The Hamilton Tiger-Cats' offence wasn't working perfectly early on in Monday's clash against the Toronto Argonauts, and they were forced to punt on their first series, but they managed to turn that punt into the first touchdown of the game thanks to a beautifully-executed trick play. Two of the Tiger-Cats' gunners lined up behind punter Justin Medlock, making them eligible to recover the punt without a no-yards penalty under the CFL's rules, and Brandon Stewart did just that:
Stewart raced down the field, and with Toronto's returners standing around in hopes of a no-yard penalty (they didn't clue in that he was onside), he was able to dive on the ball, at the very least giving the Tiger-Cats possession in great field position. Things got even better for Hamilton afterwards, though, as none of the Argonauts touched Stewart down, allowing him to get up and run in for the touchdown. (Yes, a flag does fly for no yards, but that's because the official throwing that isn't watching if players are onside or not; after he was informed that Stewart was onside, the flag was picked up.) That marked only the second CFL onside punt recovery for a touchdown since 1999.
Some of this is a great rugby-style play by Stewart and the Tiger-Cats, and a well-disguised one (Stewart doesn't stay so far behind the line that it's really obvious what he's trying to do), but some of it was a failure by the Argos' special teams. That may have been somewhat due to the inexperience of the players involved; TSN's analysts noted at one point that three of the Toronto players around the ball were all first-year guys who may not have been familiar with the Canadian rules here. Still, perhaps teams should make educating players on those rule differences a bigger point of emphasis.
Onside punts do happen occasionally in this league, and perhaps they should happen more. The disadvantage of having a gunner or two start a little further back seems well outweighed by their ability to recover the ball (or even just fly in for a tackle) without picking up a no yards flag. Of course, the element of surprise is a big part of why this worked, so if teams do it more frequently, it may become too predictable. Still, this is a great play that takes advantage of the CFL's rules, and trying it more often would seem like a good idea from this corner. It certainly worked out for the Ticats.