The Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Chris Williams may have been the receiver/returner breaking records in Monday's Labour Day Classic, but Toronto receiver/returner Chad Owens and the rest of the Argonauts had the last laugh. Their remarkable comeback revealed some of the problems with this Hamilton team, but it also demonstrated some of the incredible things these Argonauts are capable of, and the key figure there was Owens; his 402 all-purpose yards were not only a team record, but the third-highest total in league history (funnily enough, the second-highest total is the 441 yards Calgary's Larry Taylor picked up against Toronto earlier this year). What really stood out wasn't Owens' excellence in the return game (136 yards on six kickoff returns, 90 yards on five punt returns), as that's expected by now, but rather, what he did as a receiver. He caught 11 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown, but none were better than this incredible spinning, one-handed grab that set up Swayze Waters' game-winning field goal:
That's just an unbelievable grab, and TSN analyst Jock Climie (a former star CFL receiver)'s description of it as "maybe the best catch I've seen" says a lot about the degree of difficulty here. Quarterback Ricky Ray was under heavy pressure from Hamilton linebacker Rey Williams, but got the throw off just in time; however, it was substantially overthrown and would have been out of range for most players. Not "The Flyin' Hawaiian," though, as Owens somehow managed not only to spin around and grab that with an extended arm, but land on his feet and pick up extra yards afterwards. That's particularly remarkable considering that this came in the final moments of a game where Owens had been doing triple duty as a receiver, punt returner and kick returner; he had to be fatigued, but he sure didn't show it there. As he told The National Post's Matthew Scianitti afterwards, his catch and the team's overall comeback were unbelievable moments that wouldn't happen most of the time:
"That is the turning point of the season" said Owens, who finished with 11 catches for 176 yards.
Owens stared at his outstretched right hand after the game as if he was still trying to fathom his spinning one-handed grab to start Toronto's 90-second, game-winning scoring drive. Hamilton quarterback Henry Burris had thrown a touchdown and a two-point conversion seconds earlier to tie the game 30-30 with two minutes left.
"I don't know how many times I catch it, maybe one out of 10," Owens said. He paused a moment later.
"Everything that could go wrong went wrong for us to lose the game today."
Indeed it did, but the Argonauts didn't lose. With the win, they're now 5-4 on the season and just one spot back of East-leading Montreal. There's a big rivalry aspect to this, too; as Bruce Arthur writes, losing the final Labour Day Classic at the old Ivor Wynne Stadium is particularly tough for Ticats' fans, and you know that's particularly sweet for the Argos. Owens' 11 catches for 176 yards also proved that he can be one of the best receivers in this league as well as a return threat, and if he keeps making plays like this one, it could be a very good year for the Boatmen.