What we learned in Hamilton’s crushing defeat at the hands of the Redblacks

It’s over, folks. Now at 0-8 and with back-to-back losses at home, we can all pretty much say the Ticats’ 2017 season is done. If they can’t beat a 1-6-1 team at home then thinking they can miraculously make a run starting on Labour Day is foolish. This team is as bad as their record says. Heck, they might even be worse.

For about five or so minutes in this game, the Ticats actually looked like a competent football team. Yes, they punted on their first possession, but after allowing an Ottawa field goal, the Ticats got a big return from Brandon Banks on the ensuing kickoff, Zach Collaros stayed strong in the pocket and fired a dart to Luke Tasker, who took it 45 yards to the house and, hallelujah, the Ticats actually had a lead. The Redblacks would chip away, taking a five-point lead into the locker room at halftime, but there was reason to be optimistic going into the second half.

And then things unraveled. For a team that desperately needed to catch a break — or create one — they failed to do so time and time again. And here we sit, with the Ticats at 0-8 and the season all but over.

Hamilton’s season in one image

Those breaks I was talking about, this would have been a big one. Down 18-10, the Ticats decided to take a shot on second-and-short, and Jeremiah Masoli found Brandon Banks open for what would have been a touchdown and then the above happened.

The worst part about that play: the Ticats would take a penalty on third down and be forced to punt. So instead of seven (or maybe eight) points, the Ticats came away with nothing. The drop would have still been bad, but the drop combined with the procedure penalty ended the drive and pretty much ended the Ticats’ hopes of winning. Ottawa would get the ball and score 10 plays plays to make it 25-10 and that was all she wrote.

So when the obit is written about this season, that’s the image you will see.

Yay! We have a QB controversy… but we probably shouldn’t

I know that Kent Austin said after the game that “every position will be evaluated” and that includes the quarterback, so the jump to the Ticats having a quarterbacking controversy isn’t illogical. And yes, Zach Collaros has looked awful this season, but what we saw tonight when Jeremiah Masoli came in is the same player we see every time: brilliant one series, atrocious the next.

Masoli came in and immediately guided the team down the field for a touchdown, and that will have fans clamouring for him to become the team’s starter, but let’s not forget that after that scoring drive, he got sacked and threw three-straight incompletions and didn’t complete another pass until under a minute left in the game. Masoli provided a spark, but he also showed that he is still the same streaky player he has always been. Maybe that is what the team needs, but to blame this 0-8 start on one player is foolish. A lot of players, and coaches, own this record, not just one.

This offense does suck, though

I never thought I would see an offense as inept as the ones from the Jason Maas-Casey Printers era, but this year’s Ticats team is finding new ways to completely suck on the offensive end. The numbers are incredible, and by incredible, I mean awful:

  • 12 first downs
  • 206 yards of offense
  • 23:09 time of possession
  • 44 per cent on second down
  • 7 two-and-outs on 14 drives

Oh, and they allowed a touchdown on a botched read-option between Zach Collaros and C.J. Gable. It was a nightmare. A boring, bland, milquetoast nightmare.

There was a stretch in the middle of the game where the Ticats punted on six-straight drives and picked up just two first downs on those drives. Two!

When you see a score of 37-18, the knee-jerk reaction is to blame the defense, but with numbers like this, it is no surprise that the defense gives up what it gives up.

The defense played well… until it didn’t

Speaking of the defense, praise first: they held the Redblacks to six field goal attempts on their first nine drives. You can argue that getting punts would be better, but a defense that is just surrendering field goals is mostly doing its job. But the touchdowns came later, but that is to be expected when a unit is on the field for nearly 37 minutes.

Larry Dean and Justin Capicciotti seemed to be singlehandedly (doublehandedly?) trying to win this game. The two combined for 12 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble and one additional quarterback pressure. Dean was especially demonstrative on the field, doing his best to set the tone and rally the team behind him.

The move to replace Jeff Reinebold with Philip Lolley has meant absolutely nothing as the team has allowed 39 and 37 points in the two games since Lolley was promoted, so whatever changes he brought have not worked. The secondary once again played too soft and allowed the opposing quarterback, this time Ottawa’s Trevor Harris, to play pitch and catch with his receivers. Harris threw for nearly 400 yards and completed 75 per cent of his passes. These are nearly weekly occurrences against the Ticats.

They once again couldn’t get stops on second down, as Ottawa was able to convert 18 of their 31 second-down opportunities. That is 58 per cent. It was bad when the Ticats were allowing teams to convert 55 per cent of the time, but now they are approaching the 60 per cent mark. Are you kidding me!?

The Ticats have a knack for blocking kicks

The Ticats blocked another kick, so even in this season of misery, the special teams are still making plays. This one was blocked by reserve safety Jay Langa on a Brett Maher extra point and taken to the house by Courtney Stephen for two points. The crowd erupted when the kick was blocked — partly because it was the first good thing to happen for the home side in almost two quarters and partly because I think a lot of people thought it was a touchdown — and it was nice to feel Tim Hortons Field rocking for the first time in a long time. It was short-lived, but in this season of agony, fans need to little things.

Brandon Banks… *shrug*

So this game will be remembered for Banks’ drop, but it’s a shame because this was the first time in a long time that Brandon Banks looked like Brandon Banks. He had a pair of long kick returns and averaged 36.3 yards per return. That is the Brandon Banks we were used to seeing, but that drop will overshadow the rest of his performance, perhaps rightly so.

Kent Austin is bad at challenges

So this will probably get me a lot of heat, but I don’t think Kent Austin’s decision to challenge pass interference on the two-point convert try in the fourth quarter was a good call.

I get that a successful challenge and attempt would have made the score 31-20, meaning a field goal along with a touchdown and two-point convert would have tied the game. I also get that being down 13 means the Ticats would have needed two touchdowns to take the lead. But it was still a highly questionable challenge because even if they won the challenge, which they did, they would still need to be successful on their subsequent two-point try, which they weren’t.

Essentially Austin burned through his one and only challenge to win a challenge to get a play that failed anyway. I know you can’t decide whether a call is right or wrong based on the outcome, but even when the fans at Tim Hortons Field were screaming for Austin to challenge, I thought it was the wrong call. It felt like little would be gained even if everything went right afterwards, let alone if things went poorly, like they did.

Looking ahead

So the 2018 season should be… I’m kidding… slightly.

The Ticats are on a bye, and big changes could be coming. The season is essentially lost, so we could see some moves. We already saw one, with the team acquiring receiver Ricky Collins, Jr. from the Saskatchewan Roughriders for defensive lineman Mike McAdoo. It would not surprise me if this was the first of many moves the Ticats made before their Labour Day showdown with the Argos.

And yes, that means Labour Day is next, and back when the Ticats would routinely suck, this was the one game that mattered. Ivor Wynne Stadium even played a video that said the season was a success if you beat the Argos. Those days were supposed to be long gone, and winning Grey Cups was the supposed to be the new standard, but after a couple close calls we are back to, “The season may be over, but can we please just beat Toronto on Labour Day?”

The Ticats have never lost to the Boatmen at Tim Hortons Field since it opened on Labour Day in 2014. But this year the Ticats have done a lot of things they hadn’t done since Tim Hortons Field opened on Labour Day in 2014, so it would be fitting if in this lost season the undefeated streak against the Argos came to an end. I guess we will find out in a little over a fortnight.

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