Moving the ball hasn’t been a problem this season for quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ offence.
Capping drives with touchdowns, though, is another matter.
Hamilton (3-5) hosts Edmonton (6-3) in Canadian Football League action Thursday night. The Ticats are averaging 403.5 offensive yards per game, second only to Edmonton (425.7).
But the Ticats stand fifth overall in scoring (24 offensive points per game) while Edmonton, led by CFL passing leader Mike Reilly, are second (28.6).
“Obviously we have a system that produces a lot of yards,” Masoli said. “I think for us, it’s no secret, putting up points and finishing drives.
“That’s what our emphasis was all week.”
The contest could be a pass-happy affair. Masoli is ranked third overall in passing yards (2,465) and four of the CFL’s top five receivers will be on the field in Edmonton’s D’haquille Williams (48 catches, 831 yards, six TDs) and Derel Walker (47 catches, 816 yards, six TDs) as well as Hamilton’s Brandon Banks (51 catches, 718 yards, three TDs) and Jalen Saunders (43 catches, 712 yards, two TDs).
“We’ve got a lot of playmakers out there,” Masoli said. “My job is just to try to get them the ball as fast as possible so they can move.”
June Jones said finishing drives has been a problem for Hamilton’s offence since he became head coach last season. The Ticats are 9-9 overall under Jones.
“I went back and looked at everything,” Jones said. “Last year we didn’t do it because everything was so new.
“But this year it’s been a combination of everything. We’ve found ways to screw it up and just haven’t executed at the end of the game. We worked on it this week, we had a good practice (Tuesday) focusing in on what we were doing in training camp in those situations. Now the players need to make plays and we need to come up with the right calls for them to make those plays.”
Penalties have been a problem this year for both teams. Edmonton is averaging a CFL-high 111.1 penalty yards per game while Hamilton stands third at 98.7.
But what angers Jones is the nature of Hamilton’s penalties.
“I think the penalties we’ve taken have been the stupid kind of penalties that really cost you,” he said. “I want to say five to seven penalties we’ve had on defence (have come) where we had them on the field and gave them either a touchdown or points after that penalty.
“It’s hard enough to win, let alone when you do those kind of things. It’s frustrating but you address it, coach it, talk about it all the time. Now the players have to step up, be disciplined and respond.”
The six-foot-three, 230-pound Reilly makes Edmonton’s offence click. The CFL’s most outstanding player last season leads the league in passing yards (3,046), TDs (19) and last weekend threw for 424 yards and three touchdowns in 40-24 win over Montreal.
Reilly also has rushed for 229 yards and a league-high eight TDs.
“Whenever you play a good quarterback like that, you better make sure you’re doing everything right,” said Jones. “His team really believes in him and you can tell that.
“They know he takes hits for them and delivers the ball and that’s what rallies the team.”
Masoli completed 19-of-29 passes for 332 yards with three TDs and an interception a 38-21 win against Edmonton on June 22. Reilly finished 20-of-30 passing for 286 yards with two touchdowns and a pick.
Canadian Mercer Timmis ran for 133 yards on 17 carries for Hamilton while scoring two TDs. On Thursday night, he’ll back up starter Alex Green.
Edmonton boasts the CFL’s third-leading rusher in C.J. Gable (532 yards, 5.1-yard average, two TDs). Jones is very wary of the former Ticat.
“C.J. is a good runner,” Jones said. “He’s underrated as a pass receiver and he’s a blocker, he knows how to stone you.
“Whenever you play against the team that you used to play for, you take it to a little higher level and I think C.J. will do that again.”