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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats look to Dane Evans to put an end to their losing ways.
Evans will make his first start of the season Friday night when Hamilton (0-2) visits the Montreal Alouttes (2-1). Veteran Jeremiah Masoli was under centre for the Ticats opening two contests but head coach Orlondo Steinauer said Masoli is dealing with sore ribs.
Evans saw action in Hamilton’s 30-8 road loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Aug. 14, completing three-of-10 passes for 21 yards. But in 2019, he took over starting duties after Masoli suffered a season-ending knee injury.
That year, Evans won nine-of-11 starts in helping guide Hamilton to a franchise-best 15-3 record and ultimately a berth in the Grey Cup game. But the Ticats’ stellar campaign ended with a 33-12 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Still, the six-foot-one, 218-pound Evans completed 298-of-413 passes (72.1 per cent) for 3,754 yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions as Hamilton's starter. He also ran for 161 yards on 34 carries (4.7-yard average) with three touchdowns in 2019.
This will mark the first East Division action this season for both teams. Hamilton lost its opening two contests to Winnipeg (19-6) and Saskatchewan while Montreal opened its campaign with a 30-23 win over Edmonton before suffering a 28-22 setback to the Calgary Stampeders last week.
It’s one of only three games this week as the Edmonton-Toronto Argonauts game was postponed after 14 Elks players have tested positive for COVID-19.
Hamilton heads into Montreal coming off a bye week. The good news for the Ticats is they’ve won four of their last six contests following a bye.
But in its past five losses, Montreal has rebounded each time with a victory.
Hamilton’s defence will be without defensive lineman Ja’Gared Davis, who broke COVID-19 protocols and is ineligible to suit up this week. The Ticats will also be minus veteran tackle Chris Van Zeyl, but Canadian defensive lineman Ted Laurent could play.
Hamilton will look to avoid falling to 0-3 for the first time since 2017. The Ticats were a stellar 7-1 versus East Division competition in 2019 but that lone loss was to Montreal.
Then again, the Ticats have won seven of their last 11 contests against Montreal and five times in their last six visits to Molson Stadium.
To continue that trend Hamilton’s defence will have to be a lot better against the run. The Ticats are allowing over six yards a carry this season while Montreal is averaging a CFL-best 155.5 yards per game on the ground this year.
Montreal narrowly missed pulling out the win against Calgary as the Alouettes drove to the Stampeders 14-yard line with 19 seconds remaining. Following two incompletions, Vernon Adams Jr. found Eugene Lewis on a 13-yard completion as time ran out.
Adams finished 20-of-42 passing for 261 yards with two TDs and an interception. He also ran for 65 yards on eight carries.
William Stanback ran for a team-high 82 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown. Jake Wieneke finished with eight catches for 106 yards and a TD.
B.C. Lions versus Ottawa Redblacks (Saturday night)
At Ottawa, B.C. head coach Rick Campbell makes his return to the Canadian capital. Campbell served as the Redblacks’ first head coach (2014-19), leading them to four playoff berths and three Grey Cup appearances, winning in 2016. Lions’ starter Mike Reilly is 7-3 versus Ottawa over his career. Redblacks quarterback Matt Nichols was 19-of-24 passing for 176 yards in last week's 23-10 loss to Saskatchewan as Riders' quarterback Cody Fajardo was 30-of-35 passing for 321 yards while rushing for 47 yards and a TD.
Calgary Stampeders versus Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Sunday night)
At Winnipeg, rookie Jake Maier makes a second straight start for Calgary (1-2) after passing for 304 yards and a TD in leading the Stampeders past Montreal 28-22 last week. Maier got the nod after veteran Bo Levi Mitchell (broken fibula) went on the six-game injured list. The Bombers are coming off their first loss of the year, a 30-23 decision in Toronto, but running back Andrew Harris could finally be ready to make his ’21 debut and both of the club's wins this year have come at IG Field.
Last week: 1-3
Overall record: 4-8
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 26, 2021
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press