to four.

Masoli was sacked four times, three of which were from Cordarro Law.

His next time out, Arbuckle threw a bullet to Eric Rogers for a 25-yard gain with a couple minutes left on the clock. He hit the receiver twice more on the drive, for 10 and six yards respectively. But a holding call and a sack negated most of those yards. And then Brandon Banks did his thing.

A wide 51-yard field goal attempt was returned by the speedster, who added another return touchdown to his resume, this time from 115 yards. A two point convert later and it was tied up at 16 heading into the break. Hamilton had 67 total offensive yards in the half, with over 200 on special teams.

The third quarter was quiet until the 7:30 mark when Delvin Breaux stripped and recovered a Begelton fumble. The turnover negated a 27-yard gain to Arbuckle’s favourite option. The pivot targeted Begelton nine times and the 25-year-old brought in eight of them for 119 yards.

The ball spotted on the 12-yard line, it was an opportune time for Masoli to grab his first career touchdown against the Stamps. But after a successful third down gamble, Masoli’s pass to Banks was undercut by DaShaun Amos for an interception and the game remained tied. That was Masoli’s sixth interception this season.

Masoli went 25-for-34 with 192 passing yards, two touchdowns and a pick.

Arbuckle’s accuracy suffered a little in the third, on top of a rough night for the normally sure-handed Rogers who struggled to hang onto the ball. They put up just one first down on their four drives.

Arbuckle finished 24-of-40 passing for 368 passing yards.

In the fourth, Masoli spread the wealth on a long drive before capping it off with a second and 21 red zone connection to Banks in the end zone for the 23-16 lead with 12 minutes to play.

With his team trailing, the TSN cameras panned to the sidelined Mitchell, who was shown rocking his usual headband but this time without the sunglasses at night, unlike what we saw last week. This might have been the biggest takeaway from the game.

Later on, a short punt into the wind coupled with a 33-yard return by Terry Williams set the Stamps up on Hamilton’s 25. A redemption reception from Rogers put his team on the three before Carey took it the rest of the way and the game was knotted up once more.

Rogers finished with 70 yards on five receptions and 11 targets.

But the Ticats were rolling in response. Relying on the ground game, Irons took five hand-offs on a drive which was extended on a Tre Roberson pass interference call. They reclaimed the lead less than three minutes after giving it up as Masoli found Banks for the second time in the end zone. The Tabbies led 30-23 with 2:44 to play.

It was Arbuckle’s first shot – as a starter – at a fourth quarter comeback with time against him. He relied on his safety valve Begelton twice in a row to kick things off. But a holding and an incomplete pass made it second and 20. Markeith Ambles caught the ball but Adrian Tracy stripped it away and the Ticats recovered with 1:49 to play.

The Stamps got the ball back inside their own five with 27 seconds remaining but couldn’t make anything out of it. That meant Hamilton snapped a 14-game losing streak against the defending Grey Cup champs.

Calgary is up against Toronto (0-4) next week while Hamilton has a bye.

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Grant Deme
Grant Deme is a reporter and anchor in southwestern Ontario and a lifelong follower of the CFL.