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CFL Preview - Hamilton (3-6) at Toronto (5-4)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 8, 1:00 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: The Hamilton Tiger-Cats try to bring an end to their four-game slide this weekend as they clash with the Toronto Argonauts for the second straight week, this time on the road at Rogers Centre.

Last week Hamilton, now third in the East Division standings, held a 22-11 advantage over the Argos heading into the fourth quarter at home, but the defense for the hosts completely fell apart and allowed the visitors to tie the game at 30-30 before Toronto kicker Swayze Waters knocked through a 34- yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining in regulation to give the Argos a thrilling three-point win.

Hamilton quarterback Henry Burris had a roller-coaster game as he completed 13-of-30 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns, but he was also sacked three times and had two passes picked off, one of which was returned 37 yards for a score by Ahmad Carroll in the final period of play.

While the 'Cats were saddled with the loss, the game was not without its share of highlights for the visitors, as Chris Williams raced into the end zone from 82 yards out on a punt return in the first quarter, giving him six total returns for touchdowns in just nine games this season. A remarkable achievement for last year's Most Outstanding Rookie in the CFL, Williams has also set a record with three straight games with at least one punt return for a touchdown.

Searching for a silver lining in an otherwise disappointing first half of the campaign, Hamilton can certainly celebrate the efforts of Williams who has generated 609 yards on 34 punts and is also a crucial piece of the offense with 41 receptions for another 652 yards and five majors. An electrifying player every time he gets his hands on the ball, Williams leads the league in touchdowns with 11.

While Williams is second in the league in combined yards with 1,640, far ahead of him is Toronto's Chad Owens who is a highlight film all by himself. Responsible for the first score of the game last week when he split a couple of defenders to leap for a 39-yard TD pass from Ricky Ray, Owens finished with 11 catches for a massive 176 yards. The under-sized ball of energy from Hawaii also added five punt returns for 90 yards and six kickoff returns for an additional 136 yards.

With 402 all-purpose yards, Owens set the new standard for the Argonauts and now has the third-best mark in CFL history which means he is well on his way to posting his third straight season with at least 3,000 total yards, which is simply unprecedented.

But with all the good Owens can create for Toronto, he can also be a bit frustrating at times as he dares to take a few too many chances and doesn't always carry the ball as safely as he could. Owens fumbled the ball a couple of times against Hamilton, a sight that is becoming more and more common and perhaps a bit acceptable given the positives he brings to the team.

But more than Owens the Argos, now alone in second place in the East Division, need Ray to put the ball in the end zone more often. The signal-caller converted 32-of-45 passes for 375 yards last week, but had only the one TD to Owens. Having attempted more passes (331) than anyone else in the league, Ray has just 11 TDs to his credit and already has tossed nine INTs, which is not the norm for him whatsoever.

Then again, don't tell that to the Tiger-Cats because they seem to have had his number in the 16 games that Ray has faced them. The QB has thrown for more than 4,600 yards in those outings, but has been sacked 25 times and has tossed one more interception (18) than touchdowns (17), which is a rather disturbing trend.

Unfortunately for Hamilton, their quarterback is in a similar situation against Toronto over the years, with Burris having thrown 22 INTs and just 20 TDs in 17 games versus the Argos.

In terms of the all-time, regular-season series between these two squads, Hamilton is still in control with a 123-88-2 advantage dating back to 1950. The Argos have managed to take two of the last three encounters, but it is Hamilton that has captured seven wins in the last nine games against Toronto.

The squads are slated to close out the regular season against each other here in Toronto on November 1.

Expect Williams and Owens to again be the stars of the show this week for their respective teams, although the outcome could easily be decided by the quarterback that makes the fewest mistakes.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 28, Hamilton 23

09/05 11:10:21 ET