Collaros looks good in return to Ticats

Immediately following Hamilton’s 45-38 loss to the BC Lions on Saturday night, the powers that be made Tiger-Cat quarterback Zach Collaros pee in a cup.

Drug testing subjects are chosen at random but given his performance in his first game back after missing almost a calendar year with a knee injury — 331 yards on 24 of 40 passing and two touchdowns — it sure felt like Collaros was drinking some kind of magic quarterback Kool-Aid.

Head coach Kent Austin throws compliments around like manhole covers — particularly after losses — but even he was impressed.

“I think it was a pretty incredible performance given how much time he’s been off,” Austin said. “I’m sure there’s many guys who could come out and play the way he did after that kind of injury and absolutely zero playing time since last year.”

That was, however, pretty much the only nice thing Austin had to say after yet another terrible start cost the Ticats dearly. Hamilton fumbled on their first play from scrimmage, gave up a touchdown on the very next play and trailed by 23 points at halftime.

The defensive secondary looked shaky at times — BC quarterback Jonathon Jennings threw for 308 yards and three scores — the offensive line surrendered five sacks and the special teams units committed three penalties and now have 12 on the season (third worst in the Canadian Football League).

“We have to contest balls when they’re in the air, we have to throw and catch when he have opportunities, we have to block better up front,” Austin said. “We’re taking way too many penalties in special teams, we’re putting our offence in terrible position. I’m not tolerating it any more. We’ll make changes with personnel if need be.”

Still, the Ticats showed some of their trademark resiliency — they rallied from a 25-point deficit to win in Edmonton last month — as they battled back to tie the game at 38 with under four minutes left. The play that knotted it: a spectacular 126-yard return by Brandon Banks off a missed field goal.

“There’s just a whole bunch of linemen out there that can’t catch me,” Banks said. “The first thing I did was look back and check for flags. You never know.”

But Jennings hit Emanuel Arcenaux on a 30-yard touchdown pass with under 90 seconds to play and while Collaros managed to move the ball to the B.C. 36-yard line as time wound down, his third-down pass fell incomplete. Ball game.

“In the second half we were able to get going a bit but we need to pay more attention to the details,” Collaros said. “It wasn’t my best game, for sure. Just a lot of decisions that I wish I had back.”

With the loss, the Ticats fall to 3-4 on the season but are now finished with a tough stretch of a schedule that saw them play four straight away from Tim Hortons Field. They’ll finally return next Saturday against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The Riders are 1-6 on the season and reeling from a series of controversies surrounding general manager and head coach Chris Jones: the Ticats need to start taking care of business at home against the league’s lesser lights.

“We’re having these slow starts every week. I don’t what it is but we have to figure it out real quick. It’s real simple: play four quarters and cut the penalties,” Banks said. “Teams aren’t out there dominating us, we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot and they are taking advantage.”