It was not pretty, but it did not have to be.
The Ticats forced four turnovers, blocked a punt and and got five field goals from Justin Medlock to knock off the Als 23-11 in a game that was nowhere near as close as the score indicates and end their inexplicable 18-game losing streak at Percival Molson Stadium.
This game was all about Hamilton’s defense, which stifled Montreal’s offense all afternoon. They intercepted Kevin Glenn, who was making his Alouettes debuted after a much ballyhooed trade from Saskatchewan at the trade deadline last week, three times, while also holding him to just 226 yards passing on 26 completions. Glenn never looked comfortable, despite proclaiming earlier this season that he could pick up any offense in two days, against a Hamilton defense that was relentless all game. The team even managed to maintain their high level of play despite losing stalwart linebacker, and team leader, Simoni Lawrence in the first half due to injury. It was the most complete performance from the defense in some time, and was probably the reason for the Ticats getting win No. 10 in 2015.
Hamilton’s defensive dominances masked what was a good, but wholly unsatisfying, game from the offense. While Jeff Mathews was great once again, going 21 of 25 for 241 yards and one touchdown, the offence bogged down deep in Alouettes territory too much for anyone’s liking. They settled for field goals in situations that, against the better teams, would require them to score touchdowns. That’s not on any one player, but it needs to be corrected. For a team that was so good at scoring inside the red zone earlier this year, no one who cheers for the black and gold wants to see them revert back to their 2014 ways of getting threes instead of sevens.
But inability to score touchdowns aside, the Ticats offense was pretty much doing whatever they wanted against the Als. Mathews was excellent once again, pretty much putting to rest the idea that the Ticats can’t win with him starting. Since the nightmare relief effort against the Eskimos and the subpar first half against the Stampeders, Mathews has really found his groove. He is protecting the football, going a second straight game without throwing an interception and looks far more poised than a guy who has made just three career starts. He did have a fumble, but it came on a blindside hit that would have jarred the ball loose from even the most experienced of signal callers. While the Ticats are obviously not the juggernaut they were with Zach Collaros at the helm, they are good enough with Mathews that a third trip to the Grey Cup is no longer so far fetched.
But the talk of the game is going to be Luke Tasker. He had a great all around game, catching eight passes for 107 yards, but it was his 43-yard, over-the-shoulder catch in the third quarter that left anyone who saw it in awe. It was one of the greatest catches not just of the year, but of all time. The way Tasker contorted his body defies description. It was simply one of the most amazing catches you will ever see and you have to see it to believe it.
The Ticats also once again came up with a big play on special teams and it was once again a blocked punt, their sixth of the season. This time it was Mike Daly who got his hands on a Boris Bede punt that was then scooped up by Frédéric Plesius and set up Hamilton’s offense on Montreal’s eight-yard line. Two plays later, Hamilton scored their lone touchdown of the game. Hamilton’s special teams has been great all season and it once again came up aces when the team needed it most.
The Ticats now never have to hear about how they haven’t won in Montreal since 2002. They have, and they did so rather convincingly. It was a game where the final score does not tell the whole tale; the Ticats never allowed the Als to do anything, only surrendering a touchdown on the game’s antepenultimate play.
It was a solid, though unspectacular, game, but one the team can build on as they head into their final three games of the regular season.
With the win, the Ticats sit in sole possession of first in the East with three games left to play. Things are looking up for the Tabbies, though they now face a pretty tough task: flying across the country on a short week for a late-night matchup on Friday in BC against a Lions team that is fighting for their playoff lives.