Bombers at Ticats Game Preview

willy_drew-1040x572The August homestand continues as the Ticats host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Tim Hortons Field tomorrow evening. The Ticats enter the game on a two-game winning streak, while the Bombers head to Hamilton fresh off their win last week over the BC Lions. Both teams sit at three wins, with the Ticats a half game out of first in the East, while the Bombers sit in third in the West.

When these two teams met in Week 2 the Ticats knocked Winnipeg QB Drew Willy from the game and scored 35 straight points en route to a 52-26 win. It was a decisive win for the Ticats, but one that is unlikely to be repeated if Willy is at the helm for the Bombers for the entire game.

The Bombers will be looking to avenge their Week 2 loss, while the Ticats will try to push their undefeated run at Tim Hortons Field to nine games. Both of these teams match up well with one another and it should be a good one on Sunday evening in Hamilton.

Here are five things that the Ticats need to do in order to regain first place in the East Division and up their record to 4-2.

Replacing Andy and Carl

Hamilton will not have two key contributors against Winnipeg as running back C.J. Gable and receiver Andy Fantuz suffered injuries against the Argos on Monday that necessitated putting both players on the six-game injured list. The team is going to need a number of players to step up to fill the void left by two of Hamilton’s top offensive weapons.

At running back, the team will likely roll with Ray Holley, but also expect to see a healthy dose of Anthony Woodson. Woodson filled in when Gable went down on Monday and played very well, rushing 10 times of 54 yards. Holley started the three games Gable missed at the start of the year to mixed results. The team also brought back Nic Grigsby, but he won’t see any time against his former club. Hamilton does not focus on the run as much when Gable is out, so do not expect Holley or Woodson to amass many carries.

Filling in for Fantuz will be fellow Canadian Matt Coates, but it will be the other receivers that will likely see an increase in targets with No. 83 out for the foreseeable future. Expect Luke Tasker to become more heavily involved in the passing attack in his second game back, while Bakari Grant and Terrence Toliver should both continue to see their fair share of attention from quarterback Zach Collaros.

Pressuring Willy

It is said every week, but the if the Ticats can get pressure on the opposing quarterback and force him into bad throws, they have a great chance of coming away with a victory. The Ticats failed to get a lot of pressure on Argos QB Trevor Harris last week, getting just two sacks, and allowed Harris to throw for 326 yards. If they allow Drew Willy to connect with his receivers for over 300 yards, the Ticats might suffer their first loss ever at Tim Hortons Field.

To avoid Willy having a field day, they must get pressure. They did that well in their Week 2 matchup, constantly sending five or more after the Winnipeg quarterback. The constant blitzing forced Willy into mistakes and eventually led to his exit from the game following a hellacious hit by Ticats defensive lineman Adrian Tracy. If the Ticats can have the same type of success as they did five weeks ago in Winnipeg, they should get the win.

Containing Westerman

While Winnipeg’s defense hasn’t been great, one big, bright spot has been the play of first-year CFLer Jamaal Westerman. The behemoth from Rutgers has five years of NFL experience, so he is far from a rookie, and after a somewhat slow start to the season, No. 55 has really turned it on as of late. He had nine tackles and a sack two weeks ago against Edmonton and has been a pressure-creating nightmare for opposing offenses. The Ticats simply cannot allow Westerman to wreak havoc in their backfield, so it will be up to the offensive line to keep the mammoth defensive end off QB Zach Collaros. The less Westerman’s name is called, the more likely a positive outcome for the Ticats becomes.

Eliminate big plays

The Ticats did a good job of holding the Argos trio of terrific freshman receivers in check for most of Monday’s game, and they will have to do the same against Winnipeg’s talented pass catchers if they hope to get the win. Things will be easier with Nick Moore missing the game due to injury, but the Bombers still have former 1,000-yard receiver Clarence Denmark as well first-year Bomber Darvin Adams. Adams came over to Winnipeg from Toronto via free agency this winter and has started to establish himself as one of Winnipeg’s most reliable receivers. Adams has seen an increase in production recently, catching for over 120 yards and a touchdown in two of his last three games. In those games, Adams had a pair of big plays, a 79-yard catch against Calgary and a 56-yard catch against BC. The third year man out of Auburn looks to be finding his groove in the CFL and limiting his big-play potential, and all big plays be it from Adams or someone else, is key for the Ticats tomorrow evening.

Take fewer penalties

This might sound silly, because it should be obvious, but the Ticats really need to get the number of penalties they take down. The Ticats are tied with the Argos for the most penalties per game, at 14.6, and the vast majority of them have been of the preventable variety — offsides, illegal procedures, etc. — which has got to be frustrating for the team’s coaching staff. The Argos were assessed more penalties than the Ticats on Monday, and if Hamilton can once again finish with fewer penalties than their opponents, winning their ninth in a row at Tim Hortons Field will almost be assured.

Josh Smith 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.