New faces in Ticats line up against Riders

Mercer Timmis grew up in Burlington a Hamilton Tiger-Cat fan, going to old Ivor Wynne Stadium once or twice a year to watch his favourite team. His favourite player was Darren Flutie.

On Saturday, the 2016 draft pick will play in his first career CFL regular season game, walking in the same CFL shoes as his childhood heroes.

In the stands, more than two dozen friends and family will be watching.

“I’m pretty excited. It’s a big deal, playing for your hometown team, ” said Timmis, who is expected to play exclusively on special teams. “But I need to act like it’s a normal game day and put it out of my mind.”

Timmis isn’t the only player making his Ticat debut this week. The team has also retooled the defensive secondary, inserting Brandon Sermons and Chris Davis into the starting lineup in place of Quinton Pointer and Travis Lee.

“There’s never a good time to do this because it raises questions. People want to know why and assume that something’s wrong. We just need to know if we can be better, ” said defensive co-ordinator Orlondo Steinauer. “Pointer and Lee have done a good job but we’re looking for greatness.”

The Hamilton defence was torched for 45 points and almost 400 yards of offence in last Saturday’s loss to B.C. but remains one of the CFL’s better statistical units. They lead the CFL in opponents’ net offence, are second in sacks and fourth in forced turnovers.

But those aren’t the numbers Steinauer truly cares about.

“If we’re talking about stats, we’d probably be second or third in the league, ” he said. “But we’re trying to be best in the win column. And that’s why the shuffle.”

Sermons has nine games of experience with the Redblacks the last two seasons – he was on the sidelines during the miracle play against Hamilton in the East Final that sent Ottawa to the Grey Cup – but Davis will be making his CFL debut.

He was out of football a year, went to an off-season tryout in California, survived OTAs then training camp and now, finally, gets to make his pro football debut.

“I was working as a personal trainer, trying to stay in shape but my mom was giving me a hard time, ‘When are you going to start doing something with your life?'” Davis said, laughing.

“Now, I’m going to get my opportunity. I’m hoping Mom can watch on ESPN.”

The game represents something of an opportunity for the Ticats as well. At 3-4 in the standings, they’ve come out the other side of a tough stretch of four straight road games still very much in the mix in the East Division. But they need to start taking care of business at home – they are 0-2 this season – and beating the teams they are supposed to beat.

That would include the Riders, who are 1-6 and coming off a series of self-inflicted controversies.

“There’s not a lot of difference between the first-place team and the last-place team. Our guys understand that if we don’t play well, we won’t win football games, ” said head coach Kent Austin.

“Any team can beat you and we have to be prepared to play. We don’t focus on trying to figure out what they’re psyche is.”

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Game 8
Saskatchewan Roughriders (1-6) at Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-4)
Tim Hortons Field
Sat., Aug. 20
Game time: 7 p.m.
TV: TSN Radio: TSN 1150

The Riders are 1-6 and run the risk of being dead by Labour Day if they don’t find a way to win some games quickly. The team has been embroiled in controversy for much of the season – they’ve been fined twice by the league for breaking the rules – and head coach Chris Jones got into a postgame spat with Calgary counterpart Dave Dickenson after last week’s loss. Not a good look.

Key injuries: The Riders get some bodies back this week – former McMaster kicker Tyler Crapigna among them – and have made 10 changes to their 46-man game day roster. But starting offensive lineman Brendan LaBatte and Xavier Fulton are still sidelined as are linebacker Samuel Eguavoen and defensive back Buddy Jackson.

Five funky Saskatchewan stats:

1. Quarterback Darian Durant has become the first player in CFL history to reach 300-plus pass attempts and 12 starts without throwing an interception. He last threw a pick on July 26, 2014 and has thrown 321 passes since.

2. With just 10 take-aways, the Riders are last in the CFL in that department. Their minus-5 turnover ratio is eighth in the CFL – only the Ticats are worse.

3. The Riders have converted just four of eight attempts on third-and-short, the lowest conversion rate in the CFL.

4. Saskatchewan has been terrible in the red zone: they have just six touchdowns in 16 chances (9th in the CFL) while surrendering 15 touchdowns in 24 opposition trips inside the 20 yard line (8th in the CFL.)

5. The Riders have blocked four kicks this season, tops in the league.

The storyline for Hamilton: The Ticats are back home after playing four straight on the road, though Tim Hortons Field hasn’t been an advantage of late. After winning their first nine regular season games at the new stadium, Hamilton has lost six of eight, including it’s two games in 2016. At 3-4, the Ticats are in the thick of the East Division race but need to start a) winning games at home and b) beating teams they’re supposed to beat. Like a 1-6 Riders team, say.

Key injuries and roster changes: The Ticats will start two new corners in the secondary, with Brandon Sermons taking over Quinton Pointer at the boundary and Chris Davis slotting in at the field side for Travis Lee. Burlington boy Mercer Timmis makes his first career CFL start and American defensive tackle Drake Nevis returns after a one-game absence.

Five funky Hamilton stats:

1. Brandon Banks has three kick return touchdowns through seven games in 2016. The CFL record is six, set back by then-Ticat Chris Williams in 2012. Banks now has one kick return TD every 4.4 games for his career, the best mark in history.

2. Banks also leads the CFL in combined yards with 1,335.

3. The Ticats do not have a player in the CFL top-ten in receiving yards: Luke Tasker is 12th, Chad Owens in 15th and Andy Fantuz is 16th.

4. Just 48 per cent of the Ticats’ second down plays are from seven or more yards, the best mark in the CFL. The league average is 54 per cent.

5. Kicker Brett Maher is averaging 48.5 yards per punt, tied with Joe Zuger and Hank Ilesic for No. 4 all-time among single seasons.

Referee: Al Bradbury

TSN broadcast crew: Chris Cuthbert and Matt Dunigan

Weather: Mostly sunny, 28 degrees with a feels-like of 36. Winds out of the south.

 

 




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