Streak Broken: Ticats Lose to Als 26-23

CFL FootballUninspired.



Those are the three best ways I can find to describe Hamilton’s performance last night against the Montreal Alouettes. Riding high with a five-game win streak, the Ticats never looked right and were soundly beaten in all three phases by an Alouettes team that felt like it had something to prove.

And prove it they did.

There are next to no positives to take away from this game, so I am forgoing my usual game reap format. This was a nearly universally terrible performance, and praising them for even the slightest thing seems wrong.

Nothing seemed to go the Ticats way. They opened the game by giving up a 65-yard touchdown to Brandon Rutley and they never really recovered. The offense was bad, the defense was bad and the special teams were bad.

Offensively, the unit looked out of sync all night. Zach Collaros never really got in a groove, the running game was once again completely absent, and the offensive line did its best to do its worst, allowing six sacks and just not performing up to the level we have grown accustomed to seeing from them. The Als defense is very good, but there were plays to be made and the Ticats offense simply did not make them.

Defensively, this had to be one of Hamilton’s poorest performance under Orlondo Steinauer. That Ticats vaunted rush defense: gashed for 130 yards. The turnover-forcing wreaking ball: just one fumble recovery and one interception. The sacks: just one. And it seemed like they just couldn’t get the Als off the field, and whenever it looked they did, they would take a penalty that extended the drive. The great Ticats defensive line was bullied and manhandled by the Alouettes offensive line. It was not a good performance for anyone on any side of the ball.

And that takes us to special teams, which also contributed mightily to the loss, with a botched fake punt and Brandon Banks’ costly fumble on a punt.

Ah, yes, that fumble. Not necessarily the turning point in the game, but it did lead to a touchdown for the Als on a drive they never should have had. In what must have been apparent to anyone with the ability to see, a Montreal player was well within the five-yard zone when Banks went to field the punt. In a night where the Ticats did themselves no favours, they didn’t really need the refs helping the Als out, but one has to wonder how none of the refs saw the Montreal player pretty much standing face-to-face with Banks. It was one of the worst non-calls I have ever seen and played a major role in the outcome of the game.

The Ticats simply did not play their game, made too many mistakes and watched as Montreal expertly capitalized on them. Full credit to the Als for playing their game and beating up on the Ticats. The Als can now hang their hats on the fact that they are the first visitors to enter Tim Hortons Field and leave with a win (and it only took them three tries). The Als have also won the season series over the Ticats, and while a tie breaking scenario between the two is probably unlikely — the Ticats sit at 6-3, while the Als sit at 4-5 — it is not impossible that these two summer losses to Montreal could hurt the Ticats come playoff time.

Speaking of hurt, the injury big once again seemed to bite the Ticats, as Mike Daly, Eric Norwood, Ryan Bomben and Hugh O’Neill all left the game due to various ailments. With a long break coming up, hopefully some of the wounded players can be ready for what is now a very important matchup on September 7.

Fans can take some solace in the fact that despite how poorly the team played, they still had a chance to win the game at the end. But for the second time against the Als this year, a turnover with under a minute left, this time a Collaros interception, ended any hope of a comeback.

Now the Ticats have what is essentially a mini bye week, as the team will not hit the field again until Labour Day against the Toronto Argonauts. The Ticats will need to be much better in all areas of the game if they want to avoid a repeat of what happened last night.

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.