HAMILTON — Dane Evans and Brandon Banks anchored a record-setting performance Saturday by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Evans’ 62-yard TD strike to Banks in the third quarter led Hamilton to a 33-12 home win over the Ottawa Redblacks. The victory was a fourth straight and club-record 13th this year for the Ticats (13-3), who have two regular-season contests remaining.
Hamilton also improved to 8-0 at Tim Hortons Field. That’s important given the Ticats have clinched first in the East Division and will host the conference final next month.
Banks had a TD for a fifth straight game while finishing with seven catches for 116 yards. Despite that, Hamilton was far from perfect Saturday however all Ottawa (3-13) could muster were four Lewis Ward field goals in dropping its ninth straight loss.
Evans found a streaking Banks at 14:26 of the third, putting Hamilton ahead 26-12 before a Tim Hortons Field gathering of 23,692 on a glorious fall afternoon.
Evans finished 32-of-41 passing for a career-high 452 yards with a TD and interception. He improved to 8-2 as Hamilton’s start since replacing incumbent Jeremiah Masoli (season-ending knee injury).
David Watford’s one-yard TD run at 7:33 of the third gave Hamilton a 19-9 advantage. It came after the Ticats successfully challenged a Sherrod Baltimore interception citing pass interference, which was called on Ottawa’s Corey Tindal Sr.
Hamilton took over at Ottawa’s 29-yard line after Richie Leone punted from the Redblacks’ two-yard line rather than surrender the safety.
Rookie Will Arndt was 17-of-30 passing for 112 yards in his second career start for Ottawa, which suffered its first loss in Hamilton since 2014. Arndt completed 28-of-42 passes for 288 yards with two TDs and three interceptions in the Redblacks’ 28-21 road loss to Toronto on Oct. 11.
Jalin Marshall scored Hamilton’s other touchdown. Lirim Hajrullahu had four field goals, a single and two converts.
Hajrullahu’s 38-yard field goal at 14:49 of the second earned Hamilton a 12-9 half-time advantage. That flattered the Ticats, who gave Ottawa plenty of opportunities to take a lead into the intermission but all the Redblacks managed from an interception and blocked punt were two field goals.
Ottawa also had a Leone completion on a fake punt nullified by penalty.
Ward’s 27-yard boot at 12:30 of the second pulled the Redblacks to within 9-6 following Marco Dubois’ recovery of a blocked Hajrullahu punt at the Hamilton 25-yard line. Ward then made it 9-9 with a 56-yard field goal at 13:53, the longest in Ottawa’s football history.
Evans countered by driving Hamilton 45 yards on five plays to set up Hajrullahu’s go-ahead field goal.
Hajrullahu’s 33-yard field goal at 2:54 pushed Hamilton’s lead to 9-3. It was set up by Jumal Rolle’s recovery of an onside kick at the Ticats’ 50-yard line.
Ward opened the scoring with a 40-yard field goal at 9:54 of the first set up by De’Chavon Hayes’ interception. Marshall put Hamilton ahead 6-3 with a five-yard TD run at 13:14 as the two-point convert attempt was unsuccessful.