The Ticats made what was likely their final trip to the SkyDome a fruitful one, beating the Argos 35-27 to complete the season sweep of their division rivals and beat the Argos in the Labour Day back-to-back games for the first time in team history.
This game, while somewhat entertaining due to the back-and-forth nature of the contest, was pretty ugly. You could tell that both teams were still recuperating from the game on Monday, and while these back-to-back games are great, perhaps this game should have been played on Saturday to give the two teams a bit more rest and prep time.
Anyway, let’s get into the good and bad of Hamilton’s win over Toronto.
I want to start off by saying that this is a really hard game to evaluate. For example, did Zach Collaros have a good game or a bad game? He finished 22 of 31 for 254 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Those are not bad numbers. One could argue that those are actually really good numbers, but compared to what Collaros did on Monday afternoon, they look pedestrian. So where would you put Collaros’ game last night? Keep that in mind as you read the rest of these.
It looks like the Ticats may have finally found its running game. Ray Holley’s numbers won’t win him any awards, but he had 11 carries for 51 yards and two catches for 18 yards. Not eye-popping numbers by any measure, but if you watched how he ran the ball, he looks to have finally figured it all out. Expecting big numbers from him is probably foolish, but couple last night’s performance with the tail end of the Labour Day Classic, and it sure looks like Ray Holley is ready to get rolling.
It was another dependable outing from Luke Tasker and Terrell Sinkfield. Tasker did what everyone has come to expect of him, catching eight passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. On one drive, Tasker picked up a first down on three consecutive plays. He might not be the league’s flashiest receiver, but he is sure is turning into one of the league’s best. And it seems as if Terrell Sinkfield has gone to the Eric Norwood school of reacting to a benching. All he has done since returning to the lineup is become one the team’s most reliable receivers. He led the Ticats in receiving last night with 91 yards on seven catches and it marks back-to-back games where Sinkfield was the team’s top pass catcher. One cannot help but be impressed by what Terrell Sinkfield has been doing since returning to the field.
Usually a player that finishes with one catch for 12 yards isn’t someone that gets highlighted, but Matt Coates catching his first CFL touchdown deserves some recognition. Coates handles duties out on the wide side and is rarely, if ever, looked at in games. But he does the little things that fans sometimes miss, and he was rewarded last night with a nice touchdown catch on a timing route that saw Zach Collaros throw to a spot, Coates go and get it, make a couple Argos defenders miss and score the game’s opening touchdown. It was a nice reward for a guy who is universally known for his hard work.
Adrian Tracy probably had the best game for a defensive lineman that produced very little in the way of numbers. Tracy had five tackles and a fumble recovery, but no sacks. But that doesn’t mean Tracy wasn’t in Trevor Harris’ face all night because, boy, was he ever. At some point I lost count, but Tracy levelled Harris four or five times, so much so that the Argos pivot needed to be picked up off the turf by his teammates after several of the bone-rattling hits Tracy laid on him. It was not a performance that will get a ton of publicity, but was one that really helped get the Ticats the win.
Another week, another great play by the special teams. Brandon Banks received a lot of deserved attention at the start of the year because of his special teams play, but the unit as a whole needs to start being recognized for the job it has been doing. The Ticats blocked another punt last night, this time by David Caldwell. On Monday, it was Neil King who made the major special teams play with his own blocked punt. Week after week, game after game, the Ticats special teams unit finds a way to make an impact play, and it is a major reason why the Ticats are sitting alone atop the East Division at 8-3.
While the game was ugly, there was not a whole lot of terrible things the Ticats did. The Argos, to their credit, played a much better game on Friday than they did on Monday, and a lot of their success came because of things they did as opposed to mistakes the Ticats made. That said, there was one area where the Ticats were not great and that was on both touchdown passes thrown by Trevor Harris.
The first came when Tori Gurley was left wide open, and I mean wide open, and scored to open the second half. I do not know if it was a bust in coverage or the Ticats simply forgot to cover him, but he was as wide open as a receiver gets in professional football. The second touchdown pass, a nice throw by Harris to Anthony Coombs in the corner of the end zone, was also because of some poor coverage. Three Ticats defenders were in the area and Harris was still able to float the ball in there for a score. It was a lovely pass by Harris, but tighter coverage by the Ticats would have made that incomplete instead of a score. The Ticats did a great job most of the night on Toronto’s vaunted recovering group — the trio of Chad Owens, Kevin Elliott and Vidal Hazelton combined for just five catches for 48 yards, with the latter two dropping passes that hit them right in the hands — but they were very lax on those two touchdown passes.
I was going to talk about how bad the officiating — even as a Ticats fan, that unnecessary roughness call against Travis Hawkins on Brandon Banks was specious at best — and replay booth — I… just… don’t get me started — were, but everyone has been making complaints about both all season, so I don’t want to waste your time reading another diatribe against the officials nor do I want to waste my time writing it. The officiating and replay booth were bad last night. Very bad. End of story.
It was a very sloppy game by both teams, but the Ticats found a way to win a close one and is their first victory of the season by less than 10 points. The Ticats have been mauling opponents most of the season, so it was nice to see them face a little adversity and still come out on top.
But this was a big win. The Ticats now have a two-game cushion on the rest of the East, and essentially have a three-game buffer between themselves and the Argos. With seven games left to play, it is hard to see a scenario that doesn’t have the Ticats resting during Semi-Final weekend before hosting the East Final at Tim Hortons Field. A lot can happen between now and then, but with the way this team has played all season, home field for the final is something that looks likely to happen.
The Ticats now get a little time to lick their wounds after playing two games in five days. The Ticats don’t take the field again until next Saturday when they welcome the Edmonton Eskimos to the friendly confines of Tim Hortons Field. This will be another heavyweight tilt, and we should be in for a good contest a week from now.