Ticats come back from early 20-point deficit to best Argos in Labour Day Classic

Hamilton Tiger-Cats Chad Owens (2) celebrates his touchdown with teammates against the Toronto Argonauts during the second half of their CFL game in Hamilton, September 5, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (REUTERS)

Monday's Labour Day Classic set up pretty well for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but it started extremely poorly for them. After an early Hamilton touchdown, the Toronto Argonauts struck back with 27 straight points, many off turnovers, and they led the Ticats 30-17 at the half. Toronto then stretched the lead to 36-24 with just over five minutes left in the third quarter, and they seemed to be in control. It was all Hamilton after that, though, and they would eventually pull off a 49-36 win, their third-straight Labour Day win over the Argos. This was tremendous resilence from the Ticats, and it has them in solid shape heading into the stretch drive.

It would have been easy for Hamilton to fold many times throughout this game, as early on, it just didn't look like their day. They kept turning over the ball, and the Argos kept turning those mistakes into points. The Ticats managed to hang in there, though, and they eventually got their offence going. After a rough start, quarterback Zach Collaros finished with a very impressive overall stat line, completing 28 of 35 passes (80 per cent) for 359 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Running back C.J. Gable had a huge day, rushing 12 times for 135 yards (11.2 yards per carry) and adding three catches for 28 yards, and it was to Hamilton's credit that they didn't abandon the run entirely after falling behind, as so many teams often do. The receiving corps shone too, with Luke Tasker (five catches for 122 yards), Terrence Toliver (five for 64), Chad Owens (six for 63) and Brandon Banks (two for 17) all recording touchdowns.

The Ticats' defence also deserves plenty of plaudits for the way they stepped up after early struggles. Ricky Ray threw for 376 yards and three touchdowns against them with a 75.6 per cent completion mark, but they really got pressure on him down the stretch and stalled the Argos' offence as a result. The Hamilton pass rush looked much better as the game went on, even without blitzers, and that made things very difficult for Ray. He was sacked three times and hit numerous other times, with one of those hits leading to an end-zone interception by Courtney Stephen. The second pick was even more crucial; the Ticats had taken a 39-36 lead on a catch by former Argonaut Owens, but Toronto was driving with just over six minutes left when Emanuel Davis stepped in front of a Ray pass and took it back 55 yards for a touchdown.

That play seemed to really break the Argos' back, and it put a nice cap on an impressive Ticats' comeback. Remarkably, it wasn't even their biggest comeback of the year; that would be the one from a 25-point deficit against Edmonton earlier this season. Like that game, though, this one illustrated that Hamilton has plenty of resilience. It sets them up in good shape for the stretch run to the playoffs, too; yes, they're only 5-5, but they're only a single point behind the division-leading Ottawa Redblacks (5-4-1), and they've now sealed the season series tiebreaker against close-behind Toronto (4-6) regardless of what happens in next week's rematch. Giving up would have been easy for the Ticats Monday, but they kept fighting, and they reaped the rewards; not only a comeback win, and not only a win over their rivals, but a win that puts them in excellent shape going forward.