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Toronto visits Hamilton in pivotal Eastern Division matchup
Guelph, ON (SportsNetwork.com) - The race for the top spot in the Eastern Division standings gets a boost on Monday, as the Toronto Argonauts tangle with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Alumni Stadium at the University of Guelph.
Both of these teams have already locked up spots in the 101st Grey Cup Playoffs, but with only a handful of games remaining in the regular season there is still much to be decided between these two squads, which just met last week at Rogers Centre.
Hamilton, which built a 22-3 lead in the first half of that meeting, ended up with a 33-19 road win, moving the team to an impressive 5-1 in the division which is the best mark in the CFL. Due to the results of last week, the 'Cats gave themselves a chance to challenge for the division lead with four games remaining, although a victory for Toronto this week would assure the Argos a home playoff game and a win coupled with a Montreal loss would clinch first place in the standings, so the Tiger-Cats have their work cut out for them.
On Oct. 4, Henry Burris stepped up and took control for Hamilton as he completed 19-of-31 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns, shaking off one sack and an interception during the double-digit win on the road. The victory continued a trend of alternating wins and losses by the 'Cats over the last seven games.
Bakari Grant and Andy Fantuz both caught five passes, generating 93 and 43 yards, respectively, but only the former made his way into the end zone. The other receiving touchdown was notched by Luke Tasker on a 24-yard effort to begin the game's scoring in the first quarter.
C.J. Gable racked up a game-high 96 rushing yards and a score on 16 carries, the Tiger-Cats scoring twice on the ground as they ran the ball 25 times which helped them maintain possession of the ball for more than 35 minutes.
From a defensive standpoint, former Toronto linebacker Brandon Isaac was more than happy to see his old teammates as he came up with two sacks during the encounter. Isaac had been with the Argonauts until July 23 when he was released and signed the next day by Hamilton.
Over on the other side Toronto, which was coming off four consecutive wins in as many chances away from home to establish a new CFL record, Zach Collaros managed to convert 21 of his 32 pass attempts for 277 yards, but not a single one of those completions made it into the end zone. In addition, he was sacked five times and intercepted once.
However, Collaros did put up points with his legs, thanks to a one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
After missing a month due to injury, Chad Owens finally made his return to the lineup for the Argos versus Hamilton, but the CFL's 2012 Most Outstanding Player eased his way back into the action as he recorded six catches for 52 yards and returned three punts for a combined 19 yards. Owens, who is a threat to score each and every time he touches the ball, did not return kickoffs nor was he credited with any rushing attempts while getting back into a rhythm.
While Owens was easing his way back into the action, another welcomed sight for the Argonauts was the return of quarterback Ricky Ray to the sidelines in uniform. Ray had been out since suffering a shoulder injury during Week 9 play, but his presence as the team's third-string quarterback last week doesn't mean he's ready to jump back into the starting job this time around.
Toronto head coach Scott Milanovich is well aware of what's on the line in terms of the playoffs over the next few weeks, but he's made it clear that he is in no hurry to rush Ray back onto the field.
In terms of the all-time series between these teams, one that takes into account only regular season bouts dating back to 1950, the Ticats own a 124-91-2 advantage. Hamilton may have won last week's battle, halting what had been a four-game win streak for the Argos, but still Toronto has taken five of the last seven matchups overall.
The most recent victory for the Argonauts came in the season opener in a 39-34 final at home.
10/09 11:26:13 ET