Round one of the battle of Ontario is in the books and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have finally picked up their first victory of 2012. While Henry Burris and Head Coach, George Cortez got much of the attention following this gigantic victory over the rival Argonauts; it was young wide receiver/ kick returner, Chris Williams that was the difference between a victory and loss for the Ticats on this night. The second year wide receiver/ kick returner amassed a total of 268 yards with three total touchdowns on the evening.
The Tiger-Cats jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the football game when Henry Burris hooked up with Chris Williams for a 34-yard touchdown late in the first quarter. Argos kick returner, Chad Owens fumbled the football while returning a punt with a minute and a half remaining in the first quarter, setting up the Tiger-Cats offense deep in Argos territory. On the final play of the quarter, Henry Burris connected with Andy Fantuz in the end zone to extend the Ticats lead to 14-0. This touchdown was Fantuz’s very first as a member of the Ticats. The big free agent signing from this past offseason finished the game with three catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. The Argonauts had -4 yards rushing following the first quarter and could absolutely get nothing going on offense. Henry Burris however was moving the ball with great efficiency and was 5-for-10 with 98 yards passing and two touchdowns following one quarter of play.
The second quarter opened up with a bang! Following an Argos two-and-out on offense, Chris Williams returned a Noel Prefontaine punt 87 yards for a touchdown. The Ticats were up 21-0 and the Argos were stuck searching for answers. In fact the Argonauts responded fairly well after falling behind 21-0. Ricky Ray immediately drove his team down the field and Noel Prefontaine got the Argos on the board with his first field goal of the night. This night was filled with many missed opportunities for both teams. With just under five minutes to play in the second quarter Henry Burris attempted to connect on a deep ball with Andy Fantuz. The coverage was fairly tight on Fantuz but he had a tremendous opportunity to reel in the football for his second touchdown of the night. Just a few minutes following that Tiger-Cats missed opportunity, Ricky Ray had Chad Owens wide open near the goal line and threw the ball out of his reach. Chad would have been able to walk right into the end zone if Ray’s pass was on target. Late in the quarter the Argos were finally able to punch the ball into the end zone as Jarious Jackson plunged through on a QB sneak to cut the deficit to nine at 22-13. The Argonauts got another glimmer of hope when Pat Watkins stripped Bakari Grant of the football with under a minute to play in the first half. However, Noel Prefontaine missed a 44-yard field goal on the final play on the first half and Chris Williams proceeded to return the missed kick 121 yards for an incredible touchdown.
The momentum seemed to have shifted to the Argos in the second quarter but following Chris Williams’ second touchdown return on the final play of the half, it felt as though the Argos were doomed and had no possible way of overcoming the deficit in the football game.
In the third quarter Head Coach, Scott Milanovich benched Noel Prefontaine in favor of CFL rookie, Anthony Alix. The young kicker came on early in the quarter and made a field goal to cut the Ticats lead to 29-16. Later in the quarter, the Argos had yet another drive stalls deep in Ticats territory. Alix attempted a 24-yard field goal and missed wide to the left resulting in a rouge making it a 29-17 game.
The fourth quarter was dominated by the Argonauts. Cory Boyd scored his second rushing touchdown of the season only a minute into the final quarter making it a 29-24 game. A minute following Boyd’s touchdown, defensive back, Evan McCollough picked off Henry Burris setting up the opportunity for the Argonauts to take their very first lead of the game. The Argonauts offensive drive stalled yet again deep in Tiger-Cats territory setting up a Anthony Alix field goal which cut the Ticats lead to just two. Henry Burris was determined to get his very first victory as a Tiger-Cat on this night. He orchestrated a wonderful drive late in the fourth quarter which was capped off with a tremendous grab by Bakari Grant over an Argos defender in the corner of the end zone to make it 36-27 and seal the win for Hamilton. With less than two minutes to play, Ray had his pass intended for Jason Barnes picked off, rapping up a 36-27 Tiger-Cats victory.
On a positive note, Cory Boyd continued his dominance against the Ticats, rushing for a career best 168 yards on 19 carries, including a touchdown. Boyd had a total of 238 yards rushing and two touchdowns against the Ticats last season. Boyd also recorded his 13th 100-yard rushing game as an Argonaut, which puts him ahead of Ulysses Curtis for third on the all-time list, and he requires just four more 100-yard rushing games to pass Dick Shatto for first on the list.
Andre Durie continued his excellent start to 2012 with nine catches for 72 yards against the Tiger-Cats on Saturday evening. Durie now ranks second in the CFL in receiving yards.
The Argonauts defense was solid despite giving up 36 points to the Tiger-Cats. The Argos held Chevon Walker to just 66 yards rushing on 17 carries and played him very physically all night long. Henry Burris despite throwing three touchdowns was just 12-for-27 on the night. That is a miserable 44% completion percentage and he also threw an interception in the game. Robert McCune led the Argos with five tackles on the night and Pat Watkins rallied after a tough start to the game to finish with three tackles and a forced fumble. Evan McCollough was back in the Argos lineup replacing Pacino Horne and had a great game. McCollough recorded four tackles and an interception in his 2012 debut. The Argonauts have not given up 100 yards rushing since October 28, 2011. Entering last night’s game the Argos had only surrendered 125 yards rushing in 2012, which leads the league in that defensive category.
The Tiger-Cats did not play an incredible football game. It was the Argonauts that were their own Achilles heel in Saturday night’s loss. Scott Milanovich will certainly appreciate the effort his team put forth in order to make it a really close contest but he will definitely be upset at the large amount of miscues and missed opportunities. He will be most upset about his special teams and how they allowed Chris Williams to run all over them, which ultimately made the difference in the football game.
The Argonauts will get the opportunity to redeem themselves this week at home against Winnipeg. The Argos have a short week and will prepare to take on the Blue Bombers on Wednesday night. Scott Milanovich will look to make some adjustments on special teams as well as make sure that his team can get out front and set the tone on Wednesday night.