TORONTO - Hamilton quarterback Zach Collaros admitted he couldn't quite believe it was happening.
Up 30-13 after three quarters, the Tiger-Cats seemed to have things in hand against the Toronto Argonauts. Then the roof caved in, with Ricky Ray and the Argos outscoring the visitors 21-3 in the final quarter for a remarkable 34-33 CFL comeback victory.
"This one stings," said Collaros, a former backup to Ray in Toronto.
"We've got to finish," said linebacker Simoni Lawrence. "I mean, that's not a team that can compete with us if we don't give them anything. We've got to understand that. We've just got to finish games. When you have a team down 30 to whatever it is, you've got to finish the game."
Ticats coach Kent Austin, who was sandpaper-sharp in his post-game availability, summed up the night neatly.
"We didn't get them off the field in the fourth quarter, defensively," he said. "We kept some drives alive with penalties. We had a chance to score more points, needed to, weren't able to do that. Credit to them that they were able to find a way to win the football game. We didn't find a way to win the football game and close it out.
"We had a 30-13 lead. We should have closed the game out. ... We didn't play well enough to win."
There will be plenty to mull over in a sloppy, penalty-ridden game that turned into a last-minute thriller.
Hamilton, which slipped to 6-8 while having its four-game win streak snapped, was flagged 19 times for 153 yards. Toronto was penalized 21 times for 178 yards.
Austin did not want to discuss the penalties, other than to say both teams had a lot and "It's not always the players' fault."
The Tiger-Cats fumbled the ball four times, losing it twice. And the fourth-quarter Toronto comeback started after Terrell Sinkfield fumbled a double reverse late in the third. That led to the first of Toronto's three fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Austin was in no mood to be questioned about calling such a complicated play.
"And if we catch the pitch, he scores. If you watch the play," he said acerbically.
Sinkfield, a former Argo, finished the night with 210 yards in kick returns. But he drew Austin's ire for one in which he seems to slow up to focus on the Toronto bench.
"He was clowning," Austin said. "I talked to him about it. We have some players that need to grow up. He's one of them. He's a good player, we believe in him. He's very talented, needs to grow up."
Hamilton lost running back Mossis Madu to injury in the second half, which did not help its cause.
"It was a problem," said Austin. "We still moved the football but we had a really bad last two series and that hurt us."
Hamilton finished the game with back-to-back two-and-outs. Toronto ran 19 of the last 25 plays after Hamilton kicked the field goal that made it 33-20 for the Ticats with 5:27 to play.
"They were making plays when they needed to make plays," said Lawrence. "Ricky Ray's a Hall of Fame quarterback ... The game's never over playing against a great player like that."
Collaros, who completed 23 of 32 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 65 yards, deserved better.
"It's frustrating for sure," he said. "But we can go one of two ways here. We can put our heads down, pout about it, not end the season the way that we want to end the season. Or we can pick our heads up. It hurts for sure but we've got to get back to work tomorrow. We've got Ottawa coming in."
"We still control our own destiny," he added. "If you go back to when we were 1-6 and told us we'd still control our own destiny for first place, I think we'd all take that. But it would have been nice to win this one."
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