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Ticats outscore Alouettes in second half to capture 24-17 home victory

HAMILTON — This time, Dane Evans and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats averted another second-half collapse. Steven Dunbar Jr. and Don Jackson scored second-half touchdowns as Hamilton held on for a 24-17 win over the Montreal Alouettes on Thursday night.
Hamilton Tiger Cats quarterback Jamie Newman (14) carries into the end zone for a touchdown against Montreal Alouettes during first half CFL football game action in Hamilton, Ont. on Thursday, July 28, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

HAMILTON — This time, Dane Evans and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats averted another second-half collapse.

Steven Dunbar Jr. and Don Jackson scored second-half touchdowns as Hamilton held on for a 24-17 win over the Montreal Alouettes on Thursday night. It was a victorious start to a stretch that will see the Ticats (2-5) play six straight (and seven-of-eight overall) against East Division competition.

Dunbar Jr. and Jackson helped Hamilton outscore Montreal 14-11 in the second half. It marked the first time this season the Ticats had outscored an opponent over the final two quarters, delighting a Tim Hortons Field gathering of 20,932 on a gorgeous summer evening.

Hamilton had been outscored 106-36 in the second half over its previous six games but its fourth-quarter woes continued. Montreal outscored the Ticats 11-0 in the final frame to make the contest close.

Hamilton has been outscored 77-26 in the fourth this season.

"No (nothing comes easily in the second half for the Ticats), but you know what? We won," Evans said. "It's a four-point swing against the East, two for us, not two for them.

"A win is a win, it's a lot easier to coach off a win."

The contest certainly follows a seasonal trend. It was the ninth game this year to be decided between five-and-10 points. 

Of the 28 contests played thus far, nine have been decided by four or less points while the other 10 have been decided by 11 or more points.

Evans connected with Dunbar Jr. on a 40-yard TD strike at 5:10 of the third to extend Hamilton's lead to 17-6. Then following an incompletion in the end zone, the Ticats successfully challenged a questionable pass interference call, giving them possession at the Montreal one-yard line.

Two plays later, Jackson scored from two yards out at 10:06 to put Hamilton ahead 24-6. Ironically, the successful challenge came after two others on seemingly more blatant pass interference plays, were overturned.

"Honestly, I feel like that (third quarter) is how we can play all the time," Evans said. "I think the biggest thing was, and it's going to sound so stupid, just nobody was thinking.

"That's what I've been trying to tell guys, there's no magic speech. You've just got to go and do it. We do it all the time in practice and we finally went and did it in the third quarter."

Montreal (2-5) certainly made it interesting in the fourth.

After David Cote's 17-yard field goal at 1:41, Trevor Harris hit Hergy Mayala on a four-yard TD pass at 8:41 set up by Marc-Antoine Dequoy's recovery of Dunbar Jr.'s fumble at the Montreal 23-yard line. Then Jeshrun Antwi ran in the two-point convert to cut Hamilton's lead to 24-17.

Harris drove Montreal to the Hamilton 27-yard line with just over two minutes remaining but could only run for a six-yard gain on third-and-10. The Alouettes got the ball back at their 38-yard line with under a minute to play and drove to the Ticats' 21-yard line before Kameron Kelly intercepted Dominique Davis's pass on the final play.

Davis was in the game because a play earlier, a concussion spotter ruled Harris had to come out and enter concussion protocol following a 17-yard rush. Not surprisingly, Harris said he should've been allowed to finish the game.

"I think it was pretty messed up that they pulled me off the field," Harris said. "I wish someone would come up and ask the player what's going on?

"That really sucks in that situation because that obviously was the pivotal moment of the game."

Evans was 13-of-18 passing for 206 yards and a TD, with Dunbar registering five receptions for a team-high 102 yards. Former Alouette Matt Shiltz completed seven-of-10 attempts for 44 yards while rushing for a game-high 42 yards as Hamilton rotated quarterbacks.

"Right now, the difference is we found a way to win when we haven't found a way up to this point, very often," said Hamilton head coach Orlondo Steinauer. "We got some critical first downs. we're playing better complementary football. 

"We haven't arrived but we're growing and we're building."

Shiltz admitted he was energized facing his former team. 

"I can't lie, it definitely does a little bit and anybody that says it doesn't is not telling you the truth," Shiltz said. "Again, it goes back to just not letting the moment get bigger than it is.

"At the end of the day it's a nameless, faceless opponent. We have a stretch here against East opponents . . . it's something to build on, for sure. We're moving in the right direction."

Evans said he's more than good with splitting time with Shiltz if it means more wins.

 "I think Matt is a fantastic quarterback just as well and this is a team sport, it's the ultimate team game," he said. "I don't care.

"I'll sit there and signal everything in for him and if we win the game I'm the happiest guy ever."

Harris was 25-of-41 passing for 288 yards and a touchdown. Eugene Lewis had eight catches for 154 yards.

Jamie Newman scored Hamilton's other touchdown. Seth Small added the converts and a field goal.

Cote booted three field goals for Montreal.

Small's 30-yard field goal at 14:17 of the second gave Hamilton its 10-6 lead at the intermission of a lacklustre opening half. The Ticats amassed 157 total offensive yards, 23 more than Montreal.

Cote's 44-yard field goal at 5:52 pulled Montreal to within 7-6. It came after Hamilton went ahead on Newman's one-yard TD run at 1:39, capping a 70-yard, five-play drive that included a 30-yard run by Shiltz.

Cote opened the scoring with a 16-yard field goal at 14:30 of the first. But it was a lost opportunity for Montreal considering Chandler Worthy's 39-yard punt return put the Alouettes at the Hamilton 25.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2022.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press