The (many) highs and (few) lows of the Ticats’ 38-21 win over Edmonton

No lamenting what could have been this week. The Ticats went into Edmonton and laid a beating on the home side, taking the lead early and never surrendering it en route to a 38-21 victory over Edmonton at Commonwealth Stadium.

It was a solid 60 minutes of football from the black and gold, one of the best all-around performances from the team under June Jones. The offence was rolling, the defence was good in parts during the first half but really picked things up in the second half, and special teams did their part.

High: Jeremiah Masoli silences the critics

If you’re still hating Jeremiah Masoli after this one, I don’t know what to say. For the second straight week Hamilton’s No. 8 out-dueled a former MOP. Last week, it was Bo Levi Mitchell; this week, it was Mike Reilly. Masoli put on a clinic against Edmonton, completing 19-of-29 passes for 332 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also added another 59 yards along the ground on seven carries. It was a masterful performance by Masoli and one that really should silence every critic he has. He went into a tough environment with his team needing a win and played wonderfully. This is his team. He is the starting quarterback. No questions asked. End of story.

High: Lord have Mercer

The lack of a run game was one of Hamilton’s downfalls a week ago, but that surely wasn’t the case this week as Hamilton picked up 196 yards on the ground on 25 carries, with 17 of those carries and 133 of those yards coming from former Calgary Dino Mercer Timmis. The Burlington native had by far the best game of his pro career on Friday night, running roughshod over the Edmonton defence and finding the hole consistently when given the ball. He also found the end zone twice, with his second score being a 44-yard beauty that sealed the game for the Ticats. With Alex Green still on the shelf and John White not quite ready to hit the field, Timmis was given a chance to run with the ball and boy did he make the most of his opportunity.

Low: QB runs on second and long

If there was one aspect of the offence’s performance to harp on it was the choice to run a couple of QB keepers on a pair of second-and-long plays. I know the goal is to keep the defence guessing, but sometimes the right play is the obvious one. While those calls ultimately meant very little, I hope we see those plays never called again in those situations.

High: Big plays, balance and efficiency

Maybe it is a product of being ahead most of the game, but Hamilton had the type of offensive balance that makes fans like me salivate. The Ticats ran the ball 25 times and passed the ball 29 times. Contrast that to last week when the team ran the ball just 12 times and threw it 36 times. While I don’t think a near 1:1 pass-run ratio is likely to be the norm, if they can get it to 2:1 most games things are likely going well for the team.

The Ticats also made the most of their offensive snaps by absolutely dominating the time of possession game. Hamilton had the ball for 35:46 compared to Edmonton’s 24:14, and that over-11-minute difference in time of possession led to the Ticats putting up 500 yards of total offence and pretty much exerting its will over the home side late in the game. You keep a defence on the field for almost 36 minutes and that’s how you win games by three scores.

Lastly, it wasn’t like the Ticats just ground out a win as they also excelled with chunk plays. Hamilton had eight plays of 20-or-more yards, which helped set up a number of Ticats’ scores (two of their touchdowns came on plays of 45 and 44 yards). Hamilton controlled the clock, balanced their attack and hit big plays when needed. You couldn’t ask for better offensive execution than we saw on Friday night.

High: Making the MOP not look so outstanding

It was another tough week for one of the game’s elite quarterbacks against this Ticats defence. A week after holding Bo Levi Mitchell under 50 per cent passing, the Ticats did the same for most of the game to Mike Reilly. The reigning MOP finished the game 20 of 30 for 286 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but it was tough sledding for Reilly most of the way. He had almost zero success outside the deep ball early (more on that in a second) and was never really able to get into a rhythm. Hamilton’s defence is still a work in progress, and there are still things they need to get better at, but overall the results have been mostly positive after two weeks.

Low: Deep ball coverage

So the one major area that the Ticats’ defence was awful in came when trying to stop the deep ball. Mike Reilly threw them early and more often than you would expect, but he was very successful on them. First came the 88-yard touchdown pass to Duke Williams on their second play from scrimmage. Then came a deep pass to Kenny Stafford that led to Edmonton’s second touchdown. Lastly, Reilly threw another deep ball to Stafford that fell incomplete, but set Edmonton up on the one-yard line thanks to a pass interference call on Jumal Rolle. The Ticats got better defending the deep ball late in the game — Mike Daly had a gorgeous knockdown on a pass intended for Duke Williams in the fourth quarter, and Hamilton’s lone interception came on a deep ball that was knocked away by Rolle and into the waiting hands of Richard Leonard — but it was a thorn in their side early and had they not given up so many big plays this game would have been over a lot earlier.

High: This legion of doom are road warriors

June Jones has been head coach for 12 games for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. They have seven wins in those 12 games, five of which have come on the road. Winning on the road is tough in pro sports, and you will often hear CFL coaches talk about going .500 or so on the road and winning seven to nine games at home. The Ticats used to have one of the best home-field advantages in the CFL — they ran off 10 straight wins to open Tim Hortons Field — but that has dwindled over the last couple of years. With them winning on the road with incredible frequency, all they need to do is start finding a way to win in the comfy confines of their home stadium and this team will be among the league’s best.

Low: Leonard struggles

Interception aside, it was a rough night for Richard Leonard. Last year’s should-have-been top rookie was victimized for a couple of touchdown passes and has shown some struggles in adapting to Jerry Glanville’s man-heavy schemes. Like the defence as a whole, his play got better as the game went along, but we have yet to see the shutdown player we saw last season that made him a fan favourite in Tigertown and one of the league’s best first-year players.

High: Everyone eats

The Ticats have one of the most talented receiving corps in the CFL and they proved that against Edmonton. A week after Jalen Saunders and Mike Jones (WHO!? MIKE JONES!) each went for over 100 yards, it was Brandon Banks and Luke Tasker’s turn to feast as they both went over 100 yards. Banks led the team in receptions (six) and yards (117), while Tasker put up 103 yards on five catches and bested Banks’ one touchdown with two of his own. The second Tasker touchdown came on a beautiful crossing route that Tasker was aided by a block by Banks. Tasker took it 45 yards to pay dirt and Banks avoided making the crack-back block (that would have negated the touchdown), opted to turn up field and make the last block Tasker needed to find the end zone. The last two week’s showed how dangerous this offence could be because you never know who is going to be the guy in any given game.

High: The returns of Breaux and Toliver

The story leading up to the game was a pair of all-star-calibre players returning to the Ticats against Edmonton and neither player disappointed in their comebacks.

Terrence Toliver, sidelined for over a year with a knee injury, played in his first game since Week 1 of 2017 and showed everyone why a 6-foot-5 receiver is useful in any offence. Toliver got involved early, catching the second pass thrown by Jeremiah Masoli, and finished the game with 76 yards on four catches.

Breaux’s stats are almost nonexistent, just one defensive tackle, but there is a reason for that: Edmonton just didn’t throw at him a lot. Mike Reilly said he wouldn’t shy away from Breaux, but it sure seemed like he did.

If this is what we got in their first games back, imagine how good these two will look in a couple of weeks.

Looking ahead

After waiting until Labour Day to get their first win last year, the Ticats got that monkey off their back in Week 2 this year. That’s a load off if their ever was one.

But things don’t get any easier from here, but at least the team will get to play their next game in front of a friendly crowd. The Ticats leave Alberta with a 1-1 record, which is about as good as you could have hoped, and now get a chance to get win No. 2 at Tim Hortons Field Friday when they host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Winnipeg has looked great through two weeks, in both a losing effort to Edmonton and a blow out win over Montreal. Rookie QB Chris Streveler has played magnificently in place of the injured Matt Nichols, and a game that looked like a sure win when the Nichols injury went down now suddenly becomes a game that could be one of the best of the early season. Two teams playing with a lot of confidence, both coming off impressive road wins, makes for a compelling match up.

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

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Josh Smith
About Josh Smith (373 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.

41 Comments on The (many) highs and (few) lows of the Ticats’ 38-21 win over Edmonton

  1. All of a sudden, Winnipeg looks dangerous. Strev looks like a young up and coming pro. Mtl was a mess but the bombers were good regardless. If the Ticats win at home, I’m all in 🙂

  2. Can anyone answer the following; everyone from Doug Flutie to Warren Moon states that Johnny M and any other first year QB will struggle with the CFL game, yet Steveller playing at a small Midwest school just 8 months ago, makes it look easy and could be considered an early MOP candidate? Good team in front of him for sure, but he still has to read, react and deliver….no? Maybe these experts don’t know as much as they think.

    • Streveler is not an MOP candidate.

      If you feel you know more than Moon and Flutie about quarterbacking in the CFL vs NFL, you should advertise your services to CFL teams. They would jump at the chance to hire you.

    • Billinburlington // June 24, 2018 at 1:40 pm //

      I have Wondered the same thing, and concluded that the time it takes for a new to the CFL QB to be successful is highly situational. I think that Moon and Flutie are probable correct, but you have to also consider how the team in front of that QB is playing, who the opposing teams are, and the numerous qualities of the QB.

      Streveler has been playing awesome for a new QB, as has the players in front of him. Remember, two games does not make a season.. Teams will adjust as they get more video on his style and adjust accordingly.

      But the bottom line is that Streveler has done well with his football smarts… something Johnny Manziel will get to test out on a CFL field… eventually.

    • Experts do not know as much as you think they do, but an expert can be useful when you need one. I am an expert on experts.

    • Across more of the season the struggles are likely to emerge, especially as defenses are prepared for the rookie’s tendencies, and he has to learn how to read a D.

      There have been a number of QBs who had early success then faltered, with many never succeeding again. E.g., Quinton Porter passed for more than 400 yards and 4 or 5 TDs in his second CFL game for Hamilton, and I also recall the Ticats’ Kevin Eakin having a 300-yard game in one of his starts before his CFL career withered and died young. There are similar examples across the league.

      Streveler has played great but over the longer haul we’ll see how he maintains that and adapts. I don’t want to see him do well next Friday, but if it turns out the Bombers have found a talented young QB then that’s worth applauding.

    • richinbanff (Rich Wilson) // June 24, 2018 at 3:53 pm //

      It’s all about the tape. Or in Streveler’s case, the lack of it.

    • Purrfect // June 24, 2018 at 7:34 pm //

      How about this, Moon and Flutie are speaking from their experiences. You’re the one labelling them as experts.

    • I can answer it for you…..both Edmonton and Montreal have terrible pass defences…. the kid is good but he’s yet to face real pressure with tight man coverage…..expect a different result this week

    • He certainly has looked good. Small sample size but O’Shea must be pretty happy. In a larger sample size of QB’s that have come from bigger schools it seems as though learning the Cdn game can be a struggle. The notion that Flutie and Moon (and others) feel that rookie QB’s have a steep learning curve is consistent with the larger sample size of rookie QB’s that have tried and struggled or failed. Always exceptions to the rule.
      Hope his game falters on Friday 😉

    • Tiger man // June 25, 2018 at 10:47 am //

      It’s only ONE game.

      Let’s not start mapping the parade route yet…..

  3. Too bad they didn’t trust Mercer to carry the ball more in week 1. It’s going to be a great game against the Bombers on Friday night.

  4. @Handler… excellent question… I too have wondered the same thing… Streveller sure looks good so far… so much for the BS “gotta learn the CFL game before you can excel”…

    • The same thought crossed my mind, Snake , Streveler is Iron Man in a football uniform and pads.

    • He has only played against Edmonton and Montreal, and thehaven’t looked great…Lets see what he does next two games.

  5. The Cats were a rolling machine against Edmonton, exciting, and marvelous, and fun.
    Not an easy task to judge defensive backs but you have pointed out that Leonard could do better.With many teams utilizing huge and tall receivers like Duke Williams in Edmonton, and Eric Rogers in Calgary,how does Leonard at 5’8″ cover these guys? A formidable undertaking for any defensive back.
    However to be fair as you have mentioned Leonard did great covering for the Cats last season.

    • Leonard may be short, but he’s got a great vertical leap. Definitely a challenge going up against 6’4″ or more, but good timing and athleticism can compensate.

    • Anthony Kaduck // June 24, 2018 at 7:34 pm //

      I just re-watched the game and I don’t see any reason to criticize Leonard’s play. He made a number of drive-killing knockdowns and was solid in run support. He was flagged for a highly dubious PI call – if we still had a challenge it might well have been overturned. As for being beaten on the deep ball – we would have to know the coverage scheme to know who was responsible. On the Duke Williams catch there didn’t seem to be any safety help. Overall I thought Leonard was very solid as usual.

  6. canadianfootballfan // June 24, 2018 at 2:21 pm //

    Sorry… but only losers find negatives in big wins. EVERY game has negatives – win or lose.

  7. bigplay // June 24, 2018 at 2:31 pm //

    The Cats surprised the Hell out of me and I was wrong on what I thought would be the outcome. Now with that out of the way there needs to be improvement to be able to consistently compete and be a above .500 % Team.First the Cats need to find a consistent pass rush from the edge, Second they need more production out of the SAM spot and their punt returner has been very poor after the first 2 games not sure if it is blocking or the returner thought Ryan Shakeir knew how to get up the field quick in Camp but Frankie Williams had the one TD return against the Argos 3rd stringers in pre-season maybe swayed Coaching Staff. Last two pre seasons really like Chandler Worthy I believe he is available.Hats off to the Cats Big Win out West!

  8. Freelasagahunter // June 24, 2018 at 2:44 pm //

    “Silence all critics”. “End the Manziel talk”. Man, Smith and Edwards are taking this personally.

  9. Handler… Every case of a new QB from wherever has multiple outcomes from great to good to bad and ugly. I suspect instant successes from mid major US colleges unerve many CFL fans because it makez it look like the league is easy. Conversely hi profile failures or long learning curves reassure everyone that this is one bad ass league that iz hard to mazter. The truth is always in the middle.

  10. Not worried about Leonard – he’ll be just fine once he’s comfortable with Glanville’s new schemes. Too much talent not too. Nice of you Josh to point out Banks’ block that sprung Taker. Not the first time he’s made a key block for a fellow receiver (or RB for that matter) and that aspect of his play often gets overlooked.

    • Sorry…”Tasker”.

    • It was a nice block (Saunders came over to help too, didn’t he?)

      Teams have really been blanketing Banks closely so far, and he’s had to fight for the ball. If they can get him out into more open space he’ll do some damage.

      I didn’t care for his little tippy-toe into the endzone on his TD catch though. Just get in there, no need to show up the DB or risk something bad happening. Nobody else was around, but still… recall Chris Williams losing a sure touchdown a few years ago due to hotdogging and not paying attention.

      • Drew’s dirty beard // June 24, 2018 at 10:22 pm //

        Yes, Saunders sprinted across too, to try and help Tasker get in— that’s a fantastic sign for the corps

      • Philski // June 25, 2018 at 2:57 am //

        Was at that game…it was at good old Ivor Wynne vs the Als. Think Chris (it’s all about ME) Williams was actually about 15 yards, or more, away from the goal line when he resorted to his antics. Some linebacker got him before he crossed the line. I guess for TC fans it was an ominous sign of things to come.

  11. Ron Tuthill // June 24, 2018 at 4:01 pm //

    Josh I have to take umberage with you on your assessment of Richard Leonard. He may be the shortest of the defensive backs and every back can blow a play it seemed as the game went along he was all over the field and made a nifty INT. On the other side as you so aptly mentioned Breaux’s name was seldom mentioned because Reilly seldom threw in his direction so I guess he was doing his job. I thought the whole defense did a heck of a job and of course there is still room to improve which could mean that this defense could be scary. As a long time Ti-cat fan their teams were always built on defense and now with a strong offense you have the best of both worlds.

  12. richinbanff (Rich Wilson) // June 24, 2018 at 4:02 pm //

    The couple big plays a game is going to be the average for the season. Glanville’s D philosophy seems to be about taking the flat and intermediate middle away and leaving the go routes in single coverage. It makes sense, as completion percentage drops by air yards in all leagues. But the downside is the occasional(hopefully) big play.

  13. Another possible Streveler conclusion is the cold weather prairie states and provinces are an underappreciated source of Quarterbacks. Carson Wentz with the Eagles went to U of North Dakota and the Bills first rounder went to U of Wyoming.

  14. Wow. Run-a-way trains. Everybody chill, it’s just two weeks. We will see as it unfolds and how healthy teams remain. Also, the CFL is played over three seasons,summer fall and winter. Mazi has experienced all that. Manzi, not so much. Defence is about gelling, systems and timing of calls….long way to go yet folks. Patience.

    • Philski // June 26, 2018 at 4:04 am //

      Yep. But as a TC fan, 1-1 sure sounds a heck of a lot better than 0-2 last year…which proceeded to morph to 0-8.

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