Milton: seeds of Ticats’ OT loss to Argos sown during early-season slump

The roots of this collapse – and it was a collapse – were in the first eight games of the season.

The habits that got ingrained into the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ behaviour over an extended period of losing – 0-8 to start this year, serial stumbles at home to finish last year – returned Saturday night. And now the Argos are virtually assured of first place in the east, and the Ticats are playing chase-the-Redblacks.

Speaking of whom, how buoyed are the Ottawa players after the Ticats blew a 14 point lead they’d mounted by early in Saturday night’s fourth quarter (and that lead itself should have been bigger) to lose 43-35 to Toronto?

Well, think of how the Ticats players, coaches and fans felt after the Redblacks collapsed late in their game Friday night: “Hey, we got these guys, right?” That’s the Redblacks today.
Hamilton took nine of the last 11 penalties in this game, and many were costly. That’s a remnant-trait from the first eight games. Oh we’re doing well? Time to hold and go offside.

The Ticats’ offence needed, what, one first down, maybe two, in the final couple of series to seal this one, that remains unsealed? The last five possessions, after a great game, they went two-and-out. Hello 0-and-8, even with a different quarterback.

And at 3rd and 17 DeVier Posey is all alone? And Ricky Ray buys himself enough time to throw after being sacked four times earlier? Has anyone ever mentioned that timing is everything?

Timing? That reminds us: once again, the Cats had trouble with clock management.The Tiger-Cats didn’t pin the Argonauts to the mat when they had a chance. Correction, when they had several chances. As it was when Zach Collaros was in there for two months, more pressure from the opposition defence hurried the offence into wrong decisions, and Jeremiah Masoli missed a wide-open Luke Tasker, which would have salted this game so far not even that GPS you’re so proud of could have found it.

For the first 47 minutes or so, the Tiger-Cats played their best game of the year. That would be almost good enough in the NBA where the games are 48 minutes long. Football plays 60, and you can win it in 12 and a bit, as the Argos did last night, and you can certainly lose it. S

Same evidence.

One difference between this game and the first eight–besides the big ones that the Ticats were really, really good for three-quarters of it and actually scored more than 30 points–was that the Cats had a viable lead. They couldn’t protect it, partly because they tried to nurse it. Worried about something over their heads, the pass defenders let too many balls be caught in front of them.

They weren’t nearly as aggressive as they have been the past month, and were for the first 40-plus minutes. And the O finished with five, count ‘em five, two-and-outs. Perhaps it was too much to expect the Cats to easily protect a lead they could have easily protected without penalties, missed throws, loosened coverage and, yes, some severely questionable calls and reviews.

They didn’t learn how to win in the first eight games, that poor period that was twice as long as the good period that apparently began Labour Day,….and that lack of knowledge came back to haunt them Saturday night.

It is suddenly much harder for the Tiger-Cats on Sunday morning that it looked for most of Saturday night. And they can only blame themselves: and the early-season traits they picked up and haven’t yet shaken.

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 (100 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.

23 Comments on Milton: seeds of Ticats’ OT loss to Argos sown during early-season slump

  1. Steve, when Masoli is not moving the team, why is there reluctance to put Collaros into the game especially with the season on the line? Please put this question to coach June Jones.

    • I have to wonder the same thing. Does Collaros get the next start or is the team going to sink or swim with Masoli for the final 5 games? Hoqever Milty certainly has a point – old habits like the stalling offense and penalties at inopportune times killed any momentum the team had. Of course the lead should have been (or could have been) larger given the officiating gaffes that hurt the team and kept the Argos rolling, but the game was still winnable, had they been able to make just a few more plays.

  2. Sea of Dead // October 1, 2017 at 11:58 am //

    Absolutely bang on, Milty. The Cats should have won this one and a few others to boot but, as you said, bad habits are hard to break and they let another one slip through their hands.

    Nice to hope for more but the reality is that the Cats are 1-6 at home and have only three wins on the season. Those numbers are pathetic. They may bounce back next game but it can’t last with the players on this team and the coaching/mgmt staff that run it.

    So one can hope but be prepared for the inevitable result. We’ll be raking leaves when the Argo team and mgmt, which were slapped together a couple of months before the start of this season, play for the ‘big enchilada’.

  3. solara2000 // October 1, 2017 at 12:02 pm //

    Good analysis.Great, correct that, good or winning teams learn how to win through repetition, reward and reinforcement. Winning is a discipline. Like all disciplines it requires a conscious application of those lessons learned.
    This is not a playoff calibre team, hasn’t been for the better part of the last two seasons.
    Perhaps last night’s results are a ‘blessing-in-disguise’. Time to hit the ‘refresh’ key.

    • Yes,thanks Steve, you captured accurately the essence of the game.Not the best of teams this year but a Hamilton Hall of Fame reporter.

  4. If a team loses 8 games straight in an 18 game schedule — of course it quite a hill to climb. Edmonton will play Montreal next — a slump breaker!

  5. Steve is completely correct, as usual.

    This team is simply not good enough yet to overcome mistakes, and have to learn to be more consistent. Offense stalled when it needed to keep rolling, and couldn’t get the first downs when they really would have put nails in the opponent’s coffin. The defense stopped getting the same pressure on Ray in the 4th quarter and their pass coverage loosened up.

    Jones and Lolley have the offense and defense playing much much better football (though our kick return game leaves something to be desired) and this team is heading in the right direction. I expect the path to success will be a jagged one, but these backtracks are really frustrating nonetheless.

  6. The Coaching was AWFUL. If you have a strategy to run on First Down or pass short on First Down that strategy is to set up Second and short. You then must have a quick-hitting play, run or pass, to gain the few yards left. The Ti-Cats had no such plan on Second Down. A 50 yard pass when you need 3 yards is not a plan – forget the fact that Masoli threw the ball wildly over the receivers heard. We needed 3 freakin’ yards not 50. To win the game. We also never bring pressure on D when the other team is Third and Very Long. Third and SEVENTEEN and we bring no pressure and then the Lineman don’t even stay in their lanes and let Ricky “Snail” Ray roll out unmolested to find a wide-open receiver who has had time to work way downfield. This is horrible. This was an absolutely painful game to watch – PAINFUL!

  7. Steve: I don’t want to see all of the fault attached to this season blamed entirely on the players. June Jones has got a lot more mileage out of this team since he took over as HC than Austin ever did in the first 8 games of the season…..and going back to July 2016.
    Jones has made his share of mistakes but he has not been around the CFL for a long time. You are right about stupid penalties and some inconsistent play from Masoli. Jones has been a big help this season but he is not the future. I hope the Caretaker is on board to make sure the wheels are in motion to find an up and coming candidate by next season, who can lead this team back to respectability and eventually a Grey Cup.

  8. To lose a game like that, Steve, those damn seeds planted earlier in the season must have been the devil seeds.

    On the lighter side, that was an entertaining game by two teams that are trying hard to establish an identity in the CFL.Better than the first half of the Edmonton – Winnipeg game.This Cat game was fantastic compared to many boring games that take place during the season because it had many great plays and near great plays.Kudos to both coaches and players for the exciting action and shocking conclusion.

    As for next week,the Bombers are ripe for the taking and an unexpected, sound defeat by a dangerous Cat team with a thorn in its paw,angrier than ever, is coming.

  9. Johnny Fever // October 1, 2017 at 3:13 pm //

    I’m sick of shorthsighted posters her commenting on the officiating and citing conspiracy theories. Yes, the officiating was suspect and no, the CFL doesn’t have an integrity issue. However, the TICats miserable season is not about one game. The issues on this team run much deeper and have to do with its culture, one that is steeped in losing, these guys simply don’t have the moxy to win a big game and unravel at the first sign of adversity. Secondly, in a QB driven league, the TigerCats don’t have an elite QB to match the talents like Ray, Reilly, Mitchell and even Nichols. Hamilton will require an offseason to try to address these issues. Yes, whether you like or not, Manziel will be brought in & given every opportunity to start. Masoli proved again that he is serviceable but lacks the high-end skills to be an elite QB1. Also, not sure who was at the game last night, but I was & the were a tonne of empty seats which Bob Young sure can’t be pleased about, especially against the Argos in a big game. Manziel will sell seats – remember contorversy creates cash !!! Jones should be retained and have input of incoming players and players who most likely will get released. Only then can Jones, and the culture he creates, be fairly assessed. Remember he inherited this flawed sqaud from Austin: these are not his guys. Season’s over for the Tabbies, but the offseason looms large. Where is Mr.Bruno, the voice of reason, when we need him ???

    • Al? Hell of a coach…one of my all time favourite TC coaches. Never forgot what he did in 1986. Unfortunately passed away in 2014.

  10. enough is enough….please put our number one starting quarterback back in…

    • Johnny Fever // October 1, 2017 at 5:06 pm //

      You’ll have to wait for next season for that bubs. As for Collaros, Hamilton would be wise to trade him to either Sasketchewan, Montreal or even Toronto for Canadian talent & a first round draft choice.

    • We don’t have one…that’s the problem. There’s a potential one sitting on the bench in Edmonton though.

      • Question is … will he turn out the same as another starting QB the Cats got from Edmonton (aka Maas)?

  11. Looks like they are gonna sink or swim with Masoli and collaros traded and Manziel coming to town . Jones wants Manziel that move if it happens is a risk/reward move and not sure which one your gonna get but even if they do bring Manziel and let collaros go it’s gonna take time for Manziel to develop and that means that Masoli will be the number 1 untill or even if that happens . I would like to see collaros back in for some games under Jones and I feel the cats have to do that to determine how to move forward in the quarterback position . Letting collaros go if they choose to do so without allowing him any more games this season is not a smart move and would hate for that to come back to haunt you when he goes to Toronto and trestman turns him into an mop…ouch

  12. Johnny Fever // October 1, 2017 at 6:04 pm //

    The bottom line is that Collaros has a good chance of regaining some of his prior form on another team. However, let’s face reality, it ain’t going to be in the Hammer. The relationship between Collaros and the franchise is probably fractured and most likely beyond repair. So the TiCats face 2 options: allow Collaros to play out his bloated contact and allow him to leave for nothing via the free agency or trade him, to a destination of Hamilton’s choice, and get some valuable assets in return. I vote get some assests while the team can as opposed to getting no value in return. Manziel is younger and has great potential. Really, I’m not sure we should be worried about Collaros going to another team & lighting it up. Perhaps we should worry about Manziel going to Toronto, where the league would probably want him as to draw much needed attention to the Argos, and being a star in Hogtown.

  13. I’m going to be honest. It’s not as bad as it looks, and I’m an Argos fan. A few years ago the Double Blue were losing games close for stupid reasons (their own and the CFL’s officiating). Both Hamilton and Ottawa are closer than it appears, and with minor adjustments mentally and physically, three teams in the East will be decent next year. Montreal, now there’s a mess.

  14. Eddy Rayner // October 1, 2017 at 8:14 pm //

    For all those asking why Collaros wasn’t brought in, you can’t have your current starter constantly looking over his shoulder : ” Gee .. I am having a bad drive/quarter/whatever – are they going to yank me?” You need to give him a chance to work through a rough quarter … or maybe help him by providing better play-calling in yesterday’s 4th quarter. If we get to the point that we ARE eliminated from the play-offs, by all means give Zach his shot … heck – give one to Golson too. But for now, the team is Masoli’s … give him some support!

    • I disagree Eddy,Masoli would not mind Collaros coming in at all because this was a must win game and Masoli created a two touchdown lead nothing to sneeze at . Collaros is not the backup and may have changed the pace enough to win the game.Older coaches are reluctant to take the chance because it’s difficult to remove a winner gone cold and it’s difficult to time exactly when to make the change.Perhaps next game Masoli would still be in charge of a winning team instead of a losing team.Collaros a tool,a partner more likely in the strategy for winning.

      • There’s also lots of examples where the cold QB was pulled and the colder still QB threw the game away.

  15. frank emil sabados // October 1, 2017 at 10:14 pm //

    Tiger Cats almost made a comeback and made playoffs but Argos winning send reality to the Cats and Playoffs are a 1 in a million shot now which I don t see Cats making playoffs , that will make 2 years in a row that Cats miss the playoffs , hopefully Tiger Cats clean this up after the season

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