Masoli leads Ticats past Bombers

Tiger-Cats 31 Blue Bombers 17

HAMILTON — If Jeremiah Masoli cares about closing in on CFL history, he won’t admit it.

Masoli passed for 369 yards and a touchdown to lead the Tiger-Cats past the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 31-17 on Friday in Hamilton’s home opener. He’s thrown more than 300 yards in eight consecutive games, tying Montreal’s Anthony Calvillo (2012) and Edmonton’s Mike Reilly (2015-16) for second most in CFL history.

“In all honesty, man, those lists don’t mean anything for wins and losses,” said Masoli. ”If you have to throw for 500 yards just to lose, I don’t want to do that. I’d rather throw for one yard and win every time. Right now that’s what our focus is.”

Montreal’s Sam Etcheverry (1956) and Saskatchewan’s Kent Austin (1991) are tied for first with nine. Austin coached Masoli for five years until he resigned last year after Hamilton started the season 0-8. He still serves as a consultant with the team.

“Coach Kent, he was a great one, for sure,” said Masoli. “It’s just signs of the offence, right? It’s not necessarily that we’re trying to get (300 passing yards), it just shows that we’re executing what we’re supposed to do.”

Mercer Timmis ran in two touchdowns for the Tiger-Cats (2-1), while fellow Canadian Sean Thomas Erlington racked up 92 yards. Kicker Lirim Hajrullahu connected on four field goals and one conversion.

Running back Andrew Harris led Winnipeg’s (1-2) offence with 66 yards and a touchdown. Justin Medlock had a field goal and two converts.

Rookie QB Chris Streveler rushed in a touchdown but managed only 146 passing yards a week after he was one of the CFL’s top performers with 246 passing yards and three TDs in a 56-10 rout in Montreal.

Masoli aired out a 25-yard pass to Toliver with less than five minutes left in the third quarter to make it 28-10. That touchdown pass took Masoli to 308 yards in the game to move up in the record books.

Ticats head coach June Jones said after practice on Thursday that Masoli’s been the best quarterback in the league for the past 12 games.

“Safe to say, 13 now,” said Jones after the win. “I didn’t even know until I was on the field that the number of 300-yard games that he’s had.

Added Jones with a laugh: “We’ll try to preserve Kent’s record.”

Hajrullahu poured it on with eight seconds left in the third, making a 38-yard field goal for a 31-10 lead.

Streveler called his own number with 4:38 left in the game, rushing 15 yards for a TD. Medlock’s conversion cut the lead to 31-17. The 58-yard, five-play drive ended six consecutive two-and-outs for the Blue Bombers.

That was Winnipeg’s last gasp in the game as the Ticats would hold the Bombers scoreless the rest of the way.

“We got our butt kicked in the third quarter,” said Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea. “During the game I’m not adding (the two-and-outs) up. We know the momentum has shifted and we’re not putting a dent in them like we need to.”

Winnipeg opened the scoring, as Marcus Sayles intercepted Masoli at Hamilton’s 15-yard line, taking it 38 yards to put the Blue Bombers into scoring range. Three plays later, Harris dove across the goal-line for a one-yard touchdown. After Medlock’s conversion, Winnipeg led 7-0.

Masoli responded with an 88-yard drive that was capped by a one-yard TD plunge by Timmis, who’s from nearby Burlington, Ont. Hajrullahu’s kick after tied it with 1:33 to go in the quarter.

Medlock connected on a 38-yard field goal early in the second to re-establish Winnipeg’s lead. A 50-yard Hajrullahu field goal — with the wind at his back — tied it up just over two minutes later.

Thomas Erlington, from Montreal, hurdled over Winnipeg defensive back Taylor Loffler’s tackle in a 23-yard rush. It was a critical play in a 76-yard Ticats drive that led to a 17-yard Hajrullahu field goal and a 13-10 lead.

Hajrullahu added to that in the dying seconds of the half, booting the ball 42 yards for a field goal.

Timmis scored his second touchdown 5:20 into the third on a four-yard run. He was virtually untouched as he dodged Winnipeg’s defence to make it 22-10. Hamilton’s two-point conversion attempt was incomplete.

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