The McMahon curse continues.
In what was an extremely hard-fought game, the Ticats came up just short, losing 28-14 to the Calgary Stampeders.
The two-score margin of victory is not indicative of how close the game was throughout the night. Hamilton had a legitimate chance to escape Calgary with a win for the first time in almost 15 years but came up short at the end.
It now also means the Ticats are 0-1 for the 14th time in the last 15 years. Yikes!
Here are some deeper thoughts on the game.
High/Low: Masoli shines… and then he doesn’t
Trying to convince people that Jeremiah Masoli is a starting-calibre quarterback is a fool’s errand. For those that simply refuse to believe Masoli should lead this team no evidence will convince them otherwise. You can tell them that Masoli was 25-of-36 for 344 yards and better than his Calgary counterpart, 2016 MOP Bo Levi Mitchell, by any metric, but it won’t make any difference. They will simply point out to you that the team didn’t win and never change their stance. But was Masoli was very good in this game… until he wasn’t.
For as good as Masoli’s stats were, the number that will stick out like a sore thumb is one. One interception. One bad interception. One really bad interception that put the kibosh on any Ticats’ comeback attempt. It was a throw that Masoli almost immediately wanted back and one that will make the calls from those looking to replace him grow even louder.
But don’t fall into the lazy narrative that this is the same, old Jeremiah Masoli. That’s not the case. He made one really bad throw, and unfortunately, it came at the absolute worst time, but aside from that, he was almost flawless. So save your calls for his job. They’ll fall on deaf ears.
Low/High: Bend but don’t break
It looked like 2017 all over again during most of the first quarter with the Ticats defence giving up lots of yards and looking completely lost. If not for a few overthrows by Bo Levi Mitchell this game would have been all but over after 15 minutes. The Stamps marched up and down the field almost at will and it looked like it was going to be a long night for the Ticats defence.
But then things started to get a little better. We saw the Ticats allow just one touchdown when the Stamps were in the red zone, a number that, if repeated, will lead to a lot of wins in the future.
The secondary played a lot better as the game went on. The coverage got a little tighter, with Frankie Williams standing out with a few key knockdowns and forcing some incompletions. Bo Levi Mitchell threw for under 50 per cent on the night, and while some of that was of his own doing, it would be unfair to say it was all his doing. The Ticats defence forced bad throws and that led to one of Mitchell’s worst nights of his professional career.
Low: The offense sputters
The Ticats held an 11-9 lead at halftime, and a lead of any kind for Hamilton in this one was treated as a moment to celebrate. But from the touchdown to take the lead in the first quarter until the the field goal to cut the lead to six in the fourth, the Ticats’ offense completely shut down. Seven punts, one field goal and a fumble was all they had to show for the entire second and third quarters, and most of the fourth. In a game where the defense did enough to keep them in it, the offense, which is supposed to be the calling card of this team, let them down.
High: Hit Mike Jones up on the low ‘cause Mike Jones about to blow
One of Ticat fans favourite whipping boys was the team’s top receiver against the Stampeders. Mike Jones (WHO!?) Mike Jones led the Ticats with 120 yards on five catches and his catch and run of 76 yards — on a beautifully thrown ball by Jeremiah Masoli — set up the Ticats’ lone touchdown of the night.
Before we get too high on Jones, recall that he had a pretty decent Week 1 last year and was in the doghouse by the end of the season. But perhaps this new lease on life will help Jones go from punchline to solid contributor. For one night at least he flashed all the skills that made him a highly sought-after prospect in the draft just three years ago.
Low: The run game
Did the Ticats reinstall Kent Austin as head coach and not tell anyone? I ask because based on the scant number of running plays the Ticats ran against Calgary, it felt like Austin was back at the helm. Hamilton ran the ball just 12 times against the Stampeders for a minuscule 56 yards, less than half of Calgary’s 132 on the ground.
One the major changes June Jones made when he took over the Ticats last September was to put on emphasis on running the football. In the 11 games Jones has coached the Ticats, they have rushed 12 or fewer times just twice before Saturday night. Maybe the injury to Alex Green and the unavailability of John White altered the game plan, but hopefully the Ticats get back to doing what they did so well last year under Jones: run the dang ball!
High: No sophomore slump for Jalen Saunders
Jalen Saunders had one of the best rookie seasons that no one talks about. He led his team in receiving and finished in the top five league-wide in the same category, but he was overshadowed by the likes of Marken Michel, James Wilder Jr. and Richard Leonard. Well, Saunders picked up in 2018 where he left off in 2017. He led the Ticats in catches against the Stamps and finished two yards behind Mike Jones for the team lead in that category. We shouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves, but it sure seems like Jalen Saunders is going to have a very productive 2018.
The Alberta death tour continues for one more week as the Ticats stay out west and prep for a date at Commonwealth Stadium with Edmonton.
Here is a funky stat to keep in mind: Hamilton has won three of their last five in Edmonton, and their two losses have come by a combined nine points. Edmonton hasn’t been the elephants’ graveyard that Calgary has been, so it is not inconceivable that the Ticats do come home from their Alberta excursion with a 1-1 record.
Winning on the road is tough in the CFL — we saw exactly one road team, Edmonton, win on the road in Week 1 — so expecting a victory by the Ticats is not something I would do. But in the interest of being positive, there is no reason to believe the Ticats can’t win this game and even up their record ahead of their home opener on June 29 against Winnipeg.
We saw some good things from the Ticats on Saturday night in Calgary, just not enough of them to get a win. Clean some of the mistakes up and a different outcome should follow.