Ticats can’t overcome a multitude of mistakes, fall to Bombers

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More than 30 minutes after the Hamilton Tiger-Cats lost 28-24 to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Thursday night, Ticat receiver Tiquan Underwood was back out on the field, still in his full uniform, catching passes thrown by a coach.

Underwood had a key drop, one that would have given the home side a late lead and so he ran the same pattern over and over, looking for a meaningful do-over that would never come.

“We dropped a touchdown pass along the sideline and on the very next play, turned ball over – that was the difference,” head coach Kent Austin said afterward.

Underwood, however, was hardly alone in his gaffe. Hamilton turned the ball over six times, gave up 15 points in 83 seconds during one stint in the second quarter and allowed a Bombers team with a reputation for offensive ineptitude – ineptitude of all kinds, really – to stay in the game.

The home side gave up an onside kick – accidentally – committed costly penalties and lost the time of possession battle by a significant margin. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli threw a pick six, another interception, coughed it up on a scramble and also fumbled in short yardage. On the last drive of the game, within striking distance of the winning score, he fumbled again.

“If we don’t protect the football, then we can’t play this sport – and that goes for everybody,” Austin said. “Receivers can’t have the football yanked out of their arms and quarterbacks can’t turn the ball over or they won’t be on the field.”

And yet Austin credited Masoli for bringing his club back from a 22-10 half-time deficit and the quarterbacks final numbers – 29 for 29, 367 yards – certainly looked decent on paper.

“Other than the turnovers, I thought he played pretty well,” Austin said. “But the turnovers are huge and that’s got to stop.”

The Bombers were hardly better. Kicker Justin Medlock, a former Ticat who signed a big-money deal with Winnipeg in the off-season, missed two long field goals and, somewhat inexplicably, arrived for one of his attempts without a holder. And his teammates let the Ticats back in the game in the second half, after staking themselves to a 22-10 halftime lead.

And yet amid all the ugly, there were moments of pure brilliance. Hamilton’s Brandon Banks returned a missed field goal 121 yards for the Ticats first points on the night and Winnipeg’s Ryan Smith made a no-look touchdown grab by pinning a ball he didn’t even see against his hip and waltzing into the end zone.

With the loss, the Ticats fall to 1-2 and face the prospect of four straight road games, starting this Friday in Montreal. Hamilton is at risk of repeating the pattern established in Austin’s first two seasons, when the team dug an early hole with a slew of losses – then stormed back to make the Grey Cup game.

“We are determined not to let that happen,” Austin said. “We’ll see what we’re made of.”

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