If you scripted the game for the Ticats I’m not sure you could have written a better one for them than the one we saw Friday night in Montreal.
The Cats scored on their opening drive, created a turnover on Montreal’s opening drive (which the offence converted into a touchdown) and scored on a blocked punt all in the game’s first seven or so minutes. By the end of the first quarter the Ticats were up 28-0 and the game was essentially over.
This was a game where the Ticats got a little something from everyone, where they did things they don’t normally do (in a positive way) and while you need to temper excitement because it’s the Als, it is nice to see this team put together a solid performance and blow the doors off a team they should be beating soundly.
This is the Ticats team we saw against Edmonton and Winnipeg back in June. This is the team that we saw at the tail end of the 2017 season. This is the team that had people some predicting Grey Cup berths at the start of the season.
Yes, it was against Montreal, but you can only beat the team in front of you and did the Ticats ever do that on Friday night.
Masoli the good
With one glaring exception (two, really), Jeremiah Masoli was absolutely fantastic against the Alouettes, finishing the game 17 of 26 for 300 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 36 yards on five carries and scampering into the end zone for one score. He was on fire, getting time in the pocket to make his reads and finding open receivers. This is the Jeremiah Masoli that fans expect to see and he was all that and then some on Friday night.
Masoli the bad
Masoli entered the game with a league leading six interceptions on the season, and threw two more to up that to eight. It is the one really concerning part of Masoli’s game, one that many thought he had eliminated after last year’s 3:1 TD-to-INT ration (15 touchdown passes, five interceptions). Masoli has thrown at least one interception in each of the team’s first seven games and it is a trend that needs to end sooner rather than later. When fans and pundits get on Masoli’s back it is because of the turnovers. The elite quarterbacks don’t throw picks and if Masoli wants to reach that upper echelon (he has in pretty much every other aspect of the game) he needs to go back to the player he was in 2017 and eliminate all the turnovers.
The run game finds life
It’s been mentioned many times before but one of the hallmark’s of the Ticats’ offence under June Jones was the ability to establish the run game. In game’s the Ticats win, they run the ball well. In game’s they lose, they don’t. Now whether that is correlation or causation, we can’t say for sure. But what we can say is the Ticats’ run game found life against the Als. Five different ball carriers totted the rock 26 times for 169 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, the leader of which was Alex Green carrying the ball 15 times for 74 yards and two scores. June Jones admitted last week after the loss to Ottawa that he needs to be better calling run plays and he did that on Friday. For the Ticats to continue to have success they need to be able to keep defences guessing. Having a bona fide rushing attack is key to making that a reality.
Jalen Saunders is a beast
After another massive outing, perhaps the rest of the country will finally start to realize just how good Jalen Saunders has been for the Ticats the last season and a half. For anyone to say Saunders is catching people by surprise or that he is having a breakout season means you haven’t been paying attention. Yes, Saunders is showing himself to be one of the league’s very best at his position, but he did that last year with little-to-no fanfare from anyone outside Hamilton. For all the ink that guys like Luke Tasker, Brandon Banks and Terrence Toliver get (and rightly so), Jalen Saunders is putting up not just the best numbers on the team, but some of the best in the league. He had another 150 yards on seven catches against the Als, and he found the end zone for the second time in as many weeks. Saunders is balling out and it’s time every starts recognizing.
Brandon Banks ain’t no slouch either
Brandon Banks and 100-yard games just seem to be the norm. Since being inserted into the receiving corps full time, Banks has reached or surpassed the 100-yard mark in 10 of 17 games. He did it again against Montreal, racking up 114 yards on five catches and one touchdown. Banks long ago shed the label of “just a returner,” but he is no shedding the label of “just a receiver.” Brandon Banks has proven over the last 17 games that he belongs in the conversation among the league’s elite receivers.
Turnovers come in bunches
When it rains is pours sometimes, and for the Ticats’ defence is sure as heck poured turnovers on Friday night. The Ticats entered the game against the Als with an astonishingly low six forced turnovers, including just two interceptions. The floodgates opened against Montreal and the Ticats not only forced six turnovers, but also managed to intercept four passes. The defence as a whole was stellar, allowing just 11 points (which probably should have been just three, but more on that in a second) and limiting Montreal to just 247 yards of offence, but we have seen them dominate like that before and lose. But creating turnovers is where this team has faltered all season. To see them get six in one game, even a game against the lowly Alouettes, is something Ticats fans can be especially happy out.
Two bad calls gives Montreal eight points
So about those 11 points. The Als were given eight of them as a gift from the men in stripes, and while I hate to harp on the referees I just don’t see how (a) that was pass interference on Cariel Brooks and (b) how they didn’t overturn the two-point convert when replay showed the ball very clearly hit the ground. While I don’t for one second believe the refs just have Montreal points to make the fans happy — these guys are professionals, and even if you are going to criticize them (which is fair), there is no way they would ever do something like that — those calls were bad. In a 50-11 game you can kind of let them go, but it’s still a bummer to see the refs and command centre make what looked like obvious errors.
The Ticats now sit at 3-4, and are just a single game behind the Ottawa Redblacks for first in the East Division after Ottawa’s epic collapse on Thursday night to the Toronto Argonauts. But the road back to .500 is not an easy one as the Ticats will head to Winnipeg to take on a very good Bombers squad.
The Ticats did hand the Bombers a loss all the way back in Week 3, but that was when the Bombers were without their starting QB Matt Nichols. Since starting 1-2 while Nichols was on the shelf, the Bombers have won three of their last four and will come into the game rested after having their first bye of the season in Week 8. Basically, don’t expect any 50-11 victories for the Ticats next week.
But if the Ticats want to get back into the contenders conversation they will need to beat quality teams, and a win in Winnipeg against a very talented Bombers squad would qualify as just that.