The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have lost quarterback Zach Collaros to injury (again) and that isn’t even close to their biggest problem.
Collaros was hurt late in the first half of Saturday’s 36-17 loss to the Stampeders when he was driven into the turf by Calgary defensive end Charleston Hughes. Collaros was slow getting up and remained in the game but was assessed at halftime and team medical officials elected to keep him out for the remainder of the contest.
A source close the club termed it a “mild concussion” which is, in this day and age of heightened awareness around the potentially devastating short-and long-term impact of such things, something of an oxymoron. A head injury, regardless of the severity, is a serious thing.
Of further concern is Collaros’ history: he missed five games in 2014 with a head and back injury after getting crushed by Edmonton’s Odell Willis.
There is, in other words, no way of knowing just how badly Collaros is hurt or how much time he might miss – if any.
But while that was the top line in the story of Hamilton’s 36-17 defeat at the hands of the Calgary Stampeders, the devil is in the details of the Ticats’ most recent setback – and they are damning, to say the least.
The defensive secondary was burned to the ground by Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns.
The Stampeders scored on their opening possession, hit on a soul-destroying touchdown bomb just when the Ticats were making things interesting in the second, then salted things away with a 10-play drive in the third.
Calgary won the battle in the trenches – they gave up zero sacks and rushed for 109 yards – and the one fought on special teams. Hamilton’s Brett Maher may have gone three-for-three on field goals and set a team record with a 58 yarder, but the Stampeders played the field position game to perfection and returned an onside kick for a touchdown. An onside kick.
Head coach Kent Austin spent the game in the coach’s box, calling plays and making decisions from a distance after being banished from the field by the CFL for making contact with an official in the loss to the Riders. While Austin acknowledged not liking it, he was likely more concerned by what he saw than where he saw it from.
The Ticats started the season with three big questions: Collaros’ health, the state of the secondary and the quality of the kicking the game. With five games left, only Maher resembles a certainty and there are concerns about his supporting cast. Hamilton has precious little time to figure out the rest.
On the plus side – and this is a funny thing to say – other than getting beat and losing Collaros, things went pretty well for the Ticats this weekend. Ottawa and Toronto both lost, and so the Ticats remain in second place in the East Division. They hold tiebreakers over the Argonauts and the mildly resurgent Montreal Alouettes, and have two games left with the Redblacks.
The schedule is certainly in their favour. They play three of their remaining four at home. Not that Tim Hortons Field has been a bastion of invincibility this season. Meanwhile, Montreal and Toronto both play Calgary twice more and the Redblacks have the Blue Bombers twice. Hamilton will also face Edmonton – looking more like a surefire crossover with each passing week – and the Alouettes on the final weekend.
So despite their up and down season, their demoralizing loss to the Stamps and the injury to Collaros – is now a good time to mention that back up Jeremiah Masoli has a better record in 2016?
The Ticats are still in excellent position to not only make the playoffs but even win the East. But at some point, their luck is bound to run out … if it hasn’t already.