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From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
DATE & TIME: Thursday, Nov. 1, 7:30 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: With the playoffs still a possibility, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats try their best to close out the 2012 regular season on a high note as they clash with the Toronto Argonauts on Thursday night at Rogers Centre.
Heading into the final week, Hamilton managed to stay alive by taking out Winnipeg on Oct. 27 by a score of 28-18, ensuring that the Blue Bombers were the first team in the CFL to be locked out of the postseason. Now the Tiger- Cats need to again help themselves with a win against Toronto and have Edmonton fall to Calgary on Friday to finish in third place in the East Division.
Against the Blue Bombers, quarterback Henry Burris completed 15-of-27 passes for 171 yards and a couple of scores, while defender Greg Peach recovered a fumble near the goal line and rolled into the end zone for a major by the defense in the first frame, as the 'Cats built a 22-point lead. Hamilton finished with a mere 240 yards of total offense but more importantly, was flagged just four times for a loss of 24 yards.
Burris, who needs just 130 yards for his second 5,000-yard passing campaign, also needs just one more passing score to establish a new personal high as well. As long as he refrains from making too many mistakes, the Temple University product should also finish with the best efficiency rating of his career, currently sitting at 104.3 to lead the league.
An interesting note about the Tiger-Cats, a team which has led the league in points just once in nearly four decades, they have the potential to turn the trick this year for the first time since 1999 and if it happens they'll become the only team in league history to achieve the feat while also owning a record below .500. At the moment, the team trails Calgary by just four total points.
As for the Argonauts, they made sure to take care of their own destiny last weekend with a 31-26 victory over Saskatchewan on the road. Just the second win in the last seven games for Toronto, the decision served to snap a three- game slide for the team and lock up second place in the East Division standings as well.
Quarterback Ricky Ray had one of his best games of the season for the Argos as he completed 24-of-30 passes for 305 yards and four touchdowns, working his way through just a single sack and an interception as his squad held on for the win.
While it was certainly a secondary consideration behind picking up the victory, the performance of Chad Owens was also of interest as he continued his pursuit of 4,000 combined yards. Owens tallied five receptions for 104 yards, including a 60-yard score, finishing with 211 yards overall, which means he has amassed an amazing 3,768 yards to this point. While 4,000 yards might be a stretch at this stage, the all-time record for combined yards in a single season is still within his reach as he needs just 73 yards to surpass Mike Clemons who tallied 3,840 yards back in 1997.
Another milestone Owens has in his sights is that of becoming the first player in CFL history to lead the league in both kick return yards and receiving in the same season. Unless something dramatic happens in the former category, Owens should have that one sewn up as he leads by 162 yards over his closest competitor and only figures to add to his total. In the receiving column, the Hawaii product has 91 catches for 1,289 yards, 48 yards ahead of Nik Lewis of Calgary for the top spot.
However, a wrinkle that could change how many yards Owens might be able to produce is the fact that Ray will not be starting this final game of the regular season. Because it is a short week for Toronto, Ray isn't necessarily 100 percent healthy and there's not much to really play for at the moment, the CFL's Offensive Player of the Week will be hanging out on the sidelines which means Jarious Jackson will get the start.
In addition to Jackson taking control of the Toronto offense, head coach Scott Milanovich will probably also use the opportunity to get some playing time for even more of his bench players, specifically Trevor Harris and Zach Collaros who could stand the exposure.
As far as the all-time series is concerned, Hamilton is still ahead by a count of 123-89-2 dating back to 1950, even though the Argos have won two in a row and three of the last four encounters. The most recent of those contests took place two months ago also at Rogers Centre with Toronto posting a 45-31 triumph, the top scoring effort of the entire season for the Argos.
Even though Ray will not be taking the field for the Argonauts this week, that doesn't mean Hamilton will have an easy time of it. In fact, preparing for Toronto is probably even tougher for the Tiger-Cats because they can't be sure what the Argos will throw at them, and that's a problem. However, rest assured that Burris will do everything in his power to put his team in position to win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hamilton 28, Toronto 20
10/31 11:28:29 ET
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