EDWARDS: A Ticats win in Calgary could have set the tone for the season. It didn’t happen.

Lost in the general aura of enthusiasm surrounding the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ 6-4 finish to the 2017 season was this little factoid: all four of those losses came by eight points or less.

One came in overtime, a critical game against Toronto that saw the Ticats blow a 14-point fourth quarter lead and the Argonauts convert a third-and-18 in the late stages, tie the game on a two-point convert and win in the extra frame. A home loss to Calgary saw the Ticats commit a pass interference penalty that set up the game-winning field goal with zeros on the clock. Another happened when they gave up a two-point lead with 90 seconds left in Ottawa by allowing a 43-yard touchdown run.

The Ticats also won some close ones as well: a 24-22 triumph on Labour Day for the first victory of the June Jones era came when Lirim Hajrullahu (now with the Hamilton) missed a last-minute 37-yard field goal that would have given Toronto the win. They took a 26-22 nail-biter over Ottawa the following week by storming out to a 23-7 halftime lead and hanging on for the victory. In their one-point win over B.C. on Sept. 22, quarterback Jeremiah Masoli drove them into field goal range on their final possession and Sergio Castillo sent them home winners.

Though Saturday’s 28-14 scoreline wouldn’t indicate a close game, the reality is that the win in Calgary was very much there for the taking. Hamilton had the ball at their own 34 yard-line with just under three minutes to play and trailing by just six. When Masoli moved them to the Stampeder 45 with just over two to play, the Ticats looked to be in a position to steal one on the road and walk away with their first victory in Calgary since 2004.

Instead, Masoli threw in an ill-advised interception, forced to roll to his right after pressure from Micah Johnson up the middle. Instead of promptly getting the ball back, the Ticats defence gave up a touchdown and that was that.

The easiest thing to do is pin the loss on Masoli and question whether he has the big-moment mojo that all elite quarterbacks seem to possess (and thus strengthen the argument for the pro-Johnny crowd.) But the numbers don’t back that up. Masoli had two game-winning drives in the last three minutes in 2017 and two more in just eight starts in 2016. He also orchestrated the game-winning drive in the 2015 East Semi-Final and put them in position to win the final. Yes, he made a bad decision on Saturday: it happens to all quarterbacks.

No, this was a team loss (as they all are.) A football sage once told me that good teams take care of business at home, beat bad and mediocre teams on the road but the last step in the evolution is learning how to win against elite teams in hostile environments. In a very limited sample size under Jones, the Ticats haven’t really been able to do any of those things consistently.

Repeatedly losing close games can become part of a team’s DNA, too. And while the Ticats certainly aren’t there yet, the idea of the June Jones Ticats being a close-but-no-cigar squad, one that fills its fan base with dread when the big moment inevitably arrives, is starting to germinate.

There’s no shame in losing to Calgary, certainly on the road where they’ve been essentially unbeatable in the Bo Levi Mitchell era. But in the same way that last year’s 60-1 shelling at McMahon came to be a defining moment in their 2017 season, Saturday’s loss had the potential to be an equally impactful moment in a decidedly different way: a come-from-behind, last-minute road win against an elite West Division team would have kickstarted the season and given this squad an instant and dangerous identity. Instead, we just have the same old questions.

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 (1550 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.

53 Comments on EDWARDS: A Ticats win in Calgary could have set the tone for the season. It didn’t happen.

  1. A better running game would surely help and another poster alluded to the fact that no extra import running backs were retained but plenty of offensive linemen were retained. Hopefully between White and Green, help is on the way.

    • Yes you are right and you aren’t going to do too much with Timmis at running back.

      • Really why is that? Hey, the World Cup of Faking is on now, how come you’re here?

  2. Chopper11 // June 17, 2018 at 2:37 pm //

    I think that was a pretty negative article. If you consider Calgary being the best team, they went toe to toe with them in their park until late in the fourth quarter. I think I like what I saw, and to me there is no thinking of a losing close game habit or anything like that.

    • Only time will tell – Milt Stegall did not think Calgary will be as dominant this year and if BLM plays like that all season he could very well be right.

    • Agreed….Cats were 1 poor decision (pic) away from a win. Think if they had an established run game they would have had the win.

      • But on the other hand, Calgary fans would say that all of them dropped passes by Stamps receivers and they should’ve put the Ticats away early.

  3. Yes, Masoli won lots of close ones when winning the pac 10 in 2009 for Oregon. Just getting to the Rose Bowl is big. Losing a close one to lake Erie border state power Ohio State is no shame. Letz win the rezt. Manziel can play when we clinch the Easy East with 3 games to play.

  4. Masoli is NOT the “guy”. Manziel isn’t either – yet. IMHO, and my wife’s, they got rid of the wrong QB.
    Collaros 1, Masoli 0.

    • What a silly comment !

      • Steve J. // June 18, 2018 at 4:46 pm //

        Why is it silly? Collaros looked better beating the Argos than Masoli did losing to the Stamps. I like Masoli, but I think Collaros is a better all round QB. I would rather have seen Collaros and Masoli in Hamilton this year than Maziel as the backup.

  5. As a team Calgary was better but not that much better. And they certainly can complain about the officials giving Hamilton an edge … sigh. As a QB Masoli out performed BLM. Yes the last minute pic was a bad judgment call but BLM had one of his own players. Cats need a better run game and their D needs to figure out how to stop the run.

  6. The sooner Manziel becomes staring quarterback, the sooner the Ticats will start winning.

    • That’s a joke. Manziel is not ready. He didn’ do anything in preseason that would indicate he’s any better than any other backup.

      • Catmando. You don’t have a clue on manziels talent. If you had Manziel the game he is a finisher. He has the ability to make electrifying plays. Much higher ceiling than Masoli. If Manziel was in the game with the same plays called and starting offensive ve lines and receivers there is no doubt after 3 quarters of play he would have had more than 11 points EVEN though he is stilll learning. He is a finisher. All you witness d is Manziel with 2nd and third loffensive linemen and receivers in pre season.

        • Steve J. // June 18, 2018 at 4:51 pm //

          John, that’s total bulls**t and pure conjecture on your part. He hasn’t done jack sh** in the past four years at any level. Catmando is absolutely correct. Manziel might be the guy someday, but it won’t be tomorrow, next week, or even next month. Give him time to develop before or you are just setting him up to fail once again.

    • Who do you want him to stare at? Is his mere gaze so powerful that opponents will crumble when he so much as looks their way?

  7. Happy Father’s Day to all of you Dads out there !

    Cheers fellas, have a great day

  8. Anthony Kaduck // June 17, 2018 at 3:46 pm //

    A pointless illegal block took a TD return off the board. An unnecessary holding call killed a drive. I could go on. The point is there is plenty of blame to go around for losing a close one in Calgary. These are fixable errors.

    • But it works both ways. Calls against the Stamps that shouldn’t have been called an interference on Ticat defenders that should’ve been called.
      It’s what happens in football.
      The Stamps played bad and any team could’ve gone in there and beat them.
      Never mind the Tiger Cats have the Esks next week.

  9. bigplay // June 17, 2018 at 4:09 pm //

    Amicus// who’s fault is no run game and having trouble stopping the Run? These Idiots cut Storm had only 1 real International complete RB on the roster and when he got hurt they scrambled to sign a out of shape John White who did not know the Cats play book yet they have 12 O-lineman and 4 free safeties.And the part about stopping the Run they gave away a stud of a D-tackle to BC(Coleman had 7 Tackles last night)for nothing and his replacement Jason Neill had 2 Tackles.Thats the Cats management in a Nutshell do not know what else you were expecting should be use to this kind of stuff by Now!

  10. SeaFiddle // June 17, 2018 at 4:33 pm //

    Sports headlines south of the border: Manziel sits, TiCats lose. What’s it going to be next week? Manziel sits again, TiCats lose again? The TiCats must win or the mounting pressure to start JF will overwhelm even Jones. The ESKS were almost beaten last week by a rookie QB playing his first CFL game. I have to believe that Manziel with a top college pedigree and 2 years in the NFL could have done better. I say Masoli has to win this game.

    • Don’t mean to disappoint you SeaFiddle but the Ticats coaching staff is not going to be paying attention to headlines south of the border, let alone be swayed by them to start Manziel. Manziel has talent, no question about it, but getting him into the fray as a starter before he’s totally ready (and after only about 4 weeks up here he isn’t) would not be doing him any favours. He needs more time to fully assimilate the differences in the game and learn the playbook.

      • SeaFiddle // June 18, 2018 at 11:55 am //

        If the losses keep piling up and Jones keeps JF on the bench you can bet he will be fried in the US press. That alone won’t make Jones change his mind but it is just another log on the fire and it goes to the credibility of Jones as a coach.

        That being said, I agree that it is not the right time to bring JF in. Not because he couldn’t do a pretty decent job from the start but because Masoli needs to show that he is not the QB to lead Hamilton back to the Grey Cup. Bringing in JF too soon would make it too easy to pull him back out if things didn’t work out right away.

        After watching Streveler, a QB from a relatively low level college, start as an absolute rookie against the ESKS and put up 30 points, I just don’t buy the CFL talking points that it takes a lot of time to be a QB in the CFL. What takes time is learning how to be a QB with no decent offensive line in front of you. A CFL QB is getting very little time compared to a typical NFL QB.

  11. MR. Green // June 17, 2018 at 5:18 pm //

    The Grey Cup isn’t won week 1. Bo said something right. Ga!es come down to 3 or 4 plays. Sometimes 1. I think Hamilton had a couple rookie DB’s. Glanville will also learn an adapt.
    Next week is a tough battle again. I expect an Edmonton win but hope for a TiCat win.
    I think they should try a couple Manziel packages. They had Franklin in Toronto throw a TD pass on a short play. It’s not a bad thing to have a package for your backup, even in closer games. Masoli should and will be starting for a while.

  12. It’s the first game.

  13. You can’t buy a Caddy with $1,400,and you can’t win a CFL game with 14 points.The interception didn’t matter much when you can’t score points.

    The offence needs a changin’, either a new quarterback ( unlikely )or a running back or some new receivers.Take your pick.The offensive line looked steady.

  14. Catmando… Actually Manziel had the best numbers.. No interceptions, 1 TD, 3 FG drives. Masoli had 2 interceptions, 1 TD and no other scores. The other 2 had an interception each. Dane had a Touchdown scoring drive. Check your facts before you yack.

    • Art – You have to temper those Manziel stats by considering who he was playing against. Not the best team in the league and certainly not the first string players on the opposing teams. Also playing against “vanilla” defenses – not one of the best defenses in the league. Stats are great but must be taken in the context in which they occurred.

  15. They are in better shape this year than last. I see a squad that can learn to win.

  16. Marc Antony // June 17, 2018 at 7:22 pm //

    I know it’s only week 1 but some of those penalty calls on DB’s were a real mystery. If a DB even passes wind near a receiver they drop a flag for defensive interference. Both teams were victimized. Penalty calls at crucial times can impact the outcome of a game. I hope the refs loosen up a little as the season goes on.

  17. One thing I noticed….we need Whitlock back on the D-line! They were making some good runs on us and I think Whitlock would be a big improvement back in there. Hopefully White is ready to go this week.

    • Sea of Dead // June 17, 2018 at 9:57 pm //

      No, what we could have really used was ‘head hunter’ Coleman to give opposing QBs something more to think about (but foolishly traded to BC), an interior tackle that can do more than just push a guard back 2-3ft and a LB other than Dean who can actually stop the run rather than the overpaid, past their best-before-date guys that we continue to retain.

      • Coleman was a gamer. Struck fear in the hearts of QB’s (just ask Jennings, Reilly, or Harris). If you want a good cry check out the highlight again of his hit on Reilly last year at THF. Stupid trade.

  18. I m sick and tired of hearing all the dam excuses. They didn’t play well against a good western team and they lost!! You can’t blame the ref for losing the game!The Cats will be coming home with 0-2. Nothing really new here, just get use to it. The east always weaker than the west. So far all the western teams beat the eastern teams so far.

  19. I nice balanced and reasoned article…nicely done Drew. 🙂

  20. Eatinghorses. // June 18, 2018 at 1:56 am //

    Calgary will have a tough year. BO still needs to grow and mature. Perhaps fatherhood will help. Needs to be coached and mentored more to make consistently smart on field moves.I hope Bo remains healthy.

  21. Mazoli is simply NOT a #1. Talking about him as a #1 doesn’t change this. Giving him a contract as if he is a #1?doesn’t change this. He disappears in games for long periods. Still can’t even execute a QB Sneak. Embarrassing. Padded stats last year against dreadful Montreal twice, BC once. Really was under no pressure last year. When got close to play-offs choked. I have never understood the fascination.

  22. Freelasagahunter // June 18, 2018 at 5:59 am //

    Shut up and enjoy the stats TCS fans.

  23. gocatsgo // June 18, 2018 at 6:34 am //

    Closing….one of the tougher things that a team has to figure out and be confident that they can do when given the opportunity…Ticats had the opportunity and as Drew said they didn’t come through…. but it happens and
    sometimes teams are better for it when the next chance comes up…sometimes…let’s hope !

  24. Jesus Drew…. I think you’re over analyzing here…..it’s week 1 and they played well, far less mental mistakes than in the Kent Austin era. Last time I checked the grey cup has never been awarded in June!

  25. Hamilton played a pretty good game for week 1 against arguably the best team in the CFL. They had a punt blocked against them and their own punt return TD called back. Masoli outplayed Mitchell. The D improved as the game went on. Things are looking up for the Tiger-Cats in 2018.

  26. Saynotoapathy // June 18, 2018 at 10:53 am //

    I totally agree with the headline Drew. It may seem silly for me to call game 1 a statement game but if the Cats had beat Calgary they would have been the talk of the league (for a little while at least). However the Cats still have a chance to set the tone for the season if they bounce back and beat Edmonton Friday night. If the Cats lose again all is not lost by any means but it will mean there is a lot of work to be done.
    And speaking of the Cats first round draft choice ……… seriously mate, your going to stay away and argue over money. Trade this loser.

  27. TFMBC.. How do you temper the stats of Masoli,s 2 interceptions in 1/3 Of a pre-season game? What excuses do you have for a fumble list and super bad interception against stamps?

  28. SeaFiddle // June 18, 2018 at 12:11 pm //

    The thing that bothers me most about Masoli’s interceptions in both the preseason and against the Stamps is the type of interceptions they were. They were balls that shouldn’t have been thrown…period. You can’t make desperation throws when you still have time to make another play (or two) and expect to lead a comeback with time running down. It’s the decision making I question not the ability.

  29. David Tress // June 18, 2018 at 1:28 pm //

    Keep in mind Bo was under fifty percent and Calgary had to settle for field goals for most of the night. It was a game Manziel likely would have won. He doesn’t throw as many picks. Hamilton missed a golden opportunity to pull off an upset.

  30. TFMCB.. How do you temper the stats of Masoli,s 2 interceptions in 1/3 Of a pre-season game? What excuses do you have for a fumble lost and super bad interception against stamps?

  31. Oops already posted this

  32. I enjoyed the game, but it was interesting to see BLM respond as clutch winning QB’s do. He willed the team and got a touchdown and put the game away. That’s what big-time QB’s do. Calgary didn’t play a great game and Hamilton should have taken it. But BLM is so elite and stole the win.

    I like Masoli more and more… but he needs to take it to that elite level. Otherwise, Calgary and Edmonton will hand them their lunch every time.

    • Mr. Elite was under .500…just so you know. Sorry, there is no “willed”. Unfortunately the TC team sagged after the Masoli pic. Even the water boy could have taken the team down the field for the winning points.

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