As the Toronto Argonauts led 6-0 and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli struggled to shake things up and fumble the ball at a crucial point in the game, head coach Orlondo Steinauer asked Dane Evans to take over. The decision paid off as Hamilton turned the tide on the Argos with a 27-19 victory at BMO Field, delighting the large contingent of Tiger-Cats fans who walked through QEW.
For the Tiger-Cats, Sunday’s game was only part of the journey back to the Gray Cup after a disappointing loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2019 – the last season the CFL played. They now have the chance to overcome that heartbreaking loss in a dream scenario where they host the championship game at Tim Hortons Field on December 12.
Here are four takeaways from the Eastern Final:
Quarterback change provides the spark Hamilton needs
A rough start for Masoli turned into a nightmare when Cordarro Law pushed the Tiger-Cats quarterback to fumble for the ball as it looked like the team threatened to score.
Evans was quickly on the sidelines to warm up, but it took a while to start as the Tiger-Cats were 12-0 down at halftime. Although he didn’t score any points in this half, Evans was still able to have an impact on the pitch when he managed to pull the ball away from Shaq Richardson, who took on a side from Henoc Muamba. after a Steven Dunbar fumble in the dying seconds of the first half.
If Evans didn’t make this play, the Argos probably could have gotten at least three or more points on the board. Instead, Hamilton was able to limit the damage and pull himself together in the locker room while trailing 12-0.
The 28-year-old started the Tiger-Cats’ offense, ending the game with a perfect 16-on-16 pitch for 249 yards and a touchdown while adding two more runs for the majors.
“We needed a spark. It is essential. We’re just not going to leave anything to chance. It’s tough decisions to make and it was just a natural decision to make it there, ”Steinauer said after the game. “Jeremiah took it wonderfully. He got it – he walked in and got a third and a key at the end of the game. … We said at the start of the season that it was going to take two quarters to get there we wanted to get there and today was proof of it. “
Tiger-Cats special teams mark turning point
As we’ve come to see in the CFL, all three phases remain crucial to a team’s success and when the Ticates needed a game to bring them to life, kick returner Papi White did it.
In the third quarter, White returned a 92-yard punt for the first touchdown for either team in the game – reducing Toronto’s lead to 12-6. Steinauer wasn’t surprised that White was able to clear for the scoring given what he saw from the 25-year-old.
“He’s a dynamic football player who kind of saved his time (and) got in shape. We believed in him and we thought we had to start the second leg, ”said Steinauer. “It takes a little while to learn the second leg. We were really proud of him, he had a turnaround in the other game, and he’s just not affected by those things. “
Shortly after this play, the Tiger-Cats looked like they were about to score a basket, but instead decided to scythe, resulting in a first try. The next play, Jaelon Acklin broke free in midfield for a 30-yard touchdown to tie the game.
“Everyone knew we were going to throw the fake basket right there. This is something we had talked about, ”Steinauer said of the fake basket. “For us, these are not trick games, they are attacking football games that you expect to perform. And we were able to do it. “
Argonauts contenting themselves with field goals prove costly
At the start of the game, it looked like the Argos were preparing to take advantage of Hamilton’s struggles on offense. In the first quarter alone, they managed to rack up 91 yards while owning the ball for 9:53. By comparison, the Tiger-Cats were just 43 yards in 4:41.
Unfortunately for the Argonauts, they only had six points to show as they decided to hit both baskets despite being on the three-yard line each time.
“The first two times we went all the way down and scored goals on the pitch, we wasted a lot of good games to get there and only got three points, it was difficult,” said Argonauts head coach Ryan Dinwiddie said after the game. “I thought if we scored two touchdowns there you put them in a tough spot. Unfortunately we didn’t take advantage of the first half and then they came out and had some life in the third quarter, but we allowed them to have that energy go into the third quarter. “
Dinwiddie said the Tiger-Cats made adjustments in the second half, particularly with their blankets which the Argonauts struggled to adjust. The head coach praised quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who finished the game with 283 yards in the air but had no touchdowns to show.
“I thought Mac, you know, gave our guys a chance to make a few games and unfortunately they didn’t accept them,” Dinwiddie said.
Argonauts quarterback was questionable playing after breaking CFL COVID-19 protocols as he attended a Toronto Raptors game on Thursday to help promote Eastern Finals – CFL adjusting its rules quarantine to open the door for Bethel-Thompson to play. Bethel-Thompson did not speak to the media after the game.
Just as the Montreal Alouettes discovered in the Eastern semifinals, scoring baskets won’t be enough against Hamilton. Eventually the offense kicked in and the defense kept the Argos out of the end zone.
Once again, Ja’Gared Davis has shown why he is one of the CFL’s most underrated defensive players, registering two sacks. But the defensive lineman’s best play was unpredictable. As the Argos looked to extend their lead late in the first quarter, Davis fell back into cover and managed to win a touchdown by reversing a pass to running back DJ Foster. If he didn’t make this game, it could have been a different game.
“It was fun watching him grow up because he’s a super talented individual. But as you play more years, you pull out a bit more of it in your backpack, ”Steinauer said of Davis after the game. “I challenged him a bit this year, to be a bit more of a leader. Because he’s not usually a vocal person. He always lets his play speak for itself, excuse me. This room was huge. Whatever you can do to keep them at three, other than seven. “
Defense of the Argonauts couldn’t do it all
There was nothing more the Argonauts coaching staff could have asked their defense to do in the first half to give them a chance to take control of the game.
The Ticates struggled with the pressure defensive coordinator Chris Jones sent them. Unfortunately, Toronto’s offense couldn’t match the production provided by its defense, and ultimately the Tiger-Cats were able to take control of the game.
“We knew we had them where we wanted them. But us, they came up with a completely different game plan when they changed quarterbacks, ”linebacker Henoc Muamba said after the game. “When we put the pressure on. There were three games that kind of put us in a hole. And again, these are just small details that we didn’t execute. And it cost us. “
The Argos were also defeated by penalties and lost their temper at times when the Tiger-Cats were able to take advantage of mistakes.
“It’s going to haunt me for a little while… because we’re a little too impatient to try and join the quarterback,” Muamba said. “It’s about managing and controlling your emotions, even in high pressure situations. But at the end of the day, it’s about winning or losing a game. “