With a chance to start the season 2-0 for the first time since 2004, the Ticats came out and laid a massive egg at Tim Hortons Field on Friday night. Here are some thoughts on the team’s 28-3 loss to the BC Lions.
Horrible: the entire first half
Figuring out where to start with this horrendous showing is tough. There was so much bad in this game that we might as well go chronologically.
The team won the coin toss (YAY!) and deferred to the second half (YAY!) and got the wind in the first quarter (YAY!) and then proceeded to put together one good drive that resulted in a single off a missed field goal (BOO!) and then three straight 2-and-outs (BOO!) before the quarter ended. Not the best way to start the game.
But it didn’t end there, as Hamilton put together just one more decent drive in the entire first half and that one ended with another missed field goal. All in all, the Ticats put together two decent drives in 30 minutes of football and came away with just a single point out of it. You do not need to be a life-long observer of the game to know that’s not good. Yet despite all that, the Ticats trailed just 7-2 at halftime because BC, for all the opportunities the Ticats gave them, couldn’t capitalize. It was one of the worst halves of football, from both teams, I have ever witnessed.
Terrible: Special teams
The one area Hamilton routinely dominates was one of their biggest downfalls against the Lions. Their cover units were atrocious, as BC gained big yards on punts and kickoffs all night. They averaged over 20 yards per punt return, 27.5 yards per kickoff return and had a 56-yard missed goal return.
The less said about the kicking game the better, but Brett Maher was as bad in this game as any kicker I have ever seen. He was 2015 Lirim Hajrullahu bad. I wanted to see how he’d perform in the swirling winds of Tim Hortons Field, a notoriously tough place to kick, when the game mattered. Well, we saw him kick in the swirling winds of Tim Hortons Field when the game mattered and it was not pretty. He missed all three of his field goal attempts and wasn’t really close on any of them. Even the good things he did turned out poorly. He had a booming, albeit wind-aided, 89-yard punt that went into the end zone for a single instead of bouncing out inside the five, as would have been the preference. Heck, he even got called for a cut block. He’s the kicker! Getting called for a cut block! *sigh* It was just that kind of night.
Inexcusable: Mental errors continue
This has been noticeable since the very first preseason game against Toronto. Now four games later and the same problems still exist. It is no longer about a learning curve or anything like that; we may have to accept that this team is just one that is going to take a lot of penalties. The worst of which may have been the pathetic showing midway through the third quarter where the Ticats took three straight offside penalties that took the Lions from second and six to first and goal. The Leos would punch it in on the next play.
But wait, there’s more. After making a defensive stand and getting the Lions off the field, the Ticats took a too many men penalty when John Chick could not get off the field in time — I saw this happen in real time and just shook my head — giving BC the ball back. It ultimately didn’t do anything for BC, but it was still another instance of this team making mental mistakes.
Bad: Adrian Tracy and Geoff Tisdale
It may seem unfair to single out any player after an outing that poor, but Geoff Tisdale and Adrian Tracy really stood out for their bad games. Tracy, who was hyped a lot coming into the season, has really failed to live up to the expectations the team had for him when they made him a big part of their marketing for this season. I wondered why the team would do that given that Tracy had done exactly squat in the CFL so far, but thought that they must have seen something in him to warrant that type of preseason attention. I’m still waiting to see what they saw in him. All I’ve seen out of Tracy is the ability to take penalties. While he was only officially called for one in this game, he was part of a Ticats contingent that lined up offside on numerous occasions. Tracy needs to do something other than take penalties if he is going to live up to the type.
And then of course there is Geoff Tisdale, who showed last night why he was sitting at home waiting for a phone call as training camp was going on. I don’t know how else to say it other than he was bad. His coverage was atrocious. He was beaten on a pair of long bombs, one of that was caught by Shawn Gore for a 60-yard gain and another that was a sure touchdown that was dropped by Brian Burnham. He took numerous penalties and was a complete liability out there. I don’t know what the team can do, but I think we can say for certain that Geoff Tisdale is not the answer at cornerback for the Ticats.
Bad: Inability to seize momentum
Despite all the terrible ways the Ticats played in this game, they had opportunities to turn it around. The problem was that they never capitalized on those chances. Early in the game, both Emmanuel Davis and Johnny Sears, Jr. had potential interceptions bounce off their hands. If the Ticats make one, or both, of those plays, perhaps momentum gets flipped and the team makes a game of it. Instead, BC retained the ball and scored on both drives (granted it was only four points, but still). Any break the Ticats could have got went the other way. Again, it was just that kind of night.
Good: Receiving trio stays productive
Finding something to positive about is tough when the team scores only three points (on three singles, no less), but the receiving trio of Luke Tasker, Chad Owens and Andy Fantuz was once again pretty good. Fantuz had an early fumble, but he caught seven passes for 57 yards and was a reliable target for Jeremiah Masoli. Luke Tasker continued his sure-handed play, catching seven passes for 70 yards. He is really developing into one of the best receivers in the league, and he might be the league’s most reliable target. And Chad Owens, who once again led the team in targets with 11, caught six passes for 69 yards. It might grasping at straws, but in a game like last night’s, you have to find the good where it is.
Good: John Chick, fumble vacuum
John Chick seems to always find his way to the football. After forcing a Ricky Ray fumble last week, the former Roughrider found himself scooping up a pair of loose balls against the Lions. Again, no one is going to be hooting and hollering after this game, but good plays need to be recognized even in poor outings such as last night’s, and that is exactly what this is.
In many years of watching the Ticats, I can remember few games where the team played this bad, especially in the recent past and especially since Kent Austin took over. This ranks up there with the 37-0 drubbing the Ticats took in Saskatchewan in 2013 as the worst of the Kent Austin era.
The good thing is that they get the chance to wash the bad taste out of their mouths quickly as they play again on Thursday at home against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Given how poorly Winnipeg has played so far this year, the Bombers could be just what the doctor ordered for the suddenly maybe-not-as-good-as-we-thought Ticats.