The Hamilton Tiger-Cats didn’t get off to the best start, but all that mattered was they finished with a 27-24 win over the Ottawa Redblacks on Friday night.
After a back-and-forth second half with several lead changes, Ottawa seemed poised to answer in the dying minutes of the fourth quarter.
Down by three, the Redblacks were approaching midfield when rookie quarterback Dustin Crum had the ball knocked out of his hands. Hamilton’s Ted Laurent recovered with 69 seconds left and after a pair of rushing plays, the Tiger-Cats ran out the clock for the win.
“You’ve got a lot of really competitive guys in this locker room and you look around and you see a lot of guys frustrated,” said Crum. “To end up on the wrong side of this one with playoff implications on the line really, really hurts.”
Ottawa (3-9) has lost six games in a row and sits four points behind the third-place Tiger-Cats (5-7) in the East Division standings. Hamilton owns the tiebreaker.
Crum went 17 for 26 for 260 yards and one interception. He also rushed for 42 yards and one touchdown.
Hamilton’s third-string quarterback Taylor Powell finished 21 for 32 for 326 yards and three touchdowns. Tim White had seven catches for 180 yards.
The Tiger-Cats had only three days rest after falling to Toronto last Monday.
“The toughest part was just deciding how much to get on the field and how much not, especially with a quarterback that’s still finding his way,” said Hamilton head coach Orlondo Steinauer. “That was really the toughest part of it I’m just so proud of him.
“There isn’t a person in there that’s not banged up and didn’t play through something, so super proud.”
Hamilton led 6-3 at the half after two Marc Liegghio field goals. Powell hit his stride in the second half.
“I think it was just the floodgates didn’t bust open, but we were moving the ball fine,” said Powell. “Offensive football is about staying with it and doing the right thing and then the second half happened.”
Ottawa had chances in the first half but couldn’t take advantage.
With the game tied 3-3, the Redblacks looked poised to score after making their way to Hamilton’s one-yard line. Ottawa failed on all three of attempts to get over the line and turned the ball over on downs.
“Right now, we’re not a good enough team not to be focused and locked in at all times enough to finish,” said Redblacks head coach Bob Dyce. “You see in the first half, when you’re first and goal at the one and if you’re a physical team you should be able to get the ball into the end zone. It’s just that simple.”
Ottawa’s kicking game was ineffective at times as a 45-yard field-goal attempt by Lewis Ward hit the goalpost and a 50-yard attempt at the end of the half went wide.
Ward did connect on a 19-yard kick for the Redblacks, who were coming off 11 days rest.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of rust,” said Dyce. “I think it’s a matter of executing when it’s most important and we weren’t able to do that.”
Ottawa started strong in the second half when Ante Milanovic-Litre ran in the first touchdown of the game to give the Redblacks a 10-6 lead.
The Tiger-Cats responded on the next drive. It was capped by an 11-yard TD pass to Tyreik McAllister.
Ottawa replied with a 10-play drive concluding with Tyrrell Pigrome punching in a one-yard TD. Hamilton then marched down the field and Powell connected with Tim White on a five-yard TD pass.
Crum answered by driving the Redblacks back into the red zone and he rushed for a two-yard TD. Ottawa led 24-20 with 6:46 remaining.
The Tiger-Cats regained a lead they wouldn’t relinquish when Powell connected with White on a 20-yard TD pass with 2:58 left.
“We have to win at all three phases right now for us to be successful and that didn’t happen today,” said Dyce.
The Redblacks have lost 16 consecutive home games to East Division rivals. Their last home win against an East team came in November 2018 against Toronto.
Hamilton hosts Winnipeg next week, while the Redblacks travel to B.C. to take on the Lions.