The streak is over: Ticats fall 26-23 to Als

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Angelo Mosca would have described this game with an expletive.

On the night the Ticats retired the number of a legend, the current squad played a sloppy game, surrendering six sacks, taking untimely penalties, losing the turnover battle and subsequently falling 26-23 to the Montreal Alouettes. The 10-game unbeaten streak at Tim Hortons Field — along with Hamilton’s recent aura of invincibility — is now officially dust.

Linebacker Simoni Lawrence, the new voice of the Ticat defence, didn’t mice words.

“Some people might think we’re supposed to blow every team out here because of what we’ve been doing but other teams get paid to play football,” Lawrence said. “Montreal came here and kicked our ass.”

After running amok in the first quarter the last four games, the Ticats actually trailed after 15 minutes in this one. The Alouettes opened the scoring courtesy of a smart play that countered a Ticats blitz with a screen pass to Brandon Rutley, who took it 65 yards to the end zone.

After Hamilton got their first points courtesy of a 37-yard Justin Medlock field goal and the Alouettes countered with one their own, quarterback Zach Collaros put together a masterful drive, completing five-of-six passes and lofting a beautiful rainbow — while on the dead run — into the end zone for Luke Tasker. It tied the game at 10.

Montreal quarterback Rakeem Cato was injured on the next series after taking a hit from Eric Norwood but Ticats return man Brandon Banks fumbled the ensuing punt — it looked like it could have been no yards — and the Alouettes took over in Hamilton territory. Seven plays later, back up quarterback Tanner Marsh plunged into the end zone for a major.

The Alouettes got yet another turnover when Collaros fumbled — they were all set up in field goal range — but the Ticats’ defence responded in kind when Johnny Sears stripped Rutley and Hamilton recovered.

The first half ended with a little rough stuff. After a Boris Bede miss gave Montreal a single, the Ticats drove into field goal range with the clock winding down. Offensive lineman Tim O’Neill took unnecessary roughness penalty to push them back but Montreal’s Kyries took one of his own to put them back in. Justin Medlock banged it through from 49 and the Ticats trailed 18-13.

Lawrence explained the animosity on the field.

“We can’t come out slow, we can’t commit penalties because they’re going to play us like it’s the Grey Cup because they can’t get through us in the playoffs,” he said.

Montreal opened with five straight points off a Bede field goal and a safety before the Ticats got their first positive play of the first half, a Simoni Lawrence interception. They settled for another long Medlock field goal.

Hamilton tied the game when Collaros engineered an eight-play, 72-yard touchdown drive that included a second-and-18 conversion to Terrence Toliver. Short-yardage quarterback Jeff Matthews punched it in and squared it at 23 with half a quarter left to play.

Playing their first game under new head coach Jim Popp, the Alouettes responded with a long drive of their own, chewing up almost six minutes and retaking lead with a 28-yard field goal. The Ticats marched it into Montreal territory with time winding down but Collaros threw an interception to end it.

Collaros’ line on his 27th birthday: 293 yards on 20 of 27 passing with a touchdown and the pick.

“If you don’t come ready to play, you’re going to get beat,” he said afterwards.

While the Alouettes lost Cato, the game was also tough on the Ticats: safety Mike Daly, guard Ryan Bomben, defensive end Eric Norwood as well linebacker Byron Archambault all left the game due to injury.

Head coach Kent Austin said the injuries and a succession of games played on short rest, took their toll.

“We made enough mistakes for a couple of games,” Austin said.

“We need to see how we respond. We’re tired right now. That’s not an excuse, but we are,”
With the loss, the Ticats fall to 6-3 and, more importantly, have lost the season series to the now 4-5 Montreal Alouettes.

With the loss, the Ticats fall to 6-3 and, more importantly, have lost the season series to the now 4-5 Montreal Alouettes. They have 11 days off before a crucial home-and-home set against the Toronto Argonauts starting on Labour Day.