Dane Evans and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats were finally able to finish a game out.
Evans threw a career-high five touchdown passes as Hamilton earned a stunning 48-31 home win over Winnipeg on Saturday afternoon. But the Ticats offence was at its best in the fourth quarter after the Blue Bombers scored two touchdowns to pull to within 41-31.
The unit responded emphatically with a 90-yard, 14-play drive into the wind that Evans capped with a six-yard TD pass to David Ungerer at 13:03. More importantly, the march ate seven minutes 20 seconds off the clock.
“I just want the ball in my hands with the game on the line,” Evans said. “I know this season has gone a couple of different ways a couple of times but as a competitor that’s all you can ask.
“I told the guys in the huddle if we scored a touchdown it was over and I think everybody had that instinct about them.”
Hamilton (4-9) snapped a three-game losing streak to take sole possession of third in the East Division, two points behind idle Montreal (5-7). The Ticats visit the Alouettes on Friday night.
“We just have to stay locked in,” Evans said. “We definitely can’t start thinking how great we are … because Montreal will come out and punch us right in the face.
“The great thing is I don’t think anyone in this locker room is going to do that. I think we’re going to do as Hamilton always does, go right back to work and just be us again. This was not our Super Bowl or Grey Cup.”
Winnipeg (12-2) suffered its first loss in four games and fell to 7-1 on the road.
Evans finished 25-of-32 passing for 327 yards, posting his most complete performance of the year before a Tim Hortons Field gathering of 22,288.
“That (five TD passes) is just kind of what it took tonight to win,” Evans said. “I’d be sitting right here telling you the same thing if we ran in five touchdowns.
“As long as we win … whatever it takes I’ll do it. It felt good, I’m not going to lie to you but everybody on the team did it. I don’t even know if I got hit … everybody was protecting their butts off.”
Much was expected of Evans this season after Hamilton signed him to a two-year contract extension and allowed veteran Jeremiah Masoli to become a free agent. Evans had been the Ticats starter in their two Grey Cup losses to Winnipeg in 2019 and ’21.
But Evans and Hamilton have both struggled this year. The 28-year-old Texan came into the game having won just two-of-nine starts and leading the CFL in interceptions (13), fumbles (seven) and fumbles lost (six).
What’s more, he hadn’t played in three of Hamilton’s previous four games (out for two, listed as third quarterback in the other) due to a right shoulder injury.
On Thursday, Evans said he’d spent time with Dr. Carla Edwards, the Ticats psychiatrist, adding the sessions definitely benefited him mentally and even helped with his physical recovery.
“It was huge,” he said. “I think it’s just another part of my game that I can tap into.
“I think it obviously helped me. I’m excited to get to talk to her after something good finally as opposed to what I have been talking to her about.”
Ticats head coach Orlondo Steinauer credited Evans for his performance but said the veteran quarterback had plenty of help.
“He (Evans) responded and showed why he was rewarded with his efforts in previous years of being the leader of this football team,” Steinauer said. “But it always starts up front (and) I thought they (Ticats offensive linemen) did a tremendous job.
“The biggest thing is we ended drives with touchdowns and that’s something that had avoided us for whatever reason. Credit Winnipeg, with everything that was going ‘right’ for us, it was a 10-point game and we had to respond into the wind and I thought we did.”
Zach Collaros finished 23-of-34 passing for 342 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Rookie Dalton Schoen had six receptions for 158 yards.
Hamilton’s onslaught marked the most points Winnipeg had surrendered in a game since a 37-33 loss to Calgary on Oct. 19, 2019.
Tim White, with two, Malik Carney, Fred Dunbar Jr. and Kiondre Smith had Hamilton’s touchdowns. Seth Small kicked two field goals and six converts.
“We needed that one and I think it showed out there that we wanted it,” said White, who had six catches for 63 yards. “Dane obviously showed up to play and when he does that our team is better.
“Anyone who goes through adversity like what (Evans) has been through and to be able to show up against one of the better teams in the CFL, that’s obviously a phenomenal thing. It’s definitely a big confidence booster and we look forward to more of that.”
Dakoa Prukop, Rasheed Bailey and Nic Demski scored Winnipeg’s touchdown. Marc Liegghio added three field goals, three converts and a single.
Hamilton outscored Winnipeg 24-4 in the second quarter for a 34-14 halftime lead. Evans was 15-of-19 passing for 252 yards and three TDs.
Carney put Hamilton ahead 20-10 at 3:36. He sacked Collaros and forced the Winnipeg quarterback to fumble. Carney recovered and rumbled 22 yards for the TD.