TORONTO -- A 51-yard field goal by Swayze Waters with no time remaining in the fourth quarter gave the Toronto Argonauts a dramatic 43-40 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Thursday night.
The field goal was set up by fourth-string quarterback Zack Collaros, who calmly got the Argos into field goal range with just one minute to work with following a late Tiger-Cats game-tying touchdown.
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The Boatmen received solid performances from all three of their quarterbacks, with Jarious Jackson, Trevor Harris and Collaros combining to complete 19 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns.
Starting quarterback Ricky Ray was left off the active roster for the season finale, as Head Coach Scott Milanovich did not want to risk his star pivot being injured with the playoffs looming.
But the big story of the night was Chad Owens, who set a single-season record for most combined yards, surpassing former Argo Michael 'Pinball' Clemons for the record.
With the loss, the Tiger-Cats are officially eliminated from playoff contention, meaning the Edmonton Eskimos have secured themselves a spot in the 100th Grey Cup Playoffs.
The Argos will now shift their attention towards next week's Eastern Semi-Final, where they will host either the Eskimos or Saskatchewan Roughriders on home soil.
Hamilton did receive some resounding efforts from several of their marquee players on the offensive side of the ball, most notably Henry Burris, who threw for a career-high 497 yards and four touchdowns on 55 passes.
It was also a fitting finale for Chris Williams, who hauled in four passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns, also adding an additional 83 yards on six punt returns.
The Argos began the first quarter with Jackson under centre, and it didn’t take long for the 35-year-old to make his presence felt between the white lines, as he quickly found receiver Dontrelle Inman, who was making his return to action following an injury, for a 46-yard completion on the Double Blue’s first play from scrimmage.
The big play eventually set up a 36-yard field goal by Swayze Waters, giving the Argos an early 3-0 lead.
But Toronto’s early pressure didn’t stop there.
After Hamilton running back Avon Cobourne failed to reach the line of scrimmage on the Ticats’ first play of the game, QB Henry Burris threw a pass over the middle intended for receiver Andy Fantuz.
However, the route was jumped by safety Jordan Younger, who promptly returned it 36 yards to the endzone for a pick-six.
Younger would add a second interception later in the half - his fifth of the season - tying him for the team lead with Patrick Watkins.
Following another field goal by Waters – one that was set up thanks to a 61-yard rush by RB Gerald Riggs, who was filling in for Chad Kackert – the Ticats offence took to the field hoping to get themselves back into the game.
Starting from their own 35 yard line, Burris would orchestrate a lengthy 12-play, 41-yard drive that was eventually capped off with a 28-yard field goal by Luca Congi to get the Tabbies on the board.
But the energetic Argo offence simply kept coming, seemingly moving the ball at will against Hamilton’s secondary.
With less than two minutes remaining in the opening frame, the Argos reached into their bag of tricks, as Jackson tossed what appeared to be a simple out pass to Owens, who promptly heaved a pass of his own to Spencer Watt for a 49-yard gain, bringing the drive deep into Ticats territory.
One play later, Jackson connected with Inman for a 13-yard score, giving the Argonauts a 20-3 lead.
With the second quarter barely underway, Burris put together another solid drive, but once again wasn't able to get the Ticats into the endzone, as they were once again forced to settle for a field goal by Congi, this time from 33 yards out.
However, a strong series by the Hamilton defence would inject a surge of momentum into their offence.
On just their second play of the drive, Burris would find Chris Williams for a 93-yard catch-and-run touchdown, getting the Ticats back within seven points of Toronto's lead.
But the momentum shift was short-lived.
|A Career Night|
Ticats pivot Henry Burris has a sensational night under centre, completing 37 of his 55 passes for a career-high 497 yards and four touchdown passes, two of which found the hands of Chris Williams.
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Following an unsuccessful drive by the Toronto offence, one in which they were only able to muster up four yards on two runs by Riggs, the Ticats offence took over from their own eight-yard line, hoping to march downfield and find the endzone once again.
But Toronto's defence had other plans, as defensive end Jeremy Geathers clung on to Burris and stripped the ball to the turf, with Johnnie Dixon recovering it and returning it inside Hamilton's 15 yard line.
Three plays later, with Harris now in at quarterback, Riggs would punch it in from one-yard out to restore Toronto's 14 point lead.
Earlier in the quarter, Owens would set a new league record, as he surpassed Michael 'Pinball' Clemons for most combined yards in a single-season.
The game was put on hold momentarily, as Owens was honoured at mid-field by Commissioner Mark Cohon, Argos GM Jim Barker, as well as Pinball himself.
But before the half came to a close, Burris would engineer one last drive to keep his team within striking distance, as he drove 64 yards on nine plays, to find receiver Aaron Kelly for a three-yard major, cutting Toronto's lead to just seven.
After the fireworks cleared following a riveting first half, the third quarter saw both teams play two-and-outs, a far cry away from the high-octane action fans were treated to in the opening 30 minutes.
With 7:42 remaining in the third quarter, the two offences continued to have trouble finding their footing, as they were both forced to settle for field goals.
Congi would connect from 34 yards out to cut the Argos’ lead to just four, but Waters would answer with a 32-yarder of his own to restore the Double Blue’s one-touchdown lead.
The chess match would continue on Hamilton’s next possession, as Congi would tack on his fourth field goal of the evening, this time splitting the uprights from 44 yards out.
It wasn't until the fourth quarter, when the Argos inserted Collaros into the game that the Argos offence would finally begin to rediscover their groove.
Collaros, making his first career on-field appearance, put together an impressive 11-play, 96-yard drive in which he utilized all facets of his offence like an established veteran, only to find receiver Sammy Tranks for a 13-yard score, giving the Argos a 37-26 lead.
Shortly after, the Boatmen would add to their lead, as Waters booted a 41-yard field goal, his fourth of the game.
But with their season on the line, the Tiger-Cats refused to go down without a fight, as Burris orchestrated a 17-play, 83-yard possession, that was punctuated with a three-yard strike to Avon Cobourne, cutting the Double Blue's lead to just seven.
Then Burris, with less than three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, showed his veteran savvy, completing four passes, the last of which found Williams in the endzone to tie the game up at 40.
However, the touchdown strike arrived with 1:11 remaining on the clock, giving the Argos ample time to register the game's winning score.
With Collaros still under centre, the Argos would get the ball into Hamilton territory, ultimately setting up a dramatic finish, with Waters connecting on a 51-yard field goal with no time remaining to win the game.