The Ticats put their first home loss behind them and walloped the Argos 42-12 at a sold out Tim Hortons Field yesterday afternoon. It was a dominating performance both offensively and defensively, with a sprinkling of solid special teams play.
The Ticats used a familiar gameplan and took it to the Argos early, building up a huge lead which the Argos could not come back from. It was not just a win, but a statement win. A win that says the road to the Grey Cup, at least in the East, comes through Hamilton.
The Ticats ability to attack and exploit the Argos atrocious pass defense was something I covered in my game preview, and while it didn’t take a genius to point that out, the Ticats offense carved up the Argos through the air. Zach Collaors was magnificent Monday afternoon, completing 26 of 38 passes for 400 yards and four touchdowns. He was in the zone almost all afternoon and looked virtually unstoppable. Just a masterful performance from No. 4.
As great as Collaros was, he would not have been able to carve up the Argos if not for the tremendous play of the offensive line. They gave up two sacks, but for the most part kept Collaros clean and the majority of the time they allowed pressure was due to excellent coverage downfield from the Argos secondary. Considering this was a bit of a patchwork group, top marks need to be given for the great job they did.
Speaking of great jobs, this Ticats receiving corps is becoming as deadly as any in the league. It is pick your poison with these guys pretty much every week. Yesterday, the Ticats had two receivers go over 100 yards (Terrell Sinkfield and Luke Tasker), another catch for 90 (Terrence Toliver) and three catch touchdowns (Sinkfield, with two, Toliver and Tiquan Underwood). Collaros, with all the time he was getting, could find the open man and, for most of the day, his men were getting open. And they are doing this without arguably their two best receivers with both Bakari Grant and Andy Fantuz out with injuries. This unit may not have the household names, but they be the league’s most dangerous group.
Dangerous is also a way to describe Hamilton’s defense. They smothered the Argos all game, allowing just one touchdown drive and that came after a turnover gave the Argos a very short field to work with. Otherwise, the defense gave next to nothing, with the Argos only gaining 242 yards of total offense on the day. The Ticats defense tends to employ a bit of a bend-but-don’t-break philosophy, but yesterday they barely even bent.
As dominating as the team’s win was, the same two problems that have been persistent all season reared their ugly heads again: a second-half lull and the lack of a running game. The lull began in the third quarter and lasted until about midway through the fourth. The Ticats did eventually get themselves out of their funk by scoring two touchdowns in the final frame, but it was once again noticeable how flat they came out to start the second half. It is hard to be too tough on them since they did go into the locker room at halftime with a 27-1 lead, but as was shown a week ago against the Als, they aren’t always going to have these huge leads and they need to be able to sustain momentum at the start of the second half.
While a lot of people are going to go gaga over Ray Holley’s performance, it needs to be kept in perspective just a little. Yes, he ripped off a couple nice runs — including one of 40 yards late in the fourth quarter that helped set up the final Ticats touchdown — and he did it when the Argos knew they were going to be running, but aside from that play and the following eight-yard run, Holley and fellow back Nic Grigsby did not do much. Maybe this is the start of the team finding a rushing attack, but I am taking a wait-and-see approach. Show me that the team can run at any time and I will discontinue bringing this point up.
I think this game puts to bed any talk of the Argos being on the same level as the Ticats. The Argos are a good team, but they once again proved they cannot hang with the league’s elite squads. This is their fourth loss to the Hamilton/Calgary/Edmonton triumvirate, their third to that trio by more two touchdowns and their second blowout loss to the Ticats.
With this win, the Ticats win the Ballard trophy, take the season series over the Argos regardless of the outcome of next week’s game, won four of the last five Labour Day Classics, and sit all alone in first place with a record of 7-3. All in all, it was a great afternoon to be a Ticats fan.
Now, having said all that, and despite how dominating the Ticats were yesterday, I fully expect the rematch on Friday to be much closer. Not sure why, just call it a gut feeling, but I will be surprised if the Argos roll over and play dead like they did yesterday. This will likely be Hamilton’s final visit to the SkyDome, barring an unlikely playoff matchup between the two in Toronto, and it should be a much closer affair than the one we saw yesterday.
But that is next week, and at least for the next three days, all Ticats fans can bask in the glory of yet another resounding Labour Day victory.