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A calm Collaros conquers Edmonton

Sep 21, 2014 - 4:14 AM Hamilton, ON ( - Zach Collaros threw one touchdown and ran for another in the fourth quarter as he led the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to a 25-23 win over the Edmonton Eskimos at Tim Hortons Field.

Collaros finished the night 25-of-35 for 318 yards through the air for the Tiger-Cats (4-7) as they won back-to-back games for the first time this season. Brandon Banks had six catches for 111 yards and a major for the hosts as well.

Edmonton (8-4), which has dropped three of the last four and has now fallen behind Saskatchewan into third place in the West Division standings, was led by Mike Reilly who converted 23-of-42 for 283 yards and two scores, but he was picked off twice and sacked five times.

The game started off on a sour note for the Tiger-Cats when, on the very first series, C.J. Gable went down with a shoulder injury after catching a pass out on the right from Collaros. Gable had just come off the injured list and was playing for the first time since Aug. 8 versus British Columbia.

Following a scoreless opening quarter, the first points of the night came from Hamilton kicker Justin Medlock who knocked through a 13-yard field goal less than a minute into the second frame.

The Eskimos appeared to be moving in the right direction when, on their next possession, Fred Stamps reeled in a 31-yard field goal and also recovered his own fumble, but the squad had to settle for a single when punter Hugh O'Neill sent his kick 61 yards into the end zone.

Fighting the elements and each other, both teams had difficulty getting into scoring range, but a couple of key penalties by the Hamilton defense gave the Eskimos the ball at the four-yard line. After inserting Pat White at quarterback, the Esks called a timeout and went back to Reilly who threw a screen out to the left side to Tyler Thomas who then fought his way into the end zone for the major and an 8-3 lead following the PAT with under three minutes left in the half.

The Eskimos then turned to their defense as Odell Willis stripped the ball away from Collaros and defensive back Alonzo Lawrence scooped it up and took it to the end zone just 22 seconds after Edmonton assumed the lead.

Hamilton's Eric Norwood, who had three sacks on the season coming into the meeting with Edmonton, was credited with four quarterback takedowns in the first half alone, helping to keep the Tiger-Cats within striking distance.

The 'Cats began the second half on the Edmonton side of midfield, thanks in part to a penalty on the kickoff. Collaros completed several passes and the team also converted a third down, but still had to settle for a 19-yard field goal from Medlock. Later in the period the team picked up a single as well, making the score 15-7.

After forcing Edmonton to punt away, the Tiger-Cats allowed another golden opportunity to escape them and had to settle for a 41-yard field goal from Medlock just before the end of the quarter.

In the opening moments of the fourth quarter, Reilly threw a ball out to the left side, it was tipped into the air and intercepted by defensive back Courtney Stephen who returned it to the Edmonton 40. Collaros then engineered a five-play drive that ended with the quarterback bulling his way into the end zone from a yard out. With the PAT, Hamilton took over on the scoreboard, 17-15.

Edmonton responded with a single by O'Neill, but with the offense now clicking, Collaros was able to move the Tiger-Cats right back down the field in just four plays, with a 44-yard strike to Brandon Banks boosting the lead to 24-16.

Hamilton's lead went to nine points shortly thereafter thanks to a single by Medlock.

With time winding down, Reilly pushed the ball down the field for the Esks and found Fred Stamps in the end zone with a mere six seconds left in regulation. Instead of trying for two points, Edmonton settled for the traditional PAT, which left it trailing by two, 25-23.

Edmonton tried the onside kick, but it was recovered by the 'Cats who then knelt down to run out the clock.

"You just have to give them credit, they were solid," Hamilton head coach Kent Austin said of his team. "They stayed the course, no finger pointing -- stayed together. We've been improving as a football team every game, even the games that we were losing ... We're starting to play like we did in the second half last year."