EDMONTON — The Edmonton Eskimos had no answer for Jeremiah Masoli and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ offence on Friday night, as the versatile quarterback led his team to an impressive 38-21 victory on the road.
Masoli threw for over 300 yards for the second straight week, finishing with 19 completions for 332 yards and three touchdown passes. The dual-threat playmaker also added seven carries for 59 rushing yards, and receiver Luke Tasker contributed a big performance by hauling in five catches for 103 yards and two key touchdown scores.
Hamilton running back Mercer Timmis had a breakout performance on the ground, racking up 133 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. And Brandon Banks had a big game of his own with six grabs for 117 yards and a touchdown.
Quarterback Mike Reilly and the Esks’ offence managed to put together some big plays, including an 88-yard touchdown pass, but it was not enough in the end to keep pace with the Ticats.
The Ticats came out strong to start the game, with Masoli quickly engineering Hamilton’s first touchdown drive of the season. The 29-year-old quarterback found receiver Terrence Toliver for 27 yards right out of the gate. Toliver made his return the Ticats after missing most of the 2017 season with an injury. Masoli finished the drive by hooking up with Tasker for a 15-yard catch-and-run touchdown to help give Hamilton the opening lead.
But Reilly and the Eskimos’ offence wasted no time in responding, and the veteran gunslinger brought his team down the field just a couple plays later. Reilly demonstrated his ability to connect on the deep ball, finding a streaking D’haquille “Duke” Williams deep down the field for an 88-yard touchdown, swinging momentum in Edmonton’s favour. Williams finished the game with 105 yards receiving.
The Ticats kept things rolling on offence upon getting the ball back, and Masoli showed how dangerous he can be as both a rusher and a passer. Masoli led his team down the field with a 31-yard pass to receiver Brandon Banks and a 20-yard sprint up the middle to put the Ticats in scoring position. Hamilton elected to go for it after facing a third down on the drive, and Masoli pitched the ball to Timmis on the option play to set Hamilton up at the goal line.
Timmis finished off the drive on the very next play, barrelling his way into the end zone with power and quickness for the one-yard touchdown run. Kicker Lirim Hajhrullahu knocked the extra point through to give the Ticats a 14-7 lead.
Aside from the touchdown pass to Williams, Reilly was largely held in check by the Ticats’ defence early on in this one. Edmonton managed to add a single near the start of the second quarter, but Hamilton’s offence quickly took advantage of the opportunity provided by their defence’s strong effort.
Masoli continued to find his rhythm against the Esks’ secondary, leading his team down the field once again with impressive efficiency and accuracy. Masoli threw solid strikes to Banks and Toliver to move the chains before finishing the drive with a 45-yard touchdown connection to Tasker. The 27-year-old receiver found running room up the left side of the field as he racked up 37 yards after the catch, and Banks contributed a key block to secure the score and help give Hamilton a 13-point lead.
The Ticats would add a 44-yard field goal from Hajhrullahu on their next drive to extend their lead again, but Reilly and the Esks’ offence began to get things moving after that. Reilly showed once again how dangerous he can be with the deep ball as he threw an impressive 55-yard bomb to receiver Kenny Stafford to put Edmonton in scoring position.
Reilly followed the big play up by finding playmaker Derel Walker in the end zone for a five-yard score, giving Walker his second touchdown catch of the season. The Esks went for the two-point convert on the ensuing play, but running back C.J. Gable was stopped at the goal line, making the score 24-14 at the half.
Hamilton maintained momentum to start the third quarter, and Masoli showed no signs of slowing down. Stepping up and finding a way to make big throws under pressure, Masoli connected with multiple receivers on the drive before capping it off with a beautiful 18-yard touchdown pass to Banks. Masoli threw the passing score after managing to juke away from an Edmonton pass rusher at the last second, giving Hamilton a 31-14 lead with the extra point from Hajhrullahu.
But the Eskimos found a spark of their own shortly after when linebacker Blair Smith picked off a Masoli pass, giving the Esks some life in the fourth quarter. Edmonton began to put together a late comeback after Hamilton defensive back Jumal Rolle was called for defensive pass interference while covering Stafford deep down the field. Reilly capitalized on the field position with a one-yard rushing touchdown, making it a 10-point game with under five minutes to play.
It was Timmis who had the final say in this one, however, as the running back accelerated into the open field for a 44-yard touchdown gallop. An interception from Hamilton’s Richard Leonard ended the Esks’ final attempt to stage a comeback, sealing the 38-21 Ticats victory.
The Eskimos will look to get back on track when they host the BC Lions next Friday, while The Ticats will be at home against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers next Friday in Week 3 action.