MILTON: Ticats need to take advantage of a vulnerable Riders squad

In everyday life — okay, politics aside – it’s not ethical to kick ‘em while they’re down.

But in pro sports, it’s one of the Ten Commandments: don’t let your opponents off the mat. On the contrary, remind them why they’re on their backs, then keep reminding them.

That will be the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ assignment at Mosaic Stadium Thursday Night, as they look to open a season at 3-1 for the first time since 2004, Year One of the Bob Young Era. Exploit what’s ailing the Saskatchewan Roughriders, especially early, and don’t let them regain any home-crowd advantage.

To a man, the Ticats and their coaching staff know that the Roughriders will be juiced with rebound adrenalin from the opening kickoff. Loading up with veterans and targeting survival into late November, they’ve staggered out of the gates at 1-2, losing two straight to, horrors, East Division teams, including last week’s embarrassing 23-17 decision at home to the previously hapless Montreal Alouettes.

And suddenly the Riders are sitting at No. 9, aka last, in 3DownNation’s Power Ranking, while being described in a variety of creative ways by their rabid, and judgemental, fans. You won’t find “good” or any of its synonyms among the adjectives.

“Saskatchewan will be very aggressive,” agrees Ticat head coach June Jones, referring particularly to the Rider defence. “They’ll be putting their ears back and coming. They had a disappointing game last week. They’ll come after us.”

That’s the Chris Jones way. The Saskatchewan head coach’s defence can do significant damage, particularly off the edges, where 34-year-old Charleston Hughes can still steam in from one end, leading the league with four sacks, and even-harder-to-restrain Willie Jefferson patrols the other.

“He (Jones) is a little bit of a wild card in the sense that he won’t be afraid to call the same things twice or if it’s not working he’s not afraid to switch it up,” says Ticat quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who’s off to a brilliant start. “Characteristic-wise, those guys are always big and physical and athletic. We’ve been kind of preaching all week, more so than any other week, be ready physically.”

The Riders have controlled the run in their trio of games against the other three eastern teams and that frames one of the central themes of this game.

Hamilton wins when its offence rushes often and effectively, creating just enough uncertainty to spring its phalanx of excellent, and mostly fast, receivers. The Alouettes’ Chris Williams blew by the Rider coverage — mostly Duron Carter — and Hamilton has three or four guys with that level of rpms.

Had the Hamilton head coach been around the league a little longer, Offensive Jones vs. Defensive Jones, would be one of those classic CFL confrontations, tagged by some kind of kitchy nickname. But while they recognize the tendencies, they’re not yet deep into each other’s head.

The Ticats need to avoid early sacks to neuter the crowd support, then make some hay on defence.

If Jones vs. Jones becomes a push, the Ticats’ defence must chew up a Saskatchewan offence that has, to be kind, sputtered.

With Zach Collaros’s concussion, Canadian Brandon Bridge gets his second straight start, although he was yanked after a weak first half last week. Chris Jones has been quite open in saying that backup David Watford will play again if Bridge wavers.

The Riders have scored only three offensive touchdowns and have curiously kept Carter mostly on defence, and didn’t give the ball to Jerome Messam last week. That combination has stimulated widespread indignation among Saskatchewan’s chattering classes.

The Riders offence is very suspect in the middle of the line and Hamilton’s been getting an enormous push from Jason Neill and Ted Laurent in the middle of their defensive line. And Nikita Whitlock may be more available to help there with running back John White on the active roster.

Bridge beat the Ticats 27-19 with three touchdown passes at Tim Hortons Field early in June Jones’ tenure. And if Messam becomes a factor, Carter gets some time at receiver and Bridge can get the ball out quickly to the likes of Naaman Roosevelt, the Riders could possibly right their ship, and their mentality, quickly.

It’s Hamilton’s job to make sure they don’t. One of Hamilton ’s blemishes has been not creating enough turnovers and this would be a good time and place to apply the vanishing cream.

After Thursday’s game the Ticats embark on their first of three bye weeks.

In mid-spring, had they been offered a 2-2 record heading into that bye off a brutal starting schedule – against the predicted top four teams in the west, three of them on the road – they’d have shrugged and accepted it.

Now they’ve got a chance to head out at 3-1.

If you’re going to be a championship team, you have to win the games you should win, particularly when the other team is clearly vulnerable.

And, for the Ticats, this is one of those games.

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.
Steve Milton
Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (243 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.

22 Comments on MILTON: Ticats need to take advantage of a vulnerable Riders squad

  1. Moncton Ticats fan // July 5, 2018 at 9:32 am //

    Always enjoy your insight, Steve. We all know that the Riders in front of cranky home field fans will be playing with intensity. Don’t be surprised if there are some borderline or late hits. Cats must not retaliate and negate any resulting penalties. This team has to be clearly shown they are not as good as they want to be.

    • The Cats winning two games doesn’t mean a hill of beans in this world, the fans want the Roughriders beaten twice in the coming weeks and we must get the record for Jerry Masoli.

      • The record means nothing! someone came up with a number of 300 yards and then checked back in stats.
        They should’ve come up with 350 yards, that would have narrowed it down to 3 QBs and not Masoli
        But individual stats don’t mean a thing if you can’t win a game, it doesn’t get you points in the standings.
        So Masoli ties a record but loses the game…………..I guess that makes some Ticat fans happy.

  2. JoeSchmuck27 // July 5, 2018 at 9:34 am //

    Great article Mr. Steve Milton. Especially enjoyed the introduction!

  3. Solara2000 // July 5, 2018 at 9:45 am //

    Captures the ‘handle with care’ scenario facing the Cats. They need to go into the game confidently but warily as the Riders will be eager to show their home-town fans they are contenders and not simply pretenders.

  4. Stampeding // July 5, 2018 at 10:02 am //

    Hamilton wins this on their worst night
    Yes watch out for chippy play and don’t take the retaliatory penalties.
    Carter will be up to his usual post play antics.
    Prediction, Hamilton wins, Carter is booted.

  5. Is Drew not covering the team anymore? I haven’t heard his voice in any of the interview videos and there seems to be more articles from Steve this year. Not complaining just curious.

  6. White Horse // July 5, 2018 at 11:53 am //

    If the riders O-line gets their act together and Bridge has time for his reads then the riders will have a chance. My Pickem still shows Ticats to win but close!!

  7. CJ likes to think he can outsmart his opponent and spring surprises on them with his personnel and schemes but I doubt he can throw anything at JJ and Glanville that the two experienced coaches haven’t seen. Hamilton as as good or better talent and should win this one on coaching alone! The coaches are NOT going to let the players take Saskie lightly.

    • What's it to you... // July 6, 2018 at 9:49 am //

      How did that work out for you guys, lmao…..Arrogant Hamilton got schooled again!!

  8. A win and the Cats keep sailing; a loss and they’re tied with the Red/Flats, because Montreal’s coming back to earth with a thud. There are too many players on the Ticats where the memory of last year is still sharp, so complacency shouldn’t be an issue. Besides, JJ is too smart and too experienced to not head that problem off. He’s saying all the right motivators to make sure his team is focused, just like he did against the ‘Peg. “Great team; don’t pay attention to results; coming at us hard; wounded tiger; NFL calibre athletes.” This team will be ready!

  9. Ticats63 // July 5, 2018 at 2:23 pm //

    Appreciate the excellent articles from Steve but also wondering where Drew is.

    I believe 3DownNation (and certainly The Scratching Post) are his creations, so wondering if he’s doing something else now.

    Also, what ever happened to Chris Schultz? I know he had some family matters to deal with a couple of years ago, but was hoping he’d return to TSN. A first class guy.

    Black and Forde are still around, and we are missing Drew and Chris. Four things I’d like to see reversed!

  10. MR. Green // July 5, 2018 at 3:12 pm //

    Riders will be better tonight. Hamilton is stressing Moore than ever to be ready physically. The key is ball control for the Riders. Keep Masoli on the sidelines as long as possible. That will be tough. Cats have a good offence and is better than week 1. I had an eerie feeling last week. This week I have a good feeling we will make positive strides. Win or lose this week does not make the season, but a win will go a long way. Masoli is the best QB in the CFL right now early in the season. Maybe a fumble, a couple tips and interceptions. It’s a long season and everyone will have a bad game.

  11. Typical predictable article from Milton

  12. Great analysis….more of this!

  13. Steve Milton has been hanging around hardened sports people for awhile hence his kick’em when your down mentality.I agree with Steve and I’am no stranger to a good kick ; in fact your speaking my language.

  14. Evil Empire // July 6, 2018 at 12:16 am //

    Masoli played like garbage. His throws were awful. And the worst throws were unforced errors. If a powerful D was in his face all night that’s one thing. But, that was not the case here. Got his record but did nothing with the game on the line. Sorry, but he’s not even in the conversation as being better than BLM. And, Mike Reilly would have marched the field on the last drive, and won that game.

    300 yards but, not a single TD is brutal. Better put a hold on the parade plans. But, in the awful East division, the Tabbies are still the best team.

  15. Well Evil Empire

    If you dont like Masoli or the Cats and just want to complain than go root for the Argos cant win them all Masoli has been fantastic

  16. David Tress // July 7, 2018 at 1:05 pm //

    If the Tiger Cats really want to take advantage of the Roughriders then they’d start Manziel next game and I bet they’d score more then 13 points.

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