After throwing his first of two touchdown passes Monday night, Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Jeff Mathews was so excited, he ran full speed for nearly 70 yards and nearly knocked over his receiver in celebration.
He isn’t the only one who will need to temper his enthusiasm after the Ticats dismantled the Redblacks at Tim Hortons Field in their first exhibition of the season, winning 37-10. It was a dominating performance that saw Hamilton impose their will on both sides of the football, win the turnover battle and score on special teams for good measure.
Mathews, who is battling for the No. 2 job behind Zach Collaros, made a strong case by throwing for 188 yards on nine for 15 passing – a number sullied by a couple of drops – in 30 minutes of play. He looked remarkably comfortable in the pocket, especially considering he’s had exactly seven days of training camp to prepare himself.
He got some help, too. Hamilton kept their new-look offensive line in for the entire first half and the five-man unit of Jake Olson, Peter Dyakowski, Mike Filer, Ryan Bomben and Joel Figueroa provided both solid protection and a legitimate run game. Mathews also benefited from the presence of three first-unit wide receivers, including rookie Terence Toliver, who caught both Mathews’ 73 yard touchdown pass and Mathews himself during the ensuing celebration.
There was plenty of other good news. The Ticats defence, which was missing at least six probable starters, held the Redblacks off the board until early in the fourth quarter and harried a succession of Redblack quarterbacks as Adrian Tracy led the way with three sacks. Starter Henry Burris played 15 minutes and finished five for seven for 56 yards.
With return man Brandon Banks sitting out, Terrell Sinkfield and Quincy McDuffie handled the return duties with McDuffie ripping off a 98 yard kick off return for a touchdown to start the second half, giving the home side a 27-0 lead. Kicker Justin Medlock had a perfect night, hitting two fields and connecting on all four of his 32-yard touchdown conversions.
That long extra points was just one of several new rules introduced for this season – including new regulations surrounding pass interference – but the game wasn’t the flag-fest many had predicted.
Those intent to rain on the parade could point to the fact that it did actually rain at one point. There werel a couple of dropped passes by Hamilton receivers and a couple of moments of undisciplined play. The injury tally has yet to be fully determined but Tolliver left the game with an upper body injury and a couple of Canadians, Martin Pesek and Preston Huggins, went down as well.
The Ticats now have 11 days before their second and final pre-season game in Winnipeg, a contest that will be more about getting ready for the regular season than evaluating talent.
But if Monday’s performance was any indication, the Ticats have plenty of it.