Like drinking a glass of orange juice after brushing your teeth, the Ticats and Riders played a game of “football” that made you want to vomit in your mouth. Cosmic justice would have seen the game end in a tie because neither team deserved to win. It was an ugly game made uglier for the Ticats by the fact that they dominated pretty much every facet of the game yet came away with an “L” nonetheless.
The tone of this game was set very early, on the Ticats’ first drive as a matter of fact. After marching down the field facing very little resistance, the Ticats found themselves with a second-and-two from the four-yard line. Instead of using one of their bulls — like John White, Mercer Timmis or Nikita Whitlock — to hammer it for a first down, or possibly a touchdown, the Ticats opted for a pass. That pass fell incomplete and the June Jones decided to kick a field goal.
One has to wonder just how this game would have played out if the Jones was aggressive. Worst case is that Saskatchewan stuffs them and gets the ball at their own four-yard line. Considering how little success the Riders had on offence pretty much all night, the Ticats probably get a safety out of the exchange or perhaps a punt that would have put them around midfield. But Jones wasn’t aggressive and settled for three. It was a sign of things to come.
Low: Red zone offence
After two games the Ticats were a perfect 100 per cent on red zone opportunities. Two games later and that percentage has plummeted to 60 per cent after going two-for-four against the Bombers and zero-for-two against the Riders. It is those points left on the field in a five-point game that really sting. Had the Ticats capitalized on even one of those chances perhaps the outcome is different.
Low: Sometimes numbers do lie
“Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t” is a famous line from Jay-Z, but in the case of Thursday’s game numbers definitely do lie. Let’s look at the stats, shall we.
Net offence: Ticats 418 yards, Riders 275
Passing yards: Ticats 333, Riders 148
Time of possession: Ticats 32:57, Riders 27:03
Penalties: Ticats seven for 54 yards, Riders eight for 107
When those numbers are tipped so heavily in one direction that usually means a win. It is almost unfathomable to see a team get so thoroughly dominated and come out victorious. Yet here we are.
Low: Jeremiah Masoli’s one key flaw
Jeremiah Masoli threw for over 300 yards and is now tied for the CFL record for consecutive 300-plus yard passing performances. But other than that one stat, Jeremiah Masoli had by all accounts a bad night. His 53.5 per cent completion percentage is the lowest since he became the starter last Labour Day; he threw an interception for the fourth straight game, and limiting turnovers was one of the hallmarks of his play last year; and his fumble led to the Riders’ opening score and was what flipped momentum to the home side.
But the one thing Masoli continues to do that might be the flaw in his game is that he just doesn’t seem to ever want to throw the ball away. No matter how far he is chased backwards, no matter how dead the play may seem, Masoli still tries to make something of it. It is an admirable quality, but one that can also get him into trouble. The game-sealing interception in Calgary is one example, and against the Riders, he had a couple near calamitous throws that could have easily ended up in the opposition’s hands. Jeremiah Masoli has improved by leaps and bounds over the past year, but this one flaw still holds him back.
Low: Pretty much everything after the first quarter
Even with a paltry 4-0 lead after 15 minutes, it felt like the Ticats were one play away from breaking open the floodgates. But it never happened. Instead, the Ticats played perhaps their worst football under June Jones in the final 45 minutes of the game and allowed a Riders team that had no business being in the game to stay in it and eventually win it.
Over the years I have seen a lot of bad games from the Ticats, but the loss on Thursday is one of the most disappointing non-Grey-Cup losses I have witnessed. It is losses like this that keeps this team from joining the upper echelon with the likes of the Calgary Stampeders. The Stamps find ways to win ugly, whereas the Ticats don’t. They just did so much wrong over the final three quarters in a game that was there for the taking and the Ticats did not take advantage of that.
High: Changing game plans
It wasn’t all bad, and in the interest of not being completely negative, there are a couple things I did like. First of all was the game plan in the first quarter. We saw the Ticats do what they do best, mix the run and the pass, while sprinkling in some stuff we hadn’t seen in a while, like designated runs from Jeremiah Masoli. Two of the things June Jones has done really well in his short CFL head coaching career is adapt his game plan week to week and make excellent second-half adjustments. The latter did not occur in this game — it might have been Hamilton’s worst second half under Jones — but the former did. That’s what makes this team so unique and so difficult to game plan against. You never know what you are going to get from them on a week-to-week basis.
High: The defence
You saw the Riders’ offensive numbers up top, and while some of that was their own doing (seriously, Chris Jones, with the quarterback flip-flopping), it was also due to an excellent game from the Hamilton defence. The Riders scored 18 points, and even if six of those were on the offence, if a defence holds a team to under 20 they should expect to win.
They also held the Riders without a first down on seven of their 14 drives and did not allow a single Riders receiver to reach the 50-yard mark while shutting down Caleb Holley completely and making Namaan Roosevelt a non-factor (outside of one very nice catch). Hamilton’s defence did all it could to get the win; it was the offence that didn’t hold up its end of the bargain.
The Ticats now head into the first of their three bye weeks with a 2-2 record. Glass half empty says that record should be 3-1 because of how they outplayed the Riders on Thursday. Glass half full says many thought Hamilton would be 0-4 by their bye week and that Johnny Manziel would be prepping to make his first start in Week 6. So things aren’t all bad in Tigertown.
I’m sure if you had told many Ticats fans that the team would be .500 after four games against West Division opponents, three of which were on the road, they would have taken it.
The Ticats will get to exact a bit of revenge the next time they take the field as the Riders come to Tim Hortons Field for the last meeting between the two in 2018. I expect a much better game from the Tabbies in that one.