Toronto (CFL.ca) - Otis Floyd and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats showed up for their biggest game of the year Friday night.
Cleo Lemon and the Toronto Argonauts didn't.
Floyd anchored a Hamilton defence that forced seven turnovers and held CFL rushing leader Cory Boyd to just 26 yards as the Ticats embarrassed Toronto 30-3 before a season-high Rogers Centre gathering of 25,181.
"That's what you need to do as a defence," said Floyd. "To win championships, you have to do stuff like that.
"Everyone played well. It feels good, it feels good."
Hamilton (8-7) clinched a playoff spot and swept the three-game series with its arch rival, its first sweep of Toronto since 2001. More importantly, the Ticats moved into second in the East Division and took a stranglehold in the battle for a home playoff game.
"That was our first goal this year, to clinch a playoff spot," Ticats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille said. "I feel real good for our players that we earned it and earned it on the road."
Hamilton is currently four points behind first-place Montreal (10-4), which faces Winnipeg (4-10) on Saturday. After this weekend both teams will have three games remaining, including a head-to-head matchup Friday night.
And so long as top spot is mathematically possible, Ticats quarterback Kevin Glenn said his club will continue to aim high.
"Nothing is secure right now," he said. "We're in the playoffs and that was our first goal of the season but now we're trying to lobby for a spot.
"Who knows what happens?"
Toronto (7-8) must finish ahead of Hamilton to earn second and the right to host the conference semifinals. But Argos coach Jim Barker seemed to concede the No. 2 spot to Hamilton.
"Hopefully when we go to Ivor Wynne Stadium in the playoffs we won't loss to a team four times in a year," he said. "We've been a terrible turnover team the last 10 games, I can't put my finger on it.
"You win by not turning the ball over. If we don't, we have a chance to win."
The Ticats essentially beat the Argos at their own game -- with a big-play defence and stellar special teams. Toronto's Chad Owens, one of the CFL's most electrifying return specialists, had eight punt returns for 75 yards and five kickoff returns for 97 yards but wasn't allowed to take over the game with a big-time play. Instead, he was routinely cranked by a suffocating Hamilton cover unit.
"Our special teams were dominant," Floyd said. "I think Owens is going to be pretty sore (Saturday), they were hitting him all type of ways.
"We made a great returner look average. My hat's off to our special teams."
Defensively, by holding Boyd in check the Ticats left Toronto in second-and-long throughout the game, forcing Lemon, in his first CFL season, to beat them through the air. That was a tall order indeed, considering the Argos came in last overall in passing yards.
"We wanted to keep them in second and long as much as we could and see what their comfort level would be," Bellefeuille said. "That was incredibly important for us and we were able to do that fortunately.
"The last time we played here (a 16-12 win Aug. 20) there were a lot of second-and-three and second-and-four and that's a lot tougher to manage. But because we were able to stop the run a little bit on first down we put them in tougher situations."
Hamilton's offence started off slowly but caught fire in the second half thanks to a defence that routinely forced turnovers and gave it outstanding field position. Glenn finished 19-of-33 passing for 214 yards with two second-half TD strikes and two interceptions
One of Glenn's touchdown passes went 34 yards to Marquay McDaniel at 14:53 of the third, the fourth straight game he has caught a TD toss. Glenn then found Bruce on a 10-yard strike at 5:05 of the fourth to push Hamilton's lead to 27-3.
But Glenn credited Hamilton's defence and special teams for the win.
"That's what a team win is all about," he said. "We still put points on the board but our defence had a bunch of turnovers and got after the quarterback . . . and our special teams gave us real good field position."
Hamilton scored 17 second-half points off three straight Toronto turnovers. And after Bruce's TD, jubilant Hamilton fans serenaded their hosts with "Argos suck" chants.
It was a long night for Lemon and Co. The offence mustered just 194 total yards and surrendered four sacks while Lemon, who was benched briefly in the third, finished 16-of-29 passing for 159 yards with two interceptions. He also fumbled three times (losing one).
"Home game, playoff implications and with so much at stake to come out this way," Lemon said. "It's very disappointing.
"It's on my shoulders."
To be fair, Lemon was constantly harassed by Hamilton's defence. But that was of little solace to Argos supporters, who routinely booed Lemon and the offence as they came off the field.
Backup Dalton Bell didn't fare much better. He gave up a Markeith Knowlton interception that set up a Hamilton field goal for a 13-3 lead at 12:11 of the third before giving way to Lemon again.
DeAndra' Cobb scored Hamilton's other touchdown. Sandro DeAngelis added three field goals and three converts.
Noel Prefontaine's first-quarter field goal accounted for Toronto's scoring.