Ticats need to get their groove back vs. Lions

During the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ final on-field preparation session for Saturday’s home opener, there were some smiles and maybe a few laughs. But it was more or less an all-business affair.

A couple of hours later, the B.C. Lions were dancing up a storm.

That’s the difference between a 2-1 team like the Lions, one coming off two straight wins against East Division opponents, and a 0-2 squad like the Ticats, who are starting to show the first signs of the inevitable strain that losing brings.

Here’s what Ticat return man Brandon Banks had to say about the mood surrounding his team right now.

“I wouldn’t say it’s tough but it’s challenging. If we were winning, you’d see people laughing and joking but this is a What-have-you-done-for-me-lately? business and lately we’re losing,” he said.

“Jobs are on the on the line, families are on the line.”

Meanwhile, the Lions are encouraging players with varying degrees of ability — the worse the better, frankly — to show off their moves.

“We just brought that back. You always got to make things fun, build that team camaraderie, improve the chemistry,” said veteran linebacker Solomon Elimimian.

“It might not seem like much, but the more we can get guys bonding with positive vibes and energy, the better it is. I believe it helps win games.”

It’s been another challenging week in Hamilton following last Saturday’s 37-20 road loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Linebacker Will Hill was suspended one game for grabbing an official — newcomer Keon Lyn will take his spot — while head coach Kent Austin declined to specify who, exactly, would be calling the offensive plays going forward.

Those duties had been handed to co-ordinator Stefan Ptaszek to start the season but Austin, who called the plays last season, took over against the Roughriders.

“Play-calling is overrated. There are no perfect calls and a lot of the calls that are made, if they are executed properly, will be successful. It’s more an issue of the execution than it is the play-calling,” Austin said.

“The reason I’ve been a little circumspect — I was going to say ‘snarky’ — is that it’s putting the focus on the wrong thing. The focus needs to be on execution.”

In B.C., the play-calling is handled by offensive co-ordinator Khari Jones, the former CFL quarterback who got his coaching start with the Ticats in 2009, a fact head coach Wally Buono was more than willing to share.

“I call nothing. That’s why I don’t wear a headset. Khari calls all the plays — at least I hope he does,” Buono joked.

“What’s my job, to micromanage two co-ordinators or to manage and coach the team? I don’t think you can do both.”

Despite their tough start, the Ticats are taking at least some solace from the fact they’ve started slowly in a number of Austin’s five seasons, including a 1-6 opening to the 2014 campaign that resulted in the second of two straight Grey Cup appearances.

“I’ve been through this before and at the end of the day something has to happen for us — we’re at the bottom of the bottom and it can’t get any worse,” Banks said.

“I think I can do a little bit more to give this team a spark but I have to put in a successful situation to do that.”

There is still a sense throughout the league that the Ticats are a better team than their record and their generally uninspired performances have shown.

Elimimian said Hamilton quarterback Zach Collaros alone is enough to keep the Lions concerned.

“Having an 0-2 start, that’s a dangerous mindset for a team,” Elimimian said. “They are thinking ‘win at all costs.'”

Indeed, come Saturday night the Ticats are hoping they’ll be ones doing the dancing.

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
Drew Edwards
Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1527 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

12 Comments on Ticats need to get their groove back vs. Lions

  1. If Montreal can beat Calgary, maybe anything is possible and the Ticats can pull out an upset at home and right the ship.

  2. Lions playing loose ticats playing for there jobs that can hurt a team hopefully they can pull out a win and gain some confidence back. I’m the first to admit I have been very critical of this team so far but they haven’t given me reason not too . Hopefully I can eat my words after tonight. fortunately I chose tom petty concert over the cats game tonight but good luck there gonna need it !

  3. Jeff May // July 15, 2017 at 8:50 am //


  4. Ticat Mike // July 15, 2017 at 9:17 am //

    Buono said a lot: “what’s my job – to micromanage two coordinators or to manage and coach the team?”. Wise words and a stark contrast to Austin’s approach.
    I hope the Cats somehow pull it together but there is little evidence based on their first two games, their overall approach to the game (no run, poor pass protection, slow developing/poorly designed plays, weak secondary, inconsistent pass rush) , and the unwillingness to address annual deficiciences most fans and football followers have noted — to think this game will be competitive. But there is hope — for now.

    • Sea of Dead // July 15, 2017 at 6:28 pm //

      That sums up the current situation concisely. Good luck to the Cats tonight; They are going to need it against BC.

  5. Hoping for the best and that the Ticats offense and defense give an inspiring performance and a win! Still I am cautious given the problems with the o-line, Collaros being rushed. Inability to get consistently get downs and put together drives. Then there’s the secondary getting beaten by receivers.

    The Ticats need to focus on consistency on offense with short passes and screens and a hurried offense. If Collaros has difficulties by the half, I believe the Ticats need to give Masoli a try. He has a different style and might produce better results.

    • I agree, if Zach doesn’t preform tonight I expect him on the bench next week. I mean his individual performance, not due to pressures. He needs to improve his decision making and stop consistently throwing off his back foot.

  6. Solara2000 // July 15, 2017 at 11:16 am //

    Wise words from Buono re focus (2 Coordinators or everyone and everything). Effective leaders give their people the authority to fulfill their responsibility; that’s how accountability works.

  7. Hoping that the Ticats do get their groove back now that they’re able to play in front of the home crowd BUT, sorry to say, not holding my breath.

  8. Get a groove back? How about finding a groove first (it’s been a long time since they were in one)

    The pieces are there for a competitive team. Yeah execution is key (it’s *always* key) but you need to put your play-makers in situations to make plays. So with all due respect to Mr. Austin, I’m a circumspect — I was going to say ‘snarky’ — about what he says here and feel he’s simply trying to deflect focus onto what he wants, so he does not have to say more in an interview. But everyone needs to do better, planning and coaching and play-calling and execution, and I’m sure he knows it even if he won’t admit it publicly.

    Nice quotes by Wally. This is why he’s been coaching, mostly successfully, for such a long time.

  9. wayne ross // July 15, 2017 at 12:53 pm //

    Wally Buono captured it – hire staff and get out of their way and let them do their jobs. Hamilton’s first two games were unexciting and boring with botched plays, missed opportunities (that often never did develop), players looking like they were simply going through the motions, far too many penalties, etc., etc. We need a real D Coordinator. Look at the level Noel Thorpe from Mtl. has his D playing at – unrelenting pressure and commitment. Cats D is so ho hum – and I’m not talking about all the limited experience replacements – just the intensity. Hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think Zack and the O will be allowed to get going, and Soloman E. is planning to spend a lot of time in our backfield. B.C. will likely run up a high score, and if the Cats’ O can’t get some points, then ST or D will have to get some.

  10. Jeff May // July 15, 2017 at 3:22 pm //

    Wally Wally Wally! How about that Kent, turning OUR team around!

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