HAMILTON -- The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have put Jeff Mathews on the injured list, which means either Jacory Harris or Jeremiah Masoli are likely to start in Week 20. The Ticats battle for first place with the Ottawa REDBLACKS on Saturday afternoon.
Harris and Masoli split reps at practice with the first team on Tuesday morning but no confirmation has been given on who will start the deciding tilt at TD Place. Masoli has spent the last three seasons with the Ticats organization while Harris has been with the team for parts of two years.
“The thing that’s helped Jacory is that he’s been with us for a while now and he’s absorbed a lot. He’s smart,” said head coach Kent Austin. “But Jacory’s not necessarily our quarterback. We split reps today… so we haven’t made that decision yet.
“We needed to split reps to get guys as much play time on the field with the first unit as we can depending on which way we go. Jacory is like Jeremiah and others that have been with us in that they’ve been around the offence and expectations and understand conceptually what we’re doing.”
Mathews was forced out of the Ticats' 12-6 loss to the REDBLACKS on Sunday and Harris finished the final drive of the game. The 25-year-old Harris had warmed up on the sidelines during the fourth quarter of that game even before Mathews' injury. In his post-game press conference, Austin said that the quarterback position would be evaluated and that Harris could get the start.
Both pivots are preparing for the start but the pair just want to help the team win.
“It’s football. These are situations that happen no matter what level you’re playing,” said Harris. “You’re going to have to step up eventually. Eventually, the spotlight’s going to find you and you have to go out there and execute and play football.”
They each credit spending time with Zach Collaros in helping to ease them into the offensive system.
“I feel like the couple games I got in last year, just stuff that I’ve learned over time with Zach, that experience right there is invaluable as far as just learning how to manage the game and what type of game this is,” said Masoli.
“I got to sit back and watch Zach and all the guys go through different situations last year, this year,” added Harris. “The way they run the offence, the way different quarterbacks run the offence, it’s almost you can sit back and learn from mistakes, learn from the positives and soak everything in.”
Regardless of the decision, Austin still has faith in both quarterbacks to be able to execute on the field and indicated that the playbook wouldn’t change drastically with a new starter.
In an additional roster move, the team announced the signing of former Argos pivot Mitchell Gale.
Mathews took over the Ticats' starting quarterback position on Sept. 19, when Collaros suffered a torn ACL that would sideline him for the remainder of 2015. The 24-year-old rookie made his first career start the very next week in a loss to the Stampeders, and this season owns an 84.4 passer rating with six touchdowns and eight interceptions and a 66.7 per cent completion rate.
In a 12-6 loss to the REDBLACKS, the first of back-to-back games that will decide first place in the East, Mathews threw two ill-timed interceptions with the Ticats in scoring range. He finished that game with 160 passing yards on 20-of-35 passes while failing to find the end zone.
Harris, a former Miami Hurricane, has completed 10 of 17 passing attempts this season in limited action. Jeremiah Masoli has not attempted a pass in 2015.
The Ticats are playing for first in the East and a chance to host the Eastern Final on Saturday, needing to not only beat the Ottawa REDBLACKS but beat them by six or more points in order to claim the tie-breaker.