Chad Kackert ran through, around and over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Saturday.
The sophomore running back rushed for a career-best 172 yards and three touchdowns to power the Toronto Argonauts past the Tiger-Cats 45-31 at Rogers Centre to sweep their Labour Day series.
It was quite a coming-out party for the five-foot-nine, 192-pound Kackert, making just his fourth start of the season since starter Cory Boyd was released last month. His 43-yard TD run opened the scoring in the first but it was Kackert's acrobatic 11-yard touchdown scamper at 2:36 of the fourth that cemented the win for the Argos (6-4).
Tiger-Cats at Argonauts notes
Defensive end Ejiro Kuale and defensive back Ahmad Carroll, who returned an interception for a TD on Monday, were among Toronto's scratches for the game. Scott Milanovich said both had minor injuries and were merely rested. Their absence wasn't performance related. Eric Wilbur handled the kicking chores after Swayze Waters (neck) was put on the one-game injured list Friday night. Waters booted the game-winning field goal Monday. … Defensive lineman Rodney Harding, Toronto's career sacks leader with 92, was named to the All-Time Argos team Saturday. Harding spent 10 of his 12 CFL seasons with Toronto and became the 22nd player to be named to the squad.
Kackert, playing with sore legs from continually being hit, launched himself into the air at about the three-yard line before landing out of bounds. He was credited with the TD following the Argos' successful challenge that put them ahead 35-17.
Kackert brought the generously announced gathering of 23,061 with the roof closed to its feet with a 39-yard touchdown run with just over nine minutes remaining in a game that, while sloppy at times, featured a little bit of everything.
"Statistically it was a good performance but the offensive line opened everything up and the gameplan we had as far as the run game went had a lot to do with it," said Kackert. "I didn't have to do a lot of work to get extra yards.
"It's not a comfortable position to be working hard all off-season ... but people get their opportunities and I was blessed to have mine and am thankful to prove myself each week."
Kackert was a one-man show with 239 total yards. He even outgained receiver/kick-returner Chad Owens, who had a combined 220 yards after registering a club-record 402 yards in Toronto's 33-30 win over the slumping Ticats on Monday at Ivor Wynne Stadium.
"He played tough, he was banged up a little bit and was able to continue to come back in the game and help us finish it off," said Argos head coach Scott Milanovich. "He was impressive ... I think that (239 total yards) speaks for itself.
"On a short week it's tough to beat the same team twice. I felt I should've called more runs in Hamilton but the wind played a factor. We felt good about our run package, it wasn't different from what we did a week ago but we just utilized it better and Chad did a great job."
Cats' own worst enemy
The score flattered Hamilton (3-7), which has lost five straight and scored two late touchdowns to make it close. The Ticats were often their own worst enemy with 13 penalties for 151 yards, including two roughing-the-passer calls that kept Toronto drives going.
Toronto was worse with 18 penalties for 257 yards but still managed to outgain Hamilton (500 yards offensively to 396). The Argos also held Ticats' star Chris Williams, who has a CFL-record six return TDs this year and had taken punts back in a league-record three straight games, out of the end zone.
"It was embarrassing to come off last weekend, just not acceptable," said Ticats quarterback Henry Burris. "Today was the same.
"We made too many mistakes. They did what they expected to do, we didn't."
Toronto moved into a first-place tie with Montreal (6-3) in the East Division. The Alouettes faced the defending Grey Cup-champion B.C. Lions (6-3) later Saturday in Vancouver.
The Argos improved to 4-1 against East Division rivals. Hamilton dropped to 2-4.
Toronto will travel to Vancouver next week in a game Milanovich said will be a big test.
"Certainly we want to be able to beat the best and they're one of if not the best in the league," he said "Really good teams get on a run in the second half of the season and we hadn't done that.
"We weren't perfect today but I feel we're headed in the right direction."
Ticats head coach George Cortez can't say the same.
"The issue was pretty much all that we did," he said. "I'm concerned right now and very disappointed.
"We have just not played well in all of the last five games."
Jarious Jackson and Pat Watkins — on a 27-yard interception return — had Toronto's other touchdowns. Eric Wilbur, replacing the injured Swayze Waters, added five converts, three field goals and a single.
Sam Giguere, Onrea Jones and Andy Fantuz scored Hamilton's touchdowns. Williams added a two-point conversion, while Luca Congi booted three field goals and two extra points.
Hamilton gained a huge momentum swing when Dee Webb's interception halted Toronto's seven-play, 96-yard drive to open the second half. Still, it put the Ticats at their own five-yard line trailing 20-9.
Hamilton responded with an outstanding four-play, 106-yard march that Burris capped with a 35-yard TD pass to Giguere for his first touchdown catch in the CFL. Then Burris — who finished 16-of-30 passing for 272 yards with three TDs and an interception — found Williams on the two-point covert to pull the Ticats to within 20-17 at 5:47.
Ricky Ray countered by taking Toronto on a six-play, 63-yard march that included a 49-yard completion to Ken-Yon Rambo, making his first career start with the club. Jackson capped it with a one-yard TD run at 9:46 that put the Argos ahead 27-17.
"The momentum definitely shifted," Milanovich said. "It was quiet there for a minute on the sidelines.
"We kind of seized control after that, which is great because the momentum swings in a football game can crush teams that don't have fortitude. I was proud of our guys for battling back, believing and getting the job done in the third."
Ray was an efficient 26-of-32 passing for 331 yards with an interception and credited Kackert with getting the offence going.
"You want to control the line of scrimmage and when you can run the football as well as we did it definitely helps your team," Ray said. "It wasn't just four or five yards here and there, it was big plays, touchdown plays.
"The other thing he did well was a couple of times I checked down to him and he picked up some first downs. If you give him a crease he has the speed to turn it into a touchdown and if you throw him those underneath passes he's going to get up the field and get yards."
Toronto missed another glorious scoring chance when Dontrelle Inman couldn't hold on to what would've been a 30-yard TD pass when he collided head-first with the padded goalpost. Inman remained in the game but the Argos mustered just a single off Wilbur's missed 37-yard field goal try to go ahead 28-17 at 14:38 of the third.
"That's what broke up the play?" Milanovich asked. "We, in fact, told him to head right for the goalpost.
"He took it literally."