REGINA — Jeremiah Masoli is looking to join some select company as he continues to emerge as the face of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' resurgence.
The quarterback needs one more game of 300-plus yards passing to tie a long-standing CFL record currently shared by Sam (The Rifle) Etcheverry and Kent Austin.
Etcheverry had nine consecutive games of at least 300 passing yards for the Montreal Alouettes in 1956. Austin matched that feat in 1991 as a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders — who Masoli and the Ticats face Thursday at Mosaic Stadium.
Masoli, who became the Tiger-Cats' starting quarterback in their ninth game of 2017, hit the 300-yard mark in the final five games of that season. He has hit that benchmark in the first three games this season while leading the Ticats to back-to-back victories.
"The significance of (the streak) is it's a good sign that our offence is rolling and that we're executing," Masoli said Wednesday. "As long as we win these games, we'll be all right."
While Masoli's play has heated up, he has cooled off stories about his backup, former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
Manziel has been a huge story across the league since signing with Hamilton shortly before training camp, but he has yet to take a regular-season snap due to the strong play of Masoli.
"It was definitely important to play well early on," Masoli said when asked about dealing with the hype surrounding Manziel. "I've got a lot of great teammates that make it easy."
Masoli said Manziel has fit in nicely with the club.
"He is just like everybody else — another one of the guys on the team," Masoli said. "He's another one of the teammates who is contributing to help us win."
Masoli is making his second start against Saskatchewan. On Sept. 15, game last season he threw for 328 yards and one touchdown, with two interceptions, as the Roughriders won 27-19 at Tim Hortons Field. He also rushed nine times for 62 yards.
Along the way, Masoli has impressed Roughriders head coach and general manager Chris Jones.
"I think the maturity's there," Jones said. "I think the comfort in the offence certainly is there.
"(Ticats head coach June Jones) and his staff are doing an outstanding job. When his back foot hits the ground, the ball is coming out. He knows where to go with it and he can spin it as good as anybody right now."
Saskatchewan quarterback Brandon Bridge is preparing to make his second consecutive start in place of ex-Tiger-Cat Zach Collaros, who is on the six-game injured list with a concussion.
On Saturday, Jones pulled Bridge at halftime of a game against the visiting Alouettes, who won 23-17 in Regina to snap a 13-game losing streak.
Bridge was replaced last week by untested David Watford, who hit Naaman Roosevelt in the end zone for the Roughriders' only touchdown.
Like Bridge, Watford threw two interceptions in the loss to Montreal.
Jones indicated Thursday that he is prepared to turn to Watford again in the event that Bridge struggles – not unlike last season, when Jones routinely used Bridge when starter Kevin Glenn was struggling.
HAMILTON (2-1) AT SASKATCHEWAN (1-2)
Thursday, Mosaic Stadium
CARTER THE CORNER: Five days after going against Montreal Alouettes speedster Chris Williams, Roughriders receiver-turned-cornerback Duron Carter is likely to see plenty of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Brandon Banks — another premier deep threat.
BRIDGING THE GAP: With Zach Collaros (concussion) on the six-game injured list, the Roughriders are hoping to get by with Brandon Bridge starting at quarterback. Bridge struggled in Saturday's 23-17 loss to Montreal.
LINE OF WORK: Whereas the Roughriders' offensive line has been porous this year, the Tiger-Cats boast a fearsome front four. Defensive tackle Ted Laurent could take over the game unless the Roughriders' interior offensive linemen can quickly upgrade their play.
SHOTGUN VS. POPGUN: Hamilton is leading the league in average net offence (457.3 yards per game), while Saskatchewan is sixth at only 303.3.
NEW TUNE UNDER JUNE: The Tiger-Cats had an 0-8 record last season before installing June Jones as the head coach. Under Jones, Hamilton has an 8-5 record.
Dylan Earis, The Canadian Press