There was no doubt in Matt Shiltz’s mind that he was going in for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Shiltz missed the third quarter receiving treatment for a lower-body injury. But the veteran quarterback returned in the fourth to help rally Hamilton to a wild 34-27 home win over the Toronto Argonauts.
Rookie Jamie Newman opened the second half at quarterback while Shiltz was receiving medical treatment. He returned on Hamilton’s first possession of the fourth and promptly hit Tim White on a 60-yard touchdown pass at 4:45 to tie the score 24-24.
That allowed Hamilton to regain the momentum after Lawrence Woods III’s 87-yard punt return TD at 2:31 was disallowed due to a holding penalty, to the dismay of the Tim Hortons Field gathering of 23,018. Shiltz was starting with incumbent Dane Evans (shoulder) on the one-game injured list.
“I’m going to go out there and play, that’s how I’m wired,” Shiltz said. “That (White TD pass) was a critical situation.
“We thought we had a big play, an explosive touchdown on special teams but it’s the mentality that, yeah, it didn’t go our way but we’ve got to put our foot in the ground and move forward and go. I’m just proud of the way we responded as an offence.”
Sean Thomas Erlington’s 23-yard TD run at 11:50 put Hamilton ahead 31-24, capping a 77-yard, five-play drive. Seth Small made it a 10-point game with a 46-yard field goal at 13:20.
Toronto completed the scoring with Boris Bede’s 18-yard field goal on the game’s final play. If the two teams finish the season tied, point differential could help break the deadlock.
Hamilton head coach Orlondo Steinauer admitted the expectation was Shiltz wouldn’t return.
“I can’t say enough great things about Matt,” he said. “I think he did a fantastic job, we didn’t think he was going to return.
“But I think I’d also be discounting the rest of the football team and how everybody else stepped up.”
Shiltz finished 14-of-19 passing for 176 yards with a TD and an interception while rushing four times for 15 yards. Newman was two-for-two passing for two yards but added 55 yards rushing and a TD on seven carries.
“Jamie came in and played well, had some big plays,” Shiltz said. “He handled his situation as good as I’ve seen anybody handle that.”
Hamilton (3-6) captured the victory after dropping a 34-20 decision to Toronto at BMO Field last weekend. The Ticats moved into a tie for second in the East Division with the Montreal Alouettes (3-6), with both teams two points behind the front-running Argos (4-4).
Hamilton outscored Toronto 17-3 in the fourth, the first time this year it has won the quarter. The Ticats came into the contest having been outscored 95-29 in the final frame.
“What’s gratifying is the win,” said Steinauer. “We had a chance to allow negativity and things like that to enter in after the punt return and really to go into a lull.
“We rallied in all three phases. That’s what contributed to it, all three phases.”
Woods III was simply stellar for Hamilton, accumulating 222 return yards (153 on six punts, 69 yards on three kickoffs).
“Every time I hit the field I feel like it’s a new beginning,” said Woods. “I think, ‘Just catch the ball and score.’
“That’s my job as a specialist … I always feel that I want to get the ball and score. Or if I’m on punt [coverage], I want to get down there and tackle the guy.”
Toronto lost receiver Cam Phillips to injury in the pre-game warmup. Veteran running back Andrew Harris had his shoulder pads off on the Argos’ sideline in the second.
Toronto starter McLeod Bethel-Thompson completed 24-of-37 passes for 287 yards and a TD.
The game officials were also busy. Toronto was penalized nine times for 132 yards while Hamilton was flagged 12 times for 116 yards.
Toronto hosts the Calgary Stampeders next weekend before Hamilton returns to BMO Field on Aug. 26. The Argos and Ticats will square off in their final regular-season encounter Sept. 5 in the annual Labour Day showdown at Tim Hortons Field.
Hamilton is in Montreal next weekend before its final two regular-season meetings with Toronto.
Chad Kelly and DaVaris Daniels scored Toronto’s touchdowns. Bede booted four field goals and two converts while John Haggerty added a single.
Rookie Kiondre Smith – the son of former CFL star Adrion (Peewee) Smith – had a two-point convert for Hamilton. Small booted four field goals and two converts.
Bede’s 23-yard field goal at 10:21 gave Toronto a 24-17 advantage. Small’s 37-yard field goal at 5:55 pulled Hamilton to within 21-17.
Bethel-Thompson staked Toronto to a 21-14 halftime lead with a six-yard TD strike to Daniels at 14:47 of the second, capping a wild and eventful end to the quarter. The Argos took a 17-14 lead on Bede’s 19-yard field goal but received a first down at the Ticats’ six-yard line after linebacker Kameron Kelly was flagged for pyramiding – a play where a defensive player is lifted up by teammates in an effort to block a kick.
Daniels’ TD capped a 46-yard, seven-play drive that took 56 seconds. Over that span, Hamilton received two misconduct penalties, a pass interference call and roughing the passer – plus the pyramiding – while Toronto received a misconduct flag and facemask penalty.
Four penalties came on Toronto’s first play from the Hamilton 46-yard line. The Argos won a challenge for pass interference on the Ticats’ Ciante Evans, who registered the interception while defending against receiver Brandon Banks. All three misconduct calls also came following the turnover.