— Hamilton Tiger-Cats (@Ticats) June 25, 2017
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats might be lucky but – at this point, anyway – they certainly aren’t good.
The Ticats got all kinds of breaks against the Toronto Argonauts during Sunday’s season-opener and still lost 32-15 – a score that actually flattered the visitors. Hamilton blocked two field goal attempts, returned one of them for a score and watched as Argo receivers dropped two sure-fire touchdown passes in the first half alone.
It didn’t matter. Argo quarterback Ricky Ray shredded the new-look Ticats secondary, throwing for a career-high 506 yards – and this is his 17th CFL season. Hamilton got some pressure on Ray, sacking him four times, but the veteran pivot was able to torch the Ticat secondary, virtually at will.
“They beat us. They flat out beat us,” head coach Kent Austin said “We were anemic on offence. I don’t know how many second-and-long conversions they had. They might have set a record. We didn’t make a single play on the ball in the air, the entire day.”
Veteran receiver S.J. Green, playing in his first game as an Argo, had seven catches for 124 yards – including a couple of the highlight-reel variety – against a defensive backfield that sorely missed the veteran presence of Abdul Kanneh and Emanuel Davis, both of whom missed the game due to injury.
And Hamilton had their share of bad luck, too: receiver Terrence Toliver was hurt on the Ticats’ second play from scrimmage, suffering a knee injury that looked anything but good. He missed the rest of the game as a series of teammates and coaches came over to offer words of support, similar to the scene after catastrophic injuries suffered by Andy Fantuz and Zach Collaros in past years.
Speaking of Collaros, his numbers were terrible – 201 yards on 21 of 34 passing and a pick – but he had precious little time to throw the football (he was sacked three times). He came off field in the second quarter, after yet another failed drive, the TSN cameras caught him yelling in frustration.
After the game Collaros clarified that his ire wasn’t directed at Austin.
“I was just frustrated,” Collaros said. “It was a conversation about the wrong personnel being in the game.”
The offence did not manage a single offensive touchdown and didn’t register a first down in the opening quarter. Will Hill’s two field goal blocks in the first half were pretty much the only bright spot for Hamilton, keeping the game close for longer than it should have been. Hill became the first player to block two kicks in a game since Donnovan Carter in 2002; it’s only been been done 10-times in CFL history.
Otherwise, the Ticats were beaten in virtually every other aspect of the game as the early returns on new Argo head coach Marc Trestman were nothing short of spectacular.
That said, the major issue in Toronto – pathetic attendance – remains unchanged. Just 13,583 showed up to BMO Field, a number greatly enhanced by the legion of Ticat fans who made the trip. Friday’s game against B.C., could mean Toronto’s numbers might be even more dire.
Meanwhile, the Ticats have a bye in week two of the season and will likely need every minute of it to straighten out the litany issues revealed in the opener. Time, as it were, to make their own luck.
“We have to get a lot better, a lot of improvement,” Austin said. “And it needs to happen between now and the next game.”