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August 12, 2019

Hoover Survives ‘Oh crap’ Moment, Makes Game-Saving Play

Jordan Hoover is only six games into his CFL career as the Eskimos starting safety and he’s already showing the composure of a veteran.

Hoover, 26, was deceived on a long pass when the Ottawa RedBlacks switched up their plays during the first quarter of last Friday’s game at The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium. The result was a 67-yard pass-and-run touchdown to wide receiver Dominique Rhymes on the last play of the first quarter as Ottawa produced its only major score of the game.

“I thought I read the corner route right and the next thing you know he’s snapping it back to the post,” Hoover recalled. “I was in my ‘Oh crap’ moment, and I’m chasing him. I look up, and I see the ball.

“It was a great play. They kept going into that type of formation, seeing how I was playing it. They ran the corner route twice before that one, so I thought, ‘OK, here it is’ and the next thing I know it’s going the other way and I’m chasing him, but that’s football.

“It’s all about the response,” continued the native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. “I could have done one of two things. I could have let that deflate me the rest of the game or I brush it off, have short-term memory and just continue to play football. I think I was able to successfully put it behind me and continue to play for my team.

“They can’t be playing with 11 (men) and me being in my own head (moping about his misread), so I think it was important for me to show them when mistakes are made, I’m going to make them 100 miles an hour, and I’m going to get it back for you guys, always,” he said. “They’ve got my back, and I’m going to make a play for you. I’ve got you guys.”

Hoover, a fourth-round CFL draft pick in 2017, rebounded from his mistake by scooping up his second interception of the season and then made a game-saving tackle with 59 seconds left in the game. He knocked Rhymes out of bounds at the Edmonton 11-yard line to end the RedBlacks receiver’s 33-yard pass-and-run play. The Eskimos then knocked down three consecutive Ottawa passes into the end zone to eliminate the threat and hold on for a 16-12 victory.

“A big goal-line stand for the defence,” said Hoover. “I mean, it’s an emotional game. You try to get keep your emotions in check. When it comes down to moments like that, you still need to have a clear mind and be laser-focused, and you just do your job.

“It’s easy to disrupt that feng shui way of thinking when they’re breathing down your neck and your back’s against the wall, but our defence stepped up big across the board – three plays in a row, shut them down – but that’s because the offence chewed up the clock and put us in good position to start with.

“But, really, it was just a whole team game that got us there, and we were just the ones on the field to finish it,” he added.

Hoover, who wasn’t involved in any of the last three defensive plays Friday, said every time he looked over to where the pass was going, he saw at least two or three teammates providing blanket coverage on the intended target. Cornerback Anthony Orange knocked down the first two passes, and defensive halfback Josh Johnson almost intercepted the last one before the ball fell harmlessly to the ground.

“I definitely saw Money (Monshadrik Hunter) and (weak-side linebacker Vontae) Diggs, Anthony Orange, everybody on that weak side, because they tried that weak side twice and then they came to the strong side,” Hoover pointed out. “It’s a swarm mentality. We’re all running to the ball. Always.”

Hoover has played in 43 of the 44 games to date in his three-year CFL career, but he’s spent most of that time on special teams. He made an emergency start at boundary (short-side) corner in 2017 when Mercy Maston was injured during the pre-game warm-up and started two games at field (wide-side) corner last year before spending the rest of the season as either the second- or third-string player at that position.

The six-foot-two, 190-pound defensive back was also a backup safety to Hunter, an American defensive back, in the first two games this year.

Hoover already has 15 defensive tackles, including three in Friday’s game, and his first career quarterback sack and first two interceptions this season.

“We’ve got this saying on defence – “The more you hustle, the luckier you get,” he said about his fortunate pick against the RedBlacks. “I saw the ball in the air. You don’t know if (the receiver is) going to break it into a post or just keep it going. I was just running over there to help Anthony. He made a great play, a great break-up. I’m almost slowing down, kind of getting ready to help (Orange) up and I saw the receiver (Julian Feoli-Gudino) kick it up in the air, and it went right to me. I didn’t even have to adjust a step.

“Sometimes, they happen like that. Tips and overthrows, sometimes you earn them, but just make sure you catch the ball.”

The Eskimos scored their first 10 points Friday after interceptions by field corner Arjen Colquhoun (his second career pick) early in the first quarter and Hoover late in the first half.

The Green-and-Gold marched 76 yards down the field on eight plays, with running back C.J. Gable capping off the Eskimos’ opening four-minute and 28-second drive with a 28-yard touchdown run after Colquhoun’s big play while Hoover’s catch and a 33-yard pass interference penalty called after Head Coach Jason Maas challenged the play set up Sean Whyte’s 44-yard field goal late in the first half.

The Esks, 5-3, travel to Toronto to play the 1-6 Argonauts at 5:30 p.m. MT, Friday at BMO Field.