Tiger-Cats tamed by record-setting Ottawa quarterback in East Division Final
Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, November 19, 2018 11:00AM EST
OTTAWA -- It's not just that a fiery Ottawa Redblacks offence was rolling, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats had a few misfires.
Ticats QB Jeremiah Masoli -- the East Division's nominee for the CFL's most outstanding player -- threw three back-breaking interceptions as the Redblacks defeated Hamilton 46-27 on Sunday in the East Division final. The victory cemented Ottawa's dominance over the Tiger-Cats after three regular-season victories, and sent the Redblacks to the Grey Cup in Edmonton next week for the third time in four years.
Ottawa quarterback Trevor Harris effortlessly picked apart Hamilton's defence in a record-setting performance. He led the league in passing with a 70-per-cent completion rate during the season, but he reached new heights Sunday with a 91-per-cent performance. He was a staggering 29-for-32, for 367 yards, and set a new CFL playoff record by throwing six touchdowns.
"We weren't tight enough on some of the zone coverages, and they kept hitting it between the corner and the inside defender. Hey, they played well," Hamilton head coach June Jones said after the game.
Hamilton linebacker Larry Dean, the Eastern Division's outstanding defensive player nominee, said Harris did, "a great job leading his troops. We just came up short. We didn't get the job done."
By any standard, Masoli turned in a strong passing game, completing 28 of 41 passes, for 315 yards.
But Masoli made the Tiger-Cats' job that much harder by tossing two interceptions in the first half -- he adding a third in second half -- that helped dig his team into a deep hole. Ottawa capitalized on both first-half turnovers with a pair of touchdowns that helped build an insurmountable 27-13 lead by half time.
"Obviously they hurt you. One interception Jeremiah had, the guy fell down; the other one, he just shouldn't have thrown," said Jones.
"Jeremiah has had a great year, a very competitive kid, and he'll just get better."
Earlier in the second quarter, Masoli was under pressure when he fired into double coverage, and into the waiting arms of Ottawa's Anthony Cioffi. He returned the ball 13 yards to the Hamilton 22.
Harris fired a short pass to wide receiver Dionte Spencer, who sprinted for the end-zone, capping the one-play touchdown drive.
Late in the second quarter, Ottawa's Jonathan Rose picked off a long throw by Masoli and returned it 59 yards to the Hamilton nine-yard line. Another quick pass to Spencer, for this second touchdown of the afternoon, cemented that drive, giving Ottawa a commanding 27-6 lead.
Then, Masoli had a shot at redemption as the final seconds of the first half ticked down. He completed a six-yard pass to Bralon Addison near midfield that sparked a sideline melee with Rose, his nemesis from just seconds earlier. Flags flew, and Rose was ejected after contacting a referee.
When the dust settled under a gentle sprinkle of snow, Hamilton had moved the ball 30 yards to the Ottawa 15. Hamilton wide receiver Mike Jones made an acrobatic catch in the Ottawa end zone to hang onto the ball as he twisted to turf.
The touchdown pulled Hamilton to 27-13 at the half, as close as they would get.
Harris re-established Ottawa's dominance by completing all four passes in a 69-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard toss to Marco Dubois that opened up a 20-point Ottawa lead before the second half was three-minutes old.
Masoli's own had a 12-yard touchdown run narrowed the score to 46-27 midway in the fourth quarter, but it proved too little, too late.
"Obviously, we've lost four in a row, so they must be just better than us," said Jones. "I really feel if we scored touchdowns instead of kicked field goals, it would've been a back-and-fourth game all the way to the end."