HAMILTON — Rob Maver has been waiting since high school for the chance to kick a game-winning field goal.
He made good on the opportunity Saturday, nailing a 23-yarder with 10 seconds remaining to give the Calgary Stampeders a 23-22 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“Every single day, before I go to play a game, I mentally prepare myself to win it with a kick,” said Maver. “It’s fun to go do that.”
The 24-year-old from nearby Brampton, Ont., had several family, friends and former University of Guelph teammates watching among the 25,248 at Ivor Wynne Stadium.
Calgary selected Maver fifth overall in the 2010 draft to replace Sandro DeAngelis, who left in the off-season to sign with Hamilton.
After DeAngelis kicked a 21-yard field goal to give the Ticats a 22-20 lead with 1:10 left, the Stamps began a 59-yard scoring drive, highlighted by a third-and-one conversion at midfield and a piling-on penalty against Hamilton.
DeAngelis attempted a 59-yard field goal with two seconds in the game, but it was blocked.
When the final whistle blew, the rookie had made all three of his field-goal attempts — from 24, nine and 23 yards. The veteran, meanwhile, was successful on only two of five.
“It’s not the first rough game of my career, nor will it be the last,” said DeAngelis, adding that he felt like he let down the team. “I need to just bounce back and make sure that next game I don’t have those same mistakes.”
Calgary improved to 2-0 heading into Wednesday’s game in Toronto.
“No question about it — it was an emotional win,” said Stampeders coach John Hugnagel. “Our guys hung in there. We knew it was going to be a test.”
The Ticats fell to 0-2.
Hamilton coach Marcel Bellefeuille called it his worst loss to date. His team gave up a 105-yard return off a missed field goal, and failed to score with a first-and-goal on the two-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. Calls on the field also didn’t seem to go their way.
“It’s beyond frustrating,” said Bellefeuille. “It’s downright annoying.”
The bright spot for Hamilton was, once again, Marcus Thigpen, who scored twice for the Ticats, including a 93-yard punt return on Hamilton’s first possession.
Romby Bryant and Nik Lewis each scored for the Stamps.
Lewis had been the focus of media attention this week for unflattering remarks he had made about DeAngelis. After the win, he said it was blown out of proportion and that it wasn’t meant to be personal.
“I know Sandro’s going to bounce back,” said the receiver. “He’s going to kick 80 to 90 per cent this year. That’s what happens.”
Calgary QB Henry Burris completed 24 of 37 pass attempts for 257 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Hamilton’s Glenn completed 26 of 34 pass attempts for 356 yards and one touchdown.
Glenn also called it one of his worst and most frustrating losses, and didn’t even want to talk about the failed third-down conversion.
Special teams played a central role in the game. Thigpen scored on a 93-yard punt return on Hamilton’s first possession of the game and Markeith Knowlton blocked and recovered a punt at the Calgary 25-yard line to set up a field goal. Calgary receiver Lewis’ 15-yard TD was set up by Stampeder Deon Murphy’s 105-yard return of a missed field goal.
Thigpen’s punt return was his third special-teams TD in two games and the second-straight game he has opened for Hamilton with a score.
Down 19-13 at the half, it looked like Calgary was going to score on its opening drive of the third quarter, but Hamilton defensive back Jason Shivers intercepted Burris on the goal line and returned it 52 yards. That led to a 42-yard missed field goal at the other end by DeAngelis that was returned by Murphy. Burris’ 15-yard TD strike to Lewis gave the Stamps their first lead of the game, up 20-19.
Hamilton opened the game’s scoring on Thigpen’s big return. Calgary answered by chipping away at the yardage, driving 74 yards on nine plays and ending with a 17-yard catch-and-run from Burris to Bryant to tie it up.
Glenn and the Hamilton offence took their first control of the ball with 5:43 left in the first.
Hamilton’s DeAngelis missed wide right on a 35-yard attempt for a single and an 8-7 lead. Knowlton blocked a punt by Burke Dales and recovered it on the Calgary 25-yard line. Glenn couldn’t get the ball moving, and DeAngelis hit from 42 yards for an 11-7 lead.
Calgary’s Mavers hit a 24-yard field goal and Hamilton punter Justin Palardy kicked a 79-yard single to make it 12-10 Ticats.
Thigpen scored his fourth TD of the season, but his first touchdown catch, on a 34-yard pass from Glenn to put Hamilton up 19-10 with three minutes left. Calgary responded with a 47-yard drive in the final 77 seconds, getting to the Hamilton three-yard line with four seconds left, but opting for the field goal.