Matt Shiltz is going from insurance policy to starter.
The veteran backup will be Hamilton’s starting quarterback when the Tiger-Cats (2-6) host the Toronto Argonauts (4-3) on Friday night. Shiltz replaces incumbent Dane Evans (shoulder), who went on the one-game injured list.
Evans had started seven of Hamilton’s eight games this season, completing 188-of-279 passes (67.4 per cent) for 2,229 yards with 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran for 115 yards on 27 carries (4.3-yard average).
Evans finished 29-of-43 passing for 303 yards with a TD and interception in Hamilton’s 34-20 road loss to Toronto last weekend. The Argos outscored the Ticats 28-6 in the second half to win the first of four head-to-head games in five weeks.
Shiltz, 29, will technically make his second start for Hamilton. He took the opening snaps of the Ticats’ 17-12 road loss to the B.C. Lions on July 21, going 0-for-1 passing while rushing twice for four yards.
Evans played the bulk of the game, completing 26-of-38 passes for 297 yards with a TD and interception. He also ran six times for 24 yards.
“This is kind of the reason why we went and got Matt in the off-season,” said Hamilton head coach Orlondo Steinauer. “We weren’t the only suitor for him and I think that speaks to how other people may view him.
“We just want Matt to go out and be Matt. It’s not about replacing Dane or the skillset because they’re not the same quarterback. We want to take care of the football and obviously want to score touchdowns.”
Shiltz spent four seasons with Montreal before signing with Hamilton as a free agent. He made three starts last season with the Alouettes, going 2-1.
But Shiltz isn’t going under centre cold. He’s been rotating with Evans of late and Hamilton will face the same opponent for a second straight week.
“That’s the situation you prepare for every week,” Shiltz said. “From my perspective it’s just going to continue to go out there and do what I do during practice.
“When I get those reps in the game just make it feel like practice and go out there and play.”
The six-foot-two, 205-pound Shiltz has completed 16-of-24 passes (66.7 per cent) for 125 yards with an interception this season. He has also rushed 22 times for 110 yards (five-yard average) and a touchdown.
Rookie Jamie Newman will serve as Shiltz’s backup, but that won’t force Shiltz to play cautiously.
“I’m just going to play my game and if it means I have to make plays with my legs, then so be it,” he said. “Obviously whenever I’m out there I’m going to try to protect myself when I run the football and slide and get out of bounds and not take any unnecessary hits.
“Honestly, the bigger part (is) not having Dane out there . . . . that’s going to be a little bit different not having him suited up on gameday.”
Hamilton also placed receiver Bralon Addison (knee) on the six-game injured list. Addison said on social media he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in last week’s game and will require season-ending knee surgery.
Addison had started all eight of the Ticats’ games this year, registering 43 catches for 433 yards while also rushing 12 times for 67 yards.
Rookie receiver Kiondre Smith, the son of former CFL star Adrion (PeeWee) Smith, will make his first CFL start for Hamilton. Kiondre Smith will be one of seven Canadian starters on the Ticats’ offence.
“Any time somebody goes down, it’s an opportunity (for another) to step up,” Steinauer said. “Nationality aside, if you’re in a position and you’re starting and you’re one of those 24, we expect you to make plays and not just be out there and be a body.”
The six-foot-two, 180-pound Smith, a ’22 fourth-round pick from Guelph, said it figured his first CFL start would be against Toronto. That’s the team his father spent 10 of his 12 CFL seasons with (1996-05) after starting out with Hamilton in 1994.
“Naturally, semi-poetic,” he said with a smile. “I’m just feeling prepared.
“I spent the whole week practising with the team, going through film, shoring up all of our details. I feel good.”
Last week, Toronto had eight Canadian offensive starters. It had seven listed for Friday night’s game but that could become eight as American right tackle Dejon Allen is a game-time decision.
If Allen can’t play, Canadian Shane Richards will make a second straight start at right tackle.
Former Hamilton receiver Brandon Banks returns to Toronto’s starting lineup. He served as Eric Rogers’ backup last week, but Rogers is now on the six-game injured list with an unspecified ailment.
“We know it’s tough to win two in a row,” Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie told the Argos’ website. “We just have to do what we need to do, handle the crowd, handle the environment and just be composed and go out there and be worried about playing football.”
Canadian Andrew Harris ran for a season-high 143 yards in Toronto’s 31-21 road win over Saskatchewan on July 24. But in the Argos’ two games since, Harris has just 64 yards rushing on 23 carries (2.8-yard average).
Last week, Harris had 47 yards rushing on 14 carries (3.4-yard average).
“We’ve got to be able to run between the tackles,” Dinwiddie said. “We’ve been pretty good on our outside zone, we’re averaging well over six (yards per carry).
“We’ve got make sure we at least get the double team started and get some movement on their tackles. If we get up into the gap, then we’re going to have really good runs.”