What we learned from the Ticats’ hard-fought first win of the season

After one of the most difficult weeks in recent team history, the Ticats found a way to send the few fans that were still there after a two-plus hour lightning delay home happy by finally winning their first game of 2017, a 24-22 triumph over the Toronto Argonauts.

It wasn’t pretty, but that doesn’t matter. A win is a win, and while this team is probably still too far gone to make any type of post-season noise, it was still nice to leave Tim Hortons Field after a win for the first time in almost a year.

They have to do things the hard way

The ending of this game was typical 2017 Ticats, trying to find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Let’s recap.

After Lirim Hajrullahu missed a 37-yard field goal with 45 seconds left, the Ticats simply had to kneel the ball three times to win the game. Simple, right? Not for this team. After the first play, where the Argos were a bit aggressive, Ticats receiver Jalen Saunders received an objectionable conduct penalty, which stopped the clock with 36 seconds remaining. So now the Ticats have to pick up a first down to end the game. They did not, so they had to punt. The punt came with 11 seconds in the game, the Argos Martese Jackson was swarmed and the clock hit zero. Game over, right? Nope, another Ticats penalty and an incorrect clock gave the Argos two seconds and one play from their 35 to try to win the game. Luckily for the Cats, Cody Fajardo’s Hail Mary fell incomplete and the Ticats escaped with their first win of the season.

But man oh man, they didn’t make it easy on themselves. These calamities extended an already interminably long game and it left more than a few hearts in need of a defibrillator.

Give it up for your defense

Hamilton’s defense, much maligned all season, played a whale of a game on Labour Day. They beat the tar out of Ricky Ray and while they surrendered 325 yards through the air, they didn’t really allow the big play. The Argos longest play from scrimmage was 24 yards, a dump-off pass to Brandon Whitaker where he picked up 20 of those yards after the catch. It was an all around solid defensive performance and by far the team’s best of the season.

Richard Leonard, baller
Only one player has played every game in the Ticats secondary this season and it is for good reason. Richard Leonard just continues to make plays. He notched his fourth interception of the season, which ties him with T.J. Heath for second in the league, and tied for the team lead with seven defensive tackles. He has become the team’s top defensive back this season, and is a building block for any future secondary. The Ticats have found a few gamers in this somewhat lost season and Richard Leonard is one of them.

Not so much Masoli magic, but just enough

The numbers were hardly great — 19 of 33 (57.6 per cent), 219 yards, one touchdown, one interception and 11 rushing yards on two carries — but Jeremiah Masoli is the quarterback of record on Hamilton’s first win of the season. A lot of people will say the win justifies the move to go to Masoli and bench Zach Collaros, but no matter the outcome, this game was not going to be the ultimate deciding factor in that being a good or bad decision.

What we saw was typical Masoli, brilliant one play (the beautiful TD pass to Brandon Banks) and horrible the next (his interception or taking a sack with no time left in the first half). But Masoli did what he usually does, which was just enough, and because of that the Ticats are no longer winless. Now we need to see if he can put it together over multiple games before we anoint him the future franchise quarterback.

Getting those Labour Day bounces

The Ticats haven’t had many bounces go their way this year, hence the previous 0-8 record. But sometimes something special can happen on Labour Day and the team can get some good luck. Case in point, Felix Faubert-Lussier’s fumble recovery touchdown. This is the type of play that hadn’t gone the team’s way for most of the 2017 season, but on one glorious, rainy night, this bounce went the Ticats way and it was a major reason they took home win No. 1.

The Banks giveth and taketh

This is the second straight game where we have to both praise and admonish Brandon Banks. Speedy B showed he still has that top-end speed on his gorgeous 64-yard touchdown catch, but he also showed earlier that his hands are not as reliable as they should be. Much like against Ottawa, Banks dropped a key pass, and while this one wasn’t as much of a gimme as the one against the Redblacks, it was a big drop early in the game that stalled a Ticats drive. But you can’t hammer him too hard because that TD catch sparked a mini-Ticats run that saw them score 14 points in 25 seconds and they needed all of those points to get the win.

It should also be noted that Banks was not on the kickoff team, and he ended the game as the team leader in targets, catches and yards, so perhaps we are seeing Banks trying to carve himself out a role on the offense. We will have to watch for this in future games.

The refs were… not great

So we have to talk about the officiating. Point blank: it was not good. There were a number of questionable calls both ways. Here are just a few:

  • a couple roughing the passer penalties against Hamilton were borderline from where I sat
  • there was a horrendous unnecessary roughness flag thrown on the Ticats when the Argos player, Martese Jackson, was just tackled hard on a punt return
  • the Argos were called for a no-yards penalty when it did not look like anyone was within five yards of Brandon Banks
  • the command centre, which has been spotty for years now, seemingly blew a review on what looked like a fumble by Jeremiah Masoli

And those are just the ones I remember, I am sure there were more. I have long defended Andre Proulx as being the best ref in the CFL (and I stand by that claim), but him and his crew were not at their best on Labour Day.

But I do not want to hear about how the refs aided the Ticats or cost the Argos. Both of these teams did more than enough to lose this game, the Argos just did it more often.

Injuries hit hard

The Ticats took it on the chin again in the injury department and these ones could have serious ramifications going forward. Receiver Giovanni Aprile left the game after the opening kickoff and running back Mercer Timmis, who was seeing a lot of time on offense, looked to have done some serious damage to his leg. Neither player returned and both could be lost for significant time. Hamilton’s Canadian depth has been tested this year, with defensive stalwarts Ted Laurent and Michael Atkinson already on the shelf, special teams aces Mike Daly and Nick Shortill having missed significant time and we can’t forget that Andy Fantuz, the East’s top Canadian from a year ago, is still recovering from his torn ACL suffered late last season. Add Aprile and Timmis into that mix and the Ticats Canadian contingent is getting woefully small. It is bad enough losing any player to injury, but when those players are Canadian, it makes matters even worse.

Hat tip to all the fans

I do not blame anyone who decided to leave when the rain and lightning came, but to all the fans that stayed, you did a helluva job. Tim Hortons Field got loud, and I don’t know if that was fans making up for the ones that left, but it was impressive nonetheless. Your patience was rewarded with a win, so while we were all wet, cold, hungry and maybe even a little grumpy, I have to say it was all worth it.

Still undefeated on Labour Day at Tim Hortons Field

In a terrible, and likely lost, season, at least the Ticats are still undefeated on Labour Day at Tim Hortons Field. Oh, and the Argos have still yet to win a game in Hamilton since old Ivor Wynne bit the dust. The Argos are 0-7 at the Donut Box (five losses against the Ticats, and two in games they played in Hamilton in 2015 when the Blue Jays playoff run booted them from the SkyDome) and the Ticats have a chance to make that 0-8 when these these two teams clash on September 30. The Ballard Cup will be on the line in that one, and while the Grey Cup is unlikely to find its way to Hamilton this year, keeping the Ballard Cup for a third straight year at least means the Ticats would win something.

Looking ahead

The Ticats cannot rest on their laurels as the turnaround is quick and a date with the rested Redblacks is next up on the docket this Saturday.

I am not going to spend too much space complaining about the competitive disadvantage the Ticats face in this one, but it does need to be pointed out. Ottawa played Thursday in Montreal, which gives the Redblacks an extra four days of rest and prep over the Ticats. Add in that the Ticats are the travelling team, and all the makings for a major-league butt kicking are there. And all of this says nothing of Ottawa having won three straight and looking like a much better team than they did earlier in the season. The CFL schedule has its quirks, and Ottawa dealt with them earlier this year, but a team playing two games in nine days and the other playing two in five is ludicrous when it does not need to be that way.

But for as terrible as Saturday may be, the 2017 Labour Day Classic will be a game fondly remembered. It may not have been the best Labour Day game, and it was definitely not the prettiest, but after eight straight losses to start the year, this win was as sweet as it gets for the Ticats and their fans.

Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Josh has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.
Josh Smith
Josh Smith
About Josh Smith (345 Articles)
Josh has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.

42 Comments on What we learned from the Ticats’ hard-fought first win of the season

  1. Dont agree with you one the Masoli fumble. Watched it on replay several times and his arm is going forward as the ball is knocked loose. This call is consistent with what has been called in the past. Though using the words consistent to describe the CFL officials is a bit laughable because they are consistently bad.

  2. At one point I wanted banks released as I didn’t feel his salary matches his on field performance but if they move him off the kick returns for good and utilize him as a receiver and he can make plays (without dropping the ball) then maybe…as for Masoli he brings a different game behind centre only the first game lets see if he can get settled in under Jones and keep the #1 job. Is collaros still on the trading block they need some quality canadian depth right about now ! It want pretty but a win is a win hopefully they can carry this momentum into Saturday

  3. The Iceman // September 5, 2017 at 4:30 pm //

    Yes, thx for mentioning the unnecessary roughness call on the kick return. I was high fiving the tackle then couldn’t believe a flag.
    Two things Jones has mentioned that rang true. He prefers small speedy receivers (Banks targeted more than he ever has been) and he will run a much smaller number of plays and get them right. The offensive play calls are reduced. Coach said he wanted to have the players gain confidence in a few plays.
    And a tip of the hat to RB Gable. Dude ran really hard every time he touched the ball

    • He does not have to catch every pass. If he can catch a few bombs he will serve the purpose of getting other guys open as Banks will be double or triple teamed.

  4. Both valid points.
    I’m super concerned about what we’re going to do with the ratio this week with Timmins getting injured.
    Anyone have plausible scenarios they might use?

    • The Iceman // September 5, 2017 at 5:12 pm //

      Timmis was really coming on.
      BUT he really hasn’t been too involved in the offence until Labour Day.
      Sean Thomas Erlington is the next man up I would guess.
      Fantuz coming back would be a nice surprise.

      • Thomas-Erlington also left the game but may not be seriously injured. However he’s a rookie and probably not as ready to take on a major role as Timmis – think of Timmis a year ago and you get Thomas-Erlington

      • I think it just means we’ll see Faubert-Lussier in the offense more, perhaps some C.O. Prime, and it also means a struggling Mike Jones gets a reprieve to continue playing as much as he does. We lose more nationals on offense though and things are going to get pretty desperate.

        Unfortunate though. Timmis was showing some heart and determination and ability to get tough yards. Hope he’s not out for long.

      • yes dump the ratio. Quotas are evil and communistic. Just let CFL teams get the best available players. They play Helmet ball in Japan. Get a few players from there. It is not just about being in the shadow of the USA. The NHL has no USA player quotas despite being a mostly USA league now. On merit only 25% of players are USA bred and in the 70’s it was just about 0%. what happened. Superior product on the ice produced fans who sent their boys to ice rinks to play. Same thing here. Put good football on the field and some boys will give up Hockey or soccer for Football. MLS has no quotas and neither does MLB. How great are the Jays, TFC, Impact and Caps doing at the box office?

      • Timmis underwent surgery today for a broken ankle, probably out for the year.

  5. Banks needs to go… can’t be relied upon to actually make a catch. Yes, caught the nice TD one, but based on other misses tonight and previous games, he is the last receiver you can count on. Surprised Masoli did not scramble and take off much… not the sharpest but we need to see the difference a few more starts makes… definitely Collaros should be sitting or traded unless Masoli self-destructs. Not likely. And Leonard who is playing well overall looked really bad on the non-tackle on Posey’s TD. Rematch will tell a lot more about the character of this team.

    • Puzzled Cats Fan // September 7, 2017 at 10:07 am //

      I seem to recall Banks being brought in as receiver by Austin only a few plays a game. He seems to me as being in the same situation as Masoli where more games will show what is what.

      As for Masoli, while I agree he needs more starts – opening the game with a time count violation *at home* then an INT trying to do too much reminds me of his previous starts.

      You do remember that he tends to throw an INT per game where until that is consistently cleaned up, he will be at best putting the defense in a bind and at worst, gifting points to the opponents.

      • Anthony Kaduck // September 7, 2017 at 10:59 am //

        True, but Danny Mac threw at least one pick in most games and still led the Cats to a Grey Cup. 🙂

  6. Mike Jones can’t hang on to the ball and we need DamarAultmanin the lineup…use Saunders, Tasker, Aultman more

    • Ticat Mike // September 5, 2017 at 8:00 pm //

      jones has dropped key catches in almost every game. I don’t see the upside. Sorry.

    • For one they need to play Mike Jones to fulfill the ratio so dropping him in favour of Aultman is not an option, especially with the injury to Timmis which didn’t look good. Jones has dropped a pass or two the past couple of games but in general he`s been pretty sure-handed most of the season. Have to wonder if the retirement of Butler was encouraged to make room for Fantuz to be added to the roster (both for money and numbers reasons) although how much he`d be used in Jones offense remains to be seen. Andy returning to the field would help the ratio for sure.

    • One bomb is enough. The threat of him maybe catching another forces the defense to put 2 guys on him. That opens up the other guys.

    • Banks does not have to catch every pass. If he can catch a few bombs he will serve the purpose of getting other guys open as Banks will be double or triple teamed.

  7. Not impressed after watching Masoli play. I still think Collaros is the better option

    • TiCat Girl // September 5, 2017 at 8:14 pm //

      I agree that we should keep Collaros . He still has much to give the TiCats.

      • Agree too. I think Collaros could have run that offense just as effectively as Masoli – or better – as it seemed to me that the OL was better – or maybe that was more because the plays developed more quickly. Either way Masoli did just enough but to my mind is still too inconsistent to be the long term answer. Collaros needs an opportunity to start in this system.

        • its very sad that the fact is he hasnt ran the offense well in some 12 games or so and yet he is defended for no good reason.

          He has lost his edge…everyone sees it except for Austin and most people that post. The lack of wins or quality play and the trade rumors and the benching are not enough to convince you he is finished here?

          Ignorance is bliss as they say…and then there is the whole manziel thing that screams to all here to get your collective heads out of your rears 🙂

      • Well TiCat Girl…I would sure hope that Collaros does if hes getting that kind of a pay check at the end of the month… hasn’t given them anything for the past games…we got rid of him and we won.

        • Philski. Jesus God! Could you make one post without complaining about Collarod contract. Please do a copy paste of your post complaining at the time he signed the deal. Don’t recall it. But I do recall your many posts calling for Banks to be cut. Let’s see if he manages (please God) to hold onto to another bomb next week.

          • Abacus, I’ll break my “no go” to you this one time…only because you are so kind to reference me to THE central figure of Christianity…thank you, never would have guessed that you thought so highly of me. As for the Collaros contract, it sucks the financial life out of the team, as alluded to by many posters on this site, and worthy of being repetitively stated, as it is one of the reasons the team is 1-8. Can’t sign good players if your sack of dinaro is empty, no? As for Banks I never called for him to be “cut”. Au contraire. I think he’s still a good player…but his shelf life as a TC has expired…so trade him. Wally used to be interested. Maybe he still is. Believe he would very much thrive in a different area code.

  8. RalphInTheCreek // September 5, 2017 at 6:30 pm //

    I’m still hoping their going to bring in three people at least.

  9. Brandon Banks is the archtypical Run & Shoot receiver, small and quick, so Jones is unlikely to replace him. As an Ottawa fan, I’m anxious to see how the Redblacks’ defense handles this kind of attack. Ottawa’s secondary and pass rush has been improving, and Saturday’s match could be a tough test – with all the makings of a trap game as well.

    • Agree. I think Banks will be around the rest of the season. Freeing him up from some KR duty was a good call — he’s probably the only receiver we have who can get separation by speed alone, and if he can stop dropping make-able catches he will contribute much more to the team in its current form.

      And it may just open things up for Tasker, Saunders, and Tyms (who really needs to show more that he belongs IMO; there are times he’s been missed as an open option, but far too many where he’s been blanketed by opposing DBs)

  10. I am disappointed that no one has mentioned the play of Cariel Brooks in the defensive backfield – I thought he did a great job back there and I have not seen much of that in the defensive backfield this year.

    • I agree, Mark, he made some solid plays.

      I guess I was so caught up in the improved overall play of the team, it was sometimes hard to spot a single effort.

  11. NotJoshSmith // September 5, 2017 at 10:02 pm //

    “I have long defended Andre Proulx as being the best ref in the CFL (and I stand by that claim)”

    ~ You’re still an idiot with very little football knowledge Josh!

  12. TEDDER 123 // September 6, 2017 at 3:24 am //

    I HAVE BEEN A TIGER CAT FAN FOR 64 YEARS (yes I have seen it all.)

  13. Anthony Kaduck // September 6, 2017 at 6:31 am //

    The officiating was indeed problematic, but we had two borderline calls go in our favor. When was the last time that happened?

  14. Perhaps, in Richard Leonard we have found our next Delvin Breaux??

    I like many quarterbacks sacks laid on the opposition, but the pounding repeatedly handed out by our defense on Ray was fun to watch too.

    Justin Capicciotti and Adrian Tracy, I thought, played a great game.

    I was very proud and happy for the players.

    • Am I the only one that noticed that Cariel Brooks did a very good job on the other side of the field as well?

  15. The secondary actually has the makings to be a pretty good unit with the emergence of Leonard along with Davis, Washington and if Kanneh ever returns. Stephen is fine at safety as well. Not too bad.

    I thought Brooks had a pretty decent debut playing against his former club.

  16. Agree totally my friend. Problem is a lot of these posters saw a brief blip of success in 2015 and are totally sold on the guy. If I was him I’d be refunding some of that 1.5 m to the poor that frequent Gore. Thought Jimmy Edwards’ signing for 1 m during the Ballard years was a horrible contract but this one supersedes.

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