Ticats clinch playoff spot in dramatic fashion
EDMONTON — Lirim Hajrullahu’s 34-yard game-winning field goal in the final seconds against the Edmonton Eskimos clinched a playoff spot for the now 10-3 Hamilton Tiger-Cats. An awkward snap caused the kick to hit the uprights and nearly miss, as Dane Evans got the ball in place just in time for Hajrullahu to make the kick.
“Heck of a hold,” Head coach Orlondo Steinauer said after the win. “We didn’t execute how we would in practice or how we would like to in a situation like that. It’s always going to be judged on results, and so it found a way to go through. A little uneasy there no doubt, but we came through this time.”
» Ticats edge Esks with last-second field goal
» Images: Tiger-Cats at Eskimos
» By the Numbers: View Boxscore
» Watch: Three throws equals three touchdowns for Evans
» Watch: Hajrullahu banks in game-winning field goal
But Hajrullahu said he wasn’t worried for a second.
“No matter what the snap or the hold, I trust in Dane to get the ball. I said ‘as long as you put it up on the grass there, we’ll be able to put it through.'”
Hajrullahu said pivotal moments with the game on the line are what he lives for as a football player. The 29-year-old kicker had a chance to win the game for Hamilton in their Week 14 battle against the Calgary Stampeders, but his kick was blocked by Tre Roberson. Hajrullahu was happy to get another chance with a game-deciding moment.
“As a kicker, you got to love that,” Hajrullahu said. “I love those type of moments. We’ve had multiple moments in Grey Cups and everything else, and I just love that it comes down because it really proves to your preparation and how hard you’ve been working. And my whole thing, I just wanted to see the guys happy, and seeing the smiles on their faces after the game just makes this whole thing worth it.”
The Ticats started strong on offence by scoring 24 unanswered points against the Esks, but they stalled during the second half while Edmonton came back to tie the game. The Ticats got things going again on offence just in time to grab the win in the final 30 seconds, with Dane Evans completing a 26-yard pass to Bralon Addison to get the drive started before three consecutive run plays set up the field goal.
“We just kind of went to our bread-and-butter plays,” Evans said. “We just kind of did what got us here. We didn’t perform our best definitely in the third and fourth quarter, but when it was time to put up or shut up we showed up and we went back to the basics.”
Hamilton overwhelmed the Esks in the first quarter with quick scoring drives and deep touchdown passes. Evans completed seven straight passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns to start the game, including a 76-yard bomb to Addison that put the Ticats up 21-0.
“We got some guys that can roll,” Evans said. “We got some guys that can run, and not just Speedy. And I think we showed that a little bit tonight.”
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ next test comes when they take on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in a road matchup next Friday in Week 16.