Milton: Ticats spoil solid effort with horrid ending

Strangely, after the best game the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have played this year – and that’s not overly-high praise – they did their worst thing. 

They blew a game. And that may tell us as much as, or maybe more than, the first three losses of the season did. When the chance was there they could not maintain their grip. One by one, their fingers were pried off this victory. Quickly. 

If the loss of one Ticat defensive player can permit the Edmonton Eskimos, undefeated as they are, to score 18 points in the final quarter (you are not reading that wrong) to rally for a 31-28 victory in the Tiger-Cats’ own lair, then this team is not good enough.

Or this team doesn’t have enough self-confidence, or this team is not prepared well enough for game-turning situations.

Or this team is all of the above, and more.

Cornerback Keon Lyn was carried off the field as the third quarter ended Thursday night and Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly, who spent more than half the night picking artificial turf out of his teeth, first smelled blood, then acted like a shark.

Kent Austin conceded after the game that the Ticats had talked on the sidelines about what was going to happen, that Reilly would attack the area which Lyn’s injury had obligated halfback Justin Rogers to patrol and team newcomer Terrence Frederick to fill in for Rogers at halfback.  That’s exactly what transpired, and yet the Tiger-Cats defence looked as if this were a surprise and was powerless to stop it. 

The Cats did all sorts of things well in this game, including making some big plays in all three phases, but in the final quarter, when everyone’s tired and reverting to some kind of mean, the same stuff that made them 0-3 re-appeared to make them 0-4 and heading for 0-and-6 after a pair of road games in Alberta where they rarely win one, and virtually never win two.

To wit: a key injury; an opposition quarterback adjusting to get rid of the ball more quickly  to receivers who aren’t covered anywhere near tightly enough under those circumstances; penalties of the worst types at the worst times; a second-and-ridiculously-long being converted against the defence and a second-and-four on offence coming up three yards short when a first down, or close to it, would have virtually clinched the game; Zach Collaros throwing an interception into full coverage.

That enough?

This one, at least in the bad timing part of it, is mostly on the defence, which had got great work from its middle front in Ted Laurent and Davon Coleman but couldn’t pick up the offence after Collaros  was intercepted to kill a promising, rhythmic drive early in the fourth quarter, and you could just feel where this was headed. Some parts of the crowd must have felt it with 77 seconds left and Edmonton, down five points and still on their own 35. Psychics all, they headed for the exits, to beat the traffic that wasn’t there.

 The defence was guilty of non-pickup on that final drive too, because that was immediately after the offence had to settle for a Sergio Castillo field goal (he’s been very, very good) instead of getting that rushing first down that would have digested clock time and the Eskimos’ hearts.

But that’s the difference between an 0-3 club and a 3-0 club: One team picks up after each other, the other team allows a mistake to multiply like an amoeba.

Let’s not forget, though, that despite controlling the ball for about half the game and showing lots of pace and some deep pass attempts to stretch the field, the offence still came out of this with only 19 points and just one touchdown,  to its credit, The rest came via a blocked punt major (Terrell Davis blocking, Geoff Hughes scoring) and a safety. That’s not enough, especially when they came out of the gates strongly for the second game in a row.

As John Chick was saying after the game, the team looked a whole bunch better and there are still 14 games left.  

Seven of those are at home but consider this: the Ticats have lost exactly that many in a row in Hamilton, three of those to the Eskimos, including last year’s semifinals.

Tim Hortons Field, which started its life as the Walled City to visitors is now The Open Door. What we’re witnessing here is Visiting Field Advantage.

The Ticats’ last home win was Sept. 16, 2016, more than eight months ago. No wonder many fans left early, even with their team ahead.

Steve Milton

Steve Milton

Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.
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Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (74 Articles)
Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.

52 Comments on Milton: Ticats spoil solid effort with horrid ending

  1. Southwest cowboy // July 21, 2017 at 2:41 am //

    My compliments. Is it ever refreshing to see an honest appraisal of one’s hometown team. We certainly never see objective game coverage like that in Saskatchewan. The Riders could have a game like that and the newspaper and radio would be full of praise for how close they came.
    Keep it up, maybe it’s contagious.

  2. Second down four yards to go ball deep in Eskimos Territory witt time winding down and with a first down requires in order to retain possession and keep the clock running and a run is called instead of a screen pass to either Scheureman or Prime who had just been inserted into the game. It was the perfect setting and time in the game to run this play which had worked twice before . The coaches need their heads examined. This loss is on coaching because gaining the first down was critical and the wrong call was made which cost the Ticats a game they deserved to win.

  3. End of first half didn’t even bother to get in position for a field goal? The 3 man rush is usually a failure in any league, especially for the Cats

  4. Ticats63 // July 21, 2017 at 6:58 am //

    No more comments required. Steve’s fantastic column and the two comments above say it all. The number one problem (the only problem?) is coaching.
    Coaching to call the right plays at crucial times – we all knew that settling for a FG with a minute left wasn’t going to be enough – and keeping the players motivated for 60 full minutes.

  5. This is just a bad team period. No depth, questionable coaching calls, a once star QB who is lost and has no confidence what so ever. A coach at odds with his QB and maybe the team. Some bright spots on the D line still a lot of stupid penalties especially Hill. Good player but not a team player a Hill player. Austin is responsible for this disaster, no excuses. We counted 20 plus starting players with other teams that came from Hamilton. There is your championship team.

  6. Lindsay Wilcox // July 21, 2017 at 7:36 am //

    Again, after a successful start to the running game, use of Schuermer disappeared. Inability to gain at least 2-3 yds on THAT 2nd and short. Sure we got a FG, but we could have had 3rd and short for Masoli….Oh wait, O-Line hasn’t given Masoli any holes either. Yeah, we got a FG, but a 1st down deep into Edmonton territory, could have taken another 30 seconds off the clock…
    Again, non-use of C.O. Prime as a runner or outlet receiver to influence Edmonton’s pass rush.
    Again, Collaros’ passes too often lacked the zip when throwing into a crowd – he got away with it a few times, but those interceptions…
    After Lyn got hurt, Edmonton picked on the change successfully on that last drive… I thought DBs were learning/competent at all DB positions ?
    Generally, I saw a LOT of improvement in performance, but still questionable O play-calling and D alignment. And THAT is on the coaches.

    • Sea of Dead // July 21, 2017 at 10:01 am //

      Wow, sure didn’t expect this from you Lindsay. Can’t say that you’ve swung to the dark side because you are an ultimate Cat supporter but you certainly have a much more open mind about all the ‘wrongs’ plaguing this Cat team.

      I’ve identified serious problems/issues with the management of this team since the start of the 2016 season … and most of those issues remain unresolved resulting in what we have today.

      However, unlike most of the disparaging remarks so far, I found some encouragement in what I saw in this game. Sure they blew it in the last 5-10 mins but they played above expectations for more than 3Qs so that is a positive that the team can hopefully build on going forward. But things do look bleak overall because every other team appears to be well ahead of the Cats in talent/performance at this point so it will be difficult for the Cats to gain ground after such a slow start. Unfortunately, we Cat fans may have to write-off the season after the upcoming Alberta trip.

  7. Ticat Mike // July 21, 2017 at 7:41 am //

    Outstanding article Steve — a joy to read as you get to the essence of what’s wrong with this team. Underlying factors: poor coaching prep, adjustments throughout the game, and play calling. Add — a QB that is hurried and running for his life on most plays with seemingly few options to counter attack . Where Reilly was also attacked, he adjusted and got better at end of the game. Collaros – was consistently ineffective for the most part — due to poor pass protection, poor use of RBs/FBs, & blocking assignments, poor play selection/calls. If your QB cannot go through his progressions and get at least 4 seconds in the pocket, why have an empty backfield? Why not add blockers and execute short crisp plays .
    Kudos to Coleman, Hill, and Laurent . Defense played well for 3 quarters. But, as Steve pointed out — their depth is thin, and the injury and inability to adjust with Rogers killed them. But to me — if the offense could have executed one or two more first downs in their last possession — its a victory.

    • The lack of having a quick slant to be on the edge of first down, outlets or fast plays to affect the defense has been a long, ongoing problem.

      I’d have to check the stats but it sounds like the calling again went from a useful run game to predictable, mostly passing.

  8. Ticat Mike // July 21, 2017 at 7:43 am //

    Just wantd to add to the complete ineffectiveness of the 3 man rush and prevent defense. The Ticat coaching staff should answer to ; How’s that been working out for you guys? And if it isnt working (and it isnt), why continue doing it?

  9. Steve, Collaros lacks confidence. All the Manziel talk in the winter and spring has hurt him but it definitely now appears that the team should be exploring all options including Manziel. The Ticats unfortunately are repelling and turning off diehard fans. A fan forum should be called with the fans able to ask direct questions to Austin , Reinebold and Ptaszek just like the Argos have done.

  10. For the first time as a ‘Cats fan, I’m questioning if Collaros can do the job. Taking too long to throw; throwing long passes at the wrong times; poor receiver selection. (Throwing to Tasker with triple coverage for an INT, while Tyms appeared wide open on the other side.). Two more pass knock-downs. Collaros is probably the shortest starting QB in the CFL, so pass knock-downs are going to happen, especially if you’re telegraphing your throw. Game plan sure isn’t helping either. We don’t seem to layer the receivers, so shorter, high percentage throws or screens are open underneath. Just the kind of game-plan a struggling QB needs.
    The big worry this year isn’t a worry; kicking. Castillo out-punted Sean Whyte by 10 yds, went 4 for 4 in FG’s, and out-kicked Whyte by 10 yds on kickoffs.

    Oskee Wee Wee

    • Ticat Mike // July 21, 2017 at 8:35 am //

      I like your comments and agree for the most part. I really think the lack of protection in addition to the points you made about how our receivers are aligned + other points made re. reinforcing blocking with RB/FBs are contributing to Zach’s ineffectiveness.
      The pocket collapses, even against a 4 man rush, in 2 or 3 seconds on most plays.
      His receivers are deep, and the outlet guys are either nowhere to be found or covered. It seems our offense if very easy to read, predict and prepare against. That’s on the coach/ OC. I really don’t see Masoli as the answer – he was barely making 1 yard dives. Its sad as this game was winnable.

    • I would think Darian Durant and Kevin Glenn are both significant shorter than Collaros but he is still vulnerable to pass knockdowns.

  11. In other words if it wasn’t for special teams the cats wouldn’t even have been in this game as well now that Lyn is probably gone for the season you have to go back to a makeshift secondary and we know what happens there . And as I have said from the get go collaros and platzek and Austin offence is terrible . Even if kenneh Davis and butler come back and the d starts to gel down the stretch this offence looks looks simple and out of sorts I can see this team goin winless. Every other teams offence and defence are better than the cats and with every loss comes the loss of confidence and finger pointing in the locker room .at this point not sure what can be done to fix it

  12. Clay Connor // July 21, 2017 at 9:56 am //

    When you have a struggling team, your best players need to be your best players. Neither Lawrence nor Banks have been playing as well as in previous seasons. Are injuries a factor?

  13. Ticat fans, look on the bright side. You’ve got the Argos on Labour Day. That’s a guaranteed victory no matter how good or bad the Argos might be. There is a Double Blue gene in their makeup that preconditions them to collapse in Hamilton. The east, from what I’ve seen so far, has no dominant teams so anything is possible. This old geezer remembers when Jack Gotta coached the Ottawa Rough Riders they started the season 0-4 and won the Grey Cup, and that was in a shorter season. Whether the rest of the season is a wash or not depends on whether the Ticats can bolster themselves with selective changes from late NFL cuts. Austin is a curmudgeon and hard to like but firing him during the season is not the answer.

  14. On the 2nd and 4 I’m pretty sure Collaros called an audible. Anyone see that

  15. Solara2000 // July 21, 2017 at 10:58 am //

    Agree. A pleasure to read a great writer – thanks Steve.
    WOW! One word comes to mind: crap! That reflects what we are seeing. Have been resisting jumping on the ‘sky is falling’ bandwagon but last night was a real test of a positive outlook.
    This team is so bad on the field and on the sidelines. In a perverted way a blowout loss would have been better; unfortunately the last minute loss creates the illusion of progress (“we are getting better” John Chick – was he on the field? (sarcasm)).
    KA and Collaros both look like they are suffering from shell shock.

  16. Yes Castillo has been excellent – probably the best in the league to date – but had the Ticats turned even one of those FGs into a TD then there would have been a 1 in the win column for them and a one in the loss column for the Esks. If the defense is down then the offense needs to pick up its game and unfortunately, for the Ticats and their fans, that didn’t happen. A win last night would have been a good shot of confidence for them before heading out on that western road game. Hoping for a miracle the next couple of weeks but I won’t hold my breath.

  17. 0 – 6 is looming…. the season will be over by Labour Day..

    AUSTIN MUST GO

    • Snake … okay and now complete your thought … and replaced by ???

      Everyone needs to take a step back. They got their butts kicked three times … this time they were competitive against what may prove to be the league’s best. Progress on offense … excellent effort on defense until the fourth quarter collapse. They are making progress. I would like to see Collaros roll-out and use his mobility as a designed play … not a scramble. There is a semblance of a running game … the secondary is uneven but improving.

      The playoffs get determined by play after Labour Day … we will be there.

  18. Harrison // July 21, 2017 at 12:50 pm //

    I was at the game and it was listed as a sell-out – but over 50% of the seats were easily empty. Not sure what constitutes a sell-out in CFL terms anymore…

    • Lots of people watching from the concourses, and lots of people hanging out in “The Stipley” — I’d wager their assigned seats constitute a vast majority of the apparent vacancies.

  19. pantsonfire // July 21, 2017 at 2:01 pm //

    The bright side is the Cats can clean up on the East??????? Not so sure they’ll beat the Argos but should they settle for aiming to win the East with 8 wins like last year”s winner? How about trying to build a good team & have a decent product to be competitive in the 10 games with the West?

  20. As usual Milton, you’re ready to count the Cats out for the season. Why don’t you go write for a team you actually cheer for. The season isn’t even half through and you and many others are acting like it’s their last breath. Give me a break. I’ve never liked your reporting. You’re always looking at the negative. Things have a way of turning around. As long as people like you keep knocking them and the refs keep screwing them over, the Cats won’t stand a chance, no matter how hard they try.

    • mr62cats // July 21, 2017 at 6:51 pm //

      Yvonne: Sorry but Steve Milton is one of the best sportswriters in the country.If you want to be spoon-fed with “good” news when this team is awful, you are not a good fan. There is plenty wrong with this team and to ignore that and blame the refs for our lousy start to the season then you are missing what is happening on the field. There some talent out there but it should be obvious that it is not being used properly. Austin deserves all the criticism he gets.

  21. bill dehoog // July 21, 2017 at 2:57 pm //

    great article. Looks to me that Zac has got “happy feet” in the pocket. How long before Masolli gets a few series as he will move his feet downfield

  22. mrincomprehensible // July 21, 2017 at 3:30 pm //

    Of course the Eskies themselves hardly contributed to the win.

  23. Ticats1 // July 21, 2017 at 4:34 pm //

    Kitten has it right, 2nd and 4, ball on Esks 30ish yard line, 1:41 on the clock, GO FOR THE KILL, the good teams do it, it drives me nuts, home game, no wins come on, the players played their hearts out and the coaches blew it, everyone in the park knew they were handing off. Once they gave it back with 1:07 left it was like watching a bad movie over again and everyone in the park knew how it was going to end, just didn’t think they would make it look that easy.

  24. Argos will win the East… they have the best coach (Trestman) and best GM (Popp)… as good as Hufnagel & Dickinson…

    Hamilton could and should finish last… maybe only then will we get a decent HC…

  25. Tom Smagle // July 21, 2017 at 5:07 pm //

    Was at the game last night and while my expectations for a victory were low, I was optimistic by the events of the first half. Can’t see the TigerCats winning their two games in Alberta and they will most likely return home as an 0-6 team. Perhaps if that scenario does present itself it will be time for Austin to play younger talent with an eye for next year. Also, it does seem that Collaros is “off” … Austin, Tillman & Scott Mitchell would be wise to actively engage with talks with Johny Manziel. If Hamilton can sign him, his arrival would at least give the fans something to be excited about and inject energy in what is quickly turning out to be a lost season. Lastly, I wonder if the caretaker Bob Young will make changes during the season or wait to offseason before dismissing the coaching staff.

  26. Was that not an obvious block in the back on Rogers on Hazelton’s game winning touchdown. And a ref was standing right there watching it.

  27. This team cannot afford to let small mistakes happen, never mind big ones. It was a much better showing than the first three games, but nowhere near enough for the long haul. Even if they hadn’t let Edm march downfield for the winning score, many of us would have counted this as an ugly win despite letting out a huge breath in relief. (and we’d have taken ugly, gladly)

    Nothing more to say than what Milton has written, and he’s written it much more eloquently than I would have.

    Except to say there’s no reason to give up, not after only 4 games.

  28. Say what you want, it was an entertaining game and that’s what the CFL is, entertainment. The underdog Cats playing the Number 1 power ranked Eskies, clinging to a narrow lead in the dying seconds, only to see the home side snatch defeat from the jaws of victory! As a Ticat fan I saw a lot of things to be optimistic about, especially the play of Ross Scheuerman, the emergence of Jalen Saunders as a dependable receiver, and improved play of the Offensive Line, but we’ve still got a long way to go to respectability. Had Keon Lyn not gone down in the 4th, who knows? As I said earlier though, win or lose, a very entertaining outing by the Tiger Cats.

  29. As I have said forth Austin should bring forth an offensive consultant to assist Ptaszek sooner than later. Tom Clements is available and would be a hellava fit. Steve, on behalf of other long time Ticat fans thank you for an outstanding article and for keeping it as positive as you can. Go Cats Go!

  30. Steve (above) agree with all your commental.
    Steve Milton I greatly admire your writing but your last two articles seem surprising tough.
    The game was exciting to watch and the team is definitely getting better each week.

  31. comments

  32. Time to throw the ball to Brian Tyms. Time to get Kevin Elliot back in the starting lineup. And its time to give some touches to CO Prime. Long season still left

    • All you had to do is watch Jerome Messam tear it up against the Riders to see what a monster fullback can do in a short yardage situation, something that cost the Cats dearly on Friday night. At least Hamilton is presenting the illusion of a running game by giving the ball to Scheuerman a few more times. Everyone knows Austin is pass-happy, so they just sit back in the secondary and play cover. It’s no wonder nobody is open for Collaros.

  33. RalphInTheCreek // July 24, 2017 at 8:51 am //

    Love reading Steve’s article’s, but think Ed was just trying to keep it close. Near the end of the game when things got to close they marched strait down the field like they were at practice and won the game. Ham looked like they weren’t even there.

  34. Sending Out an SOS // July 24, 2017 at 4:22 pm //

    How does Jeff Reinbold get a DC job when the guy got run out of Montreal when he was DC there? This crap is all on Bob Young. I would have fired Kent Austin last year, really and I still think he should be fired after the Aberta road trip. I don’t want to see Kent Austin in Hamilton anymore. They don’t start on time for the games, they don’t start ontime in the season with this year again coming out the gate 0-4. The discipline issue has never been addressed and has been a big problem since day one of his tenure as HC. I don’t care who they bring in, I just know that I’m done with Kent Austin and I absolutely will not be attending any games at TH Field until Bob Young gets off his skinny little ass and take control of this team in the direction. Oskee Meh Meh…

  35. What’s happening with Speedy Banks?? The other teams seem to have figured him out as he is not able to run free as he used to and rack up the long yards. In the last game against EE when he made a 30 yard gain the Cats took a stupid penalty and lost 10 of them.

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