Ticats lose game to Esks, Fantuz to injury

For the second straight year, the Edmonton Eskimos may have significantly — and inadvertently — altered the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ season.

The Esks beat the Ticats 29-26 on Friday, doing serious damage to Hamilton’s chances of winning the East Division. But it’s an injury to Canadian receiver Andy Fantuz that may prove to be the biggest blow to Hamilton’s post-season chances.

Fantuz was hurt on innocent-looking play with just under 10 minutes to play in the second quarter, his left knee buckling as he went to make a cut. He was helped from the field and received a series of condolences from teammates and coaches on the sidelines. There’s no official diagnosis — but it didn’t look good. At all.

“It’s a big loss, look at his production this year, what he means to our football team, his leadership on offence,” said head coach Kent Austin. “We have to figure out how to overcome.”

The whole scene was eerily similar to the game against the Eskimos last September that saw quarterback Zach Collaros go down with a serious knee injury. Fantuz, the team’s leading receiving and a Canadian, is as significant a loss as Collaros was.

There was more awful injury news. Defensive back Derrius Brooks was hurt in a third quarter collision with teammate Dominique Ellis and lay motionless on the field for several minutes. He was eventually carted off the field and taken to hospital for observation, though Austin said he had use of his arms and legs. Another member of the secondary, Johnny Adams, also went down in the first half.

Amid all the carnage, there was a game. The Ticats stormed out to a 10-0 lead on their first two possessions, then scored just a single point until the 8:06 mark of the fourth quarter. Collaros threw for 273 yards and a touchdown in his first start after missing two games with a concussion.

After a slow start, Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly got the Edmonton offence on track, especially as Hamilton’s injuries on the back end started to mount. The visitors led 12-11 at halftime, then scored 10 points in the third. A second Reilly-to Derel Walker touchdown pass made it 29-11 early in the fourth. And so on.

It wasn’t just injuries that hurt the Ticats. There were drops, fumbles and an array of ill-timed or ill-advised penalties. Brett Maher missed a shortish field goal. Edmonton defensive end Odell Willis spent much of the game in Collaros’ face.

“The missed field goal hurt us. But it’s never down to one play, we had opportunities to make other plays,” Austin said. “We had three of four holding penalties… That was the difference in us only being able to score what we did.”

And what’s a Ticat game without an officiating controversy? With Hamilton within three late in the fourth and trying for an onside kick, the Ticats were flagged for an illegal kickoff, though replays showed an Edmonton player clearly touched the ball before it went out of bands. The officials added an objectionable conduct flag to boot.

“The explanation was that the ball or player needs to come down in bounds and because he was in the air and tapped the ball out, that’s a penalty on us,” Austin said. “If that’s actually the rule, then that needs to change because that’s the most ludicrous thing I’ve heard in my life.”

The league issued its own explanation – and acknowledged an error was made – on Saturday.


With the loss, the Ticats fall to 7-10 and will need the Ottawa Redblacks to lose on Saturday in Winnipeg to have any shot of finishing first in the division and earning a first-round bye.

Hamilton has made the playoffs but without Fantuz — and Luke Tasker and Rico Murray and the plethora of others now missing — it’s fair to wonder just how long they’ll last.

Notes: Terrence Toliver joined Fantuz as the second Ticats receiver to go over 1,000 receiving yards on the season … The crowd was announced at 24,031, the 25th consecutive sellout.

Drew Edwards is the founder of 3DownNation but has since wandered off. Beard in the photo not exactly as shown.