Ticats have nobody but themselves to blame for loss to Argos

While their fans took to social media to rage at the officiating in the aftermath of Saturday night’s devastating overtime loss to the Toronto Argonauts, Hamilton Tiger-Cat players and coaches were rightly pointing the finger right where it belonged: at themselves.

The Ticats had a 14-point lead early in the fourth quarter and were clinging to an eight-point advantage with under a minute to go when they allowed the Argos to convert on third-and-17 before surrendering a touchdown and game-tying two-point conversion. They gave up another eight points in the extra frame and lost.

“We had a lead and didn’t make enough plays at the end of the game. We just didn’t make them at the end. Frustrating,” head coach June Jones said afterward. “You don’t like losing but losing that way hurts more.”

There were plenty of other what-if moments. An ability to punch it in from the one-yard line in the first half. A long pass to a wide open Luke Tasker with just under six minutes to go that fell just beyond his finger tips, part of five two-and-outs in the game’s late stages. Not to mention a series of late defensive breakdowns from a unit that had been otherwise solid for much of the first half.

But it was a series of calls that went against home side that had fans just this side of apoplectic.

The Ticats were penalized 15 times for 135 yards while the Argonauts were flagged on just seven occasions for 105 yards. Hamilton took nine of the last 11 penalties, including a number with the game in the balance.

A replay challenge by the Argonauts in the third quarter was upheld despite minimal contact, a decision TSN television analyst Glen Suitor called, “the worst call I’ve seen all year.” On the third-and-17 play, Argo receiver S.J. Green was very close to being offside, another borderline call that went Toronto’s way. There were several others, from fumbles to offsides to holding, that all seemed to come out in favour of the Double Blue.

This is hardly the first time the Ticats have been burned by officiating at critical moments. The last two seasons, the CFL has admitted it made mistakes in Hamilton losses that impacted the East Division race. Then in last year’s playoff loss to Edmonton, the league acknowledged its officials made two separate errors on a key play late in the game.

Which is to take nothing away from the Argonauts, who were incredibly resilient on Saturday. Ray was punished on a number of occasions and yet delivered when it mattered most, finishing with 330 yards on 25 of 38 passing and three touchdowns.

The game changed the narrative for both teams heading into the final stretch.

Hamilton is now 3-10 while the Argos are 7-7 and alone in first place in the East, having clinched the tie-breaker with all three teams in the division. The Ticats can still catch 5-9-1 Ottawa – who blew a late lead of their own this week – as they have two games in hand on the Redblacks.

The Ticats and Redblacks have split their meetings this year and will meet a third time in Ottawa on Oct. 27. Hamilton travels to Winnipeg next Friday, has a home date with Calgary and two games with Montreal left on the schedule.

“We’ve just got to get back and find our mojo again,” said linebacker Simoni Lawrence. “I feel like we’re a super confident group. We know what kind of football team we are. But we’ve just gotta go out there and put it on the team’s neck where we’re supposed to win.”

They didn’t against Toronto. And in a season full of disappointments, this may be the costliest one of all.

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