The Hamilton Tiger-Cats ended the preseason at 1-1 after handily beating the Ottawa Redblacks 42-25 at Tim Hortons Field on Friday night. Winning by nearly 20 means there will be a lot more goods than bads this week, so here we go.
Great: It’s good to be home
I cannot lie: I enjoy the offseason. As much as I love the CFL, at the end of the season I am happy to get away from the game for a little while. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that jazz; however, it sure was nice being back in the friendly confines of Tim Hortons Field on Friday night. It was great watching a game at BMO Field last week, but there is nothing like sitting in your seats in your stadium for that first game, even if it was only a preseason contest.
Oh, and all that talk about speakers and sound, not an issue. I honestly did not notice a difference in the sound quality or volume from the temporary speakers. It sure as heck beat the sound system at BMO Field last weekend, that’s for sure.
Horrendous: The officiating
The main reason this piece wasn’t posted a couple hours after the game was because the game took forever to play. Kickoff was around 7:30 and it wasn’t until well after 10:30 that the game came to an end. The major reason for the game taking so long was the officiating. It was just not good. This is not the typical case of blaming the refs or harping on the refs for bad calls. I think anyone who watched this, be they a fan Ticats, Redblacks or one of the other seven CFL teams, can agree that the officiating in this game was not up to snuff. The officials were constantly making the wrong calls, calling a penalty on one team when it was on the other, and having conferences that went nowhere and did nothing. Specifically, though, there were a couple of brutal calls that went against the Ticats. They had a sure touchdown wiped off the board because of a too-early whistle on Rico Murray’s first quarter fumble recovery.
Then Jeff Mathews is tackled from the neck up, a clear roughing the passer call if there ever was one, with no flag thrown. Kent Austin, visibly angry at the time, challenged the call and it was upheld. This angered Austin even more, and with justification. You simply cannot tackle a quarterback by the head. Period. The fact that this was missed on the field and again on replay is, frankly, inexcusable.
Good: The first-unit offense
One thing we found out is the Ticats’ No. 1s are better than Ottawa’s No. 2s. But we already knew that. That said, the Ticats first-string offense, minus a couple Canadians, looked on point in their quarter-plus of action. Jeremiah Masoli looked dialled in and secured his spot as Hamilton’s starter until Zach Collaros is back. The receivers were catching everything (more on one of them in particular in a second) and C.J. Gable ran like only C.J. Gable can. The offense could score a lot of points even without their MOP-calibre QB. The offensive line, aside from the very first play of the game, gave their QB plenty of time and showed well in run blocking. On Gable’s touchdown run in the first quarter, Ryan Bomben absolutely trucked the player he was blocking and Gable went untouched into the endzone. It was very impressive. The offense looked good. Case closed.
Worrisome, sorta: The first-unit defense
For the second week in a row, the team’s starting defense did not look great. Playing against a lot of guys who will never see the field, the defense was merely OK. They forced some turnovers, but also allowed an Ottawa offense starting a lot of second stringers to put together an 11-play drive that ended with the Redblacks on the board for the first time in the game. Granted, it was only a field goal, but it was still not something you wanted to see. Going against a fully healthy Ricky Ray next week will really put this defense to the test and they will have to be better if they hope to stop what looks like will be a very potent Argonauts offense.
Begrudgingly Great: People love the Flyin’ Hawaiian
Well, it happened. Chad Owens is officially a fan favourite, and honestly, he earned it. It is no secret how I felt when Owens was signed back in February, and while I may never fully come around on the former Argo being a Ticat, I will he sure made a great first impression on the field. It seemed to take just one catch for the Argos stink to come of No. 2 as the crowd roared when Owens made his first catch in black and gold. Then he made another. And another. And then he caught a 51-yard bomb to put the Ticats in scoring position. Then he scored the touchdown on that drive and the place went nuts. This guy is already beloved and if he continues to play like he did, finishing with five catches for 98 yards and the one score, Ticats fans might forget than Owens ever played for that team up the road. Maybe not, but he has definitely become one of the more popular players rather quickly.
Good: Can’t forget special teams
Special teams, which has had its fair share of memorable moments over the last few years, once again played a major role in a Hamilton Tiger-Cats victory. While I am not sure I agree with unleashing a trick play during a preseason game, the Ticats did just that to full effect on Friday night, running a fake punt that Quinton Pointer took 52 yards to paydirt.
Then later, Trey Wolfe (great name) scooped up a muffed punt and scored. It was a fluke play, but the Ticats are known to make things happen on special teams and did so again on Friday. And to think, they did it all without Speedy B himself, Brandon Banks, returning one punt or kickoff. Should be fun to see what special teams coordinator Jeff Reinebold has up his sleeves for the regular season.
Good: Jay Langa makes his mark
A guy known for making most of his contributions on special teams really made a name for himself on defense and that was DB Jay Langa. He baited Redblacks QB Brock Jensen beautifully on a second quarter interception. Langa was trailing his receiver, but undercut the pass just as it got there and made a diving pick to steal the ball away from Ottawa. His second pick of the game came on a pass that Jensen looked to be throwing out of bound, but it held up and Langa again made a great play on the ball. Barring injury, Langa won’t see much playing time on defense this season, but he sure made the most of his time on that side of the ball in this one.
Good: Canadian defensive tackles not named Ted Laurent
When Brian Bulcke left for greener (bluer?) pastures this offseason many fans wondered who would step up to take his place. The team had a lot of young guys in the pipeline, and two of those guys look tone the heir apparent to Bulcke. Both Linden Gaydosh and Michael Atkinson really impressed over the two preseason. Both guys were able to create pressure up the middle and force both Redblacks QBs to flee the pocket before they wanted to. Gaydosh continued his stellar play from a week ago. On one play I watched the former No. 1 overall pick bullrush his blocker nearly into the quarterback. Atkinson, who started in place of Laurent, was moving mountains out there on Friday. Both guys look like they are ready to go when called upon, and the Ticats are going to have one fierce defensive tackle rotation with them and big No. 97. Opposing teams better watch out.
Good: The Ticats may have a running game
The running game was great on Friday. C.J. Gable looked like his 2013 self, picking up 30 yards on five carries and scoring the opening touchdown of the game, but it was little known Ross Scheuerman who really put on a display. Yes, it was against a lot of guys who probably won’t be Redblacks after cut-down day, but the rookie still picked up game high 105 yards on 13 carries and also found the end zone. In total, the Ticats rushed for 221 yards on 23 attempts — that’s a 9.6/carry average — which is something the team has not seen a lot of during Kent Austin’s tenure. While going for over 200 yards on the ground is not something to expect every week, it is nice to see the Ticats having a run game for once. Let’s hope it continues into the regular season.
Terrible: Injuries continue to pile up
It wouldn’t be a Ticats anything without an injury round up. The team watched as another defensive back — this time Chris Davis, one of my standouts from last week — went down. That’s four over the course of training camp and the preseason. Not good.
We also saw running back Da’Rel Scott, receiver Tiquan Underwood and defensive lineman Ricky Osei-Kusi all leave the game because of injury. Also, not good.
No matter the season, it seems that the injury bug always finds its way to Hamilton. We will have to wait and see what the extent of these injuries are, but it just seems like this team cannot escape losing guys to injury.
When Ottawa opted not to bring the vast majority of their starters to Hamilton, I was worried just what type of game we would get. It would be hard for Hamilton to evaluate where they are with so few starters on the opposing side of the field. Hamilton should have won this game handily and they did. That’s the good thing. But that doesn’t tell us anything in regards to how this team will look com the season opener against the Argos. That’s the bad thing.
But a win is always better than a loss and the Ticats delivered on that one. Now we can put the preseason behind us and get ready for the real action to begin on Thursday night in Toronto.