The good and bad of Hamilton’s tough loss to the BC Lions

After going down big again, the Ticats nearly made their second miraculous comeback of the season but ultimately fell short, losing 45-38 to the BC Lions on Saturday night.

Good: Zach knocks the rust off

It was a tough start for No. 4 in his first game back. On the second play from scrimmage, he got rocked and fumbled the ball, allowing BC to scoop it up. The Lions would score on the very next play. The entire first half was rough on Collaros, as he was sacked five times and completed just eight of 15 passes for 145 yards. But as the game kept going, you could see him get more and more comfortable, and the second half was a completely different story.

There were flashes early — like the beautiful throw on the run to Chad Owens that netted the team 51 yards — and some miscues — he missed a wide open Luke Tasker on a key second down that would have extended the drive — but it was in the second half where things started to click.

He had two beautiful throws for touchdowns, one to Terrence Toliver and one to Luke Tasker, and he just looked more and more like the player we remembered from last summer.

Anyone who thought he would come out, complete 32 of 40 passes for 450 yard and four touchdowns was setting themselves up to be disappointed. He finished the game 24 of 40 for 331 yards, two TDs and one INT. His 60 per cent completion percentage isn’t great, but for a first game back after an 11-month layoff, I think we can call it a success.

Bad: New game, same old story

It was another slow start for the Ticats offensively and another horrible start for the team defensively. Most felt the offense would struggle to click early, so it was incumbent on the defense to put together some stops and help their offense out. They didn’t do it.

For the second straight game, the Ticats surrendered 30+ points in the first half. Last week, it was 34 to the Blue Bombers and this week it was 32 to the Lions. Over the last three games, the Ticats have been outscored 90-18 in their last three first halves.

This has to change. Period. As the loss last night showed the Ticats can not afford to get behind by so much to good teams like BC because the comebacks will fall short. Next week sees the 1-6 Saskatchewan Roughriders come to town, so that should be the cure for what ails the stagnant, first-half Ticats. Now, if they can’t get things going early against the Riders, then be worried.

Bad: Protection issues early

Five sacks in a game would be troubling. Five sacks in a half is downright unacceptable. Hamilton’s offensive line was just that, offensive, in the first half last night. BC smartly brought a ton of pressure and Hamilton’s line did not respond at all in the first 30 minutes. Collaros got rocked on numerous occasions and Ticats fans around the country collectively held their breath every time No. 4 took a hit.

But then the second half started and, like the rest of the team, the line’s play significantly improved. Collaros was rushed a few times, but BC didn’t take him to the turf once in the game’s final 30 minutes. The first half cannot be forgotten, but the second half cannot be ignored either. Hopefully we see more of the second-half line than the first-half one going forward.

Good: Speedy BY GAWD Banks

Chris Rainey and Kevin Fogg have been getting a lot of (deserved) attention recently for their stellar play on special teams, but the best special teams player in the league served notice that he is not going anywhere. When the Ticats needed a big play, there was Speedy B to provide it. He had a couple nice returns and it felt like he was on the verge of breaking a big one. Then Richie Leone missed a 45-yard field goal 126 yards later, Banks was celebrating in the end zone. Speedy B is the most dangerous player in the league and he proved that once again on Saturday night.

Good: Brett BY GAWD Maher

If not for the play of Speedy B, Brett Maher would be getting way more publicity as the Ticats top special teams player. Aside from one game, a horrid outing in ridiculously windy conditions on Canada Day, Brett Maher has been perfect. That’s not hyperbole. He has literally been perfect. His only misses this season came in that game when he went 0-for-3, but since then Maher has made 13 straight field goals and is 17 for 20 on the season. He continues to make 50+ yarders look like 18-yard chip shots, and did so again last night, booming a 54-yarder that looked like it would have been good from 60+. The more Maher plays, the more the Ticats look smart for letting Justin Medlock walk.

Bad: Secondary is still a weak spot

Despite a nice interception by Emanuel Davis that was key in helping the Ticats kick start their comeback attempt, the Ticats secondary looked average at best and terrible at worst for most of the night. In the first half, they couldn’t cover, tackle or make a play to save their lives. The Ticats got more pressure in the second half, which forced BC’s Jonathon Jennings into rushing his throws, but make no mistake about it, this secondary is still a weak spot for this club. The signing of Brandon Sermons last week tells me the team also sees this group as one in need of some changes, but as we near the halfway point of the season, it is concerning that the kinks still haven’t been worked out.

Bad: The last play of the game

So about how this thing ended: what was Zach Collaros looking at? I am fine with the team taking a shot deep and going for the tie right there, but the problem was, no one was open. Two Ticats receivers were in the areas, but they were blanketed by four BC defenders. On 3rd-and-five, you would like to see a shorter play to keep the game alive, and it sure looked like C.J. Gable was open underneath for a sure first down, but the Ticats didn’t opt for that play. It was a curious call by Austin and co. and a curious decision by Collaros to throw it up.

Final Thoughts

A loss is a loss, and moral victories count for nothing in professional sports, but the Ticats come out of this game much better than they did their last loss. A two-game losing streak is not something to scoff at, but it is also not something to get too worked up about either. With the lowly Roughriders headed to Hamilton — the Ticats first home game in 44 days — the elixir for ending a losing streak just might be arriving.

The key takeaway from this is that it looked like Zach Collaros found his rhythm a bit in the second half and started to resemble the player we all saw tear up the league in the summer of 2015. There are going to be hiccups along the way, but the more Collaros plays, the better he will get. He showed flashes of brilliance against BC, but also showed how not playing a game in 330 days can impact a player. It wasn’t a disaster and it wasn’t a roaring success, but it was about what most reasonable people would expect. I don’t think fans have to worry about Collaros.

The defense, offensive line and secondary, well, that’s a different story altogether. No quarterback is going to fix the issues with those areas. If those can’t be fixed, or at least improved on, it is not going to matter who is behind centre.

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