The Hamilton Tiger-Cats aren't at all worried about going into the postseason off back-to-back losses to non-playoff opponents.
The last game of the season versus the Toronto Argonauts had absolutely no bearing on the CFL's postseason picture, but the Tiger-Cats didn't charge into the playoffs with a roar. Instead they rested some key players, kept the playbook vanilla, and swallowed a 33-16 loss to the Argos, one week after falling 19-3 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
"This game doesn't speak much to the playoffs," said Ticats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille. "It's a byproduct of trying to finish healthy. I'm sure if we had played all of our players tonight, we could have come out with a win possibly."
In the only game of the week with no mathematical impact on playoff pairings, the Argonauts ended a disappointing season with an uplifting win and a 6-12 record, their third victory in their last four games.
Argos quarterback Dalton Bell started in place of Steven Jyles, who suffered a head injury in last week's win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Bell completed 12 of 22 passes for 216 yards, including two touchdown passes to slotback Andre Durie. It was an audition of sorts for next season as Bell's contract is running out. The pivot also tossed two interceptions, which makes 10 in his pick-filled season.
Cory Boyd also rolled for a six-yard touchdown run, while Noel Prefontaine added four field goals for Toronto, including his longest of the year, a 51-yarder. Boyd had another 100-plus-yard rushing day, running the ball 18 times for 105 yards. Durie was the Argos' leading receiver with eight catches for 144 yards.
Ticats quarterback Quinton Porter tossed a five-yard touchdown pass to receiver Aaron Kelly. The rest of the Ticats' scoring came from kicker Justin Medlock, who booted three field goals as Hamilton fell to 8-10.
The Ticats once again opted to get playing time for multiple quarterbacks this week, choosing to pull starter Kevin Glenn after the first half. Glenn completed 14 of 19 pass attempts for 150 yards but was unable to get his team into the end zone. Two of his incomplete passes were bobbled by his pass-catchers.
"We didn't want to go into the playoffs with a loss, but everyone is 0-0 now anyway," said Glenn. "It's no concern because you have to look at the situation...Right now, we have to flush it and get ready for the playoffs. An 8-10 team won the Grey Cup my first year in the league."
Bellefeuille said a minor muscle spasm suffered by Glenn cemented his decision to sit him in the second half. Quinton Porter started the second half and was 8-of-14 passing for 75 yards and one interception. Third quarterback Jason Boltus also played in the fourth quarter.
The Tiger-Cats rested several key starters on Thursday in preparation for the postseason, including running back Avon Cobourne, offensive lineman Jason Jimenez, running back and slotback Marcus Thigpen, and linebacker Renauld Williams.
Hamilton must now wait for the outcome of Saturday's games to find out who it will play in next Sunday's East division semifinal on the road. If the Montreal Alouettes beat the B.C. Lions, and the Calgary Stampeders top the Winnipeg Bombers, Montreal wins the East division and the Ticats travel to Winnipeg. Otherwise Winnipeg wins the division and earns the first-round bye, and Hamilton goes to Montreal.
Silver Lining for Copeland
It's been a disappointing season for Argonauts slotback Jeremaine Copeland, one where he rarely saw passes sail in his direction, no matter which quarterback was at the helm. However, on Thursday, the veteran receiver of 11 CFL seasons became just the 15th player in CFL history to reach 10,000 receiving yards in a career. He officially passed the milestone when he hauled in a 32-yard pass from Bell in the first quarter.
He nearly came down with a pass in the endzone Thursday, but had it pushed out of his hands before he hit the turf. He finishes the season with 43 catches for 633 yards but not a single touchdown.
"That's the first time in my football career, since I was five years old, that I didn't have a touchdown in a season," he said.