HAMILTON, Ont. (CP) – Zach Collaros and the Hamilton Tiger-cats created a three-way tie for first place in the CFL’s East Division on Sunday.
Collaros threw two touchdown passes and the Tiger-Cats defence shut down the league’s best running game en route to a 28-3 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“It was a complete football game today in all three phases, which is what you want to see,” said Hamilton head coach Kent Austin. “Especially after a tough loss on the road (38-31 to Montreal in which the Ticats gave up a huge lead). Just tells you about the character in that locker-room and the quality of our guys.
“We’ve gotten better as a football team. We didn’t have the lulls in this game that we’ve had before. . . And guys are growing up a little bit.”
Hamilton (3-7) moves into a three-way tie for first in the East with Toronto and Montreal, who both lost this weekend.
And Saskatchewan, missing injured quarterback Darian Durant, saw its league-best winning streak end at seven games. With a record of 8-3, the Riders fall into a share of second spot with Edmonton in the mighty CFL West Division.
Collaros threw touchdown passes to Luke Tasker and Terrell Sinkfield scored on a 58-yard punt return for the victory in front of a sell-out crowd of 18,135 fans at Tim Hortons Field.
“It feels good to win,” said Collaros, who completed 29 of 36 pass attempts for 287 yards, two TDs and one interception. “I thought the offensive line did a great job all day. That’s a heckuva D-line over there.”
Ticat kicker Justin Medlock hit field goals from 50 and 51 yards and added a 57-yard punt single, but hit the left upright in the third quarter from 43 yards out. Saskatchewan kicker Chris Milo hit a 10-yarder on his lone attempt.
Hamilton receiver Andy Fantuz made 11 catches for 108 yards.
The Ticats won the battle for time of possession, controlling the ball for 32:13 to Saskatchewan’s 27:47. They had seen that as a key battle in keeping their own defence rested. And that seemed to pay off. The Ticat defence held the Saskatchewan rushing attack to 105 yards _ an attack that averaged 150.7 yards per game coming in.
Meanwhile, the Roughrider defensive line, that had sacked Collaros 10 times in their first meeting to start the season (a Saskatchewan 31-10 win), only got to him three times.
Hamilton’s defence sacked Tino Sunseri five times.
Ticats defensive co-ordinator Orlondo Steinauer said you can plan a defensive strategy, but it’s up to the players to execute it.
“What I saw (today) were guys that didn’t want to lose,” he said. “To be honest with you, (I saw) a different level of intensity in their preparation starting early in the week and it just followed all the way through four quarters today.”
Sunseri, starting in place of Durant, who is expected to be out for the season after tearing a tendon in his right elbow, completed nine of 21 pass attempts for 88 yards, one interception and no touchdowns.
Saskatchewan coach Corey Chamblin said the game was a challenge. With the best running game in the league right now and a back-up quarterback running the offence, everybody expected his team to run the ball.
The Riders rush about 47 per cent of the time _ more than any other team in the league. Heading into the game, they led the league with 1,507 net yards on the ground.
But when you’re riding a seven-game win streak, you know it has to eventually end.
“When you’ve been winning so long, eventually you have to come down,” Chamblin said. “It’s part of football. There have been lots of games we won but we could have lost. This one, there was a chance when we were down by just 10 points (at the end of the half), but we lost. It’s not stunning. It’s a part of football.”
Hamilton mismanaged the clock at the end of the first half, squandering a scoring opportunity while in Saskatchewan territory, and took a 13-3 lead into halftime.
Medlock couldn’t add to the lead early in the third when his 43-yard field-goal attempt hit the left upright. But Sinkfield made it 20-3 for the Ticats soon after when he returned a 38-yard punt by Milo 58 yards for the touchdown.
Roughrider defensive lineman Derek Walker shut down another promising Hamilton drive late in the third with an interception at the Saskatchewan 12, grabbing a deflected pass from Collaros.
But with less than four minutes left to play, Hamilton finished an 85-yard drive with a 14-yard TD pass from Collaros to Tasker. Medlock’s 57-yard punt single made it 28-3.
Hamilton was up 6-0 at the end of the first quarter on two Medlock field goals, from 50 and 51 yards with the wind. The Ticats followed the game plan controlling the ball for most of the quarter, keeping it away from the Roughriders’ powerful running backs.
A short 20-yard punt by Milo near the end of the quarter gave the Ticats the ball at the Saskatchewan 44. Four plays later, Collaros hit Tasker for a 14-yard catch-and-run TD to open second-quarter scoring and take a 13-0 lead.
Saskatchewan finally got on the board when Milo hit a 10-yard field goal with three minutes left in the half. The Roughriders took 11 plays and 4:54 to move 55 yards, aided by three Hamilton penalties, but the Ticat defence came up big with first-and-goal at the three-yard-line, stuffing Jerome Messam at the line of scrimmage and then forcing an incomplete throw in the end zone.
The half ended 13-3 as Hamilton missed an opportunity to get at least a field goal. After driving 62 yards to the Saskatchewan 21, the Ticats ran a play from scrimmage with about seven seconds remaining but couldn’t get the ball out of bounds fast enough and time expired before any attempt at a scoring play.