Too many mistakes, too little offence doom Ticats in loss to Stamps

Down their top playmaker, the Ticats made a game of it with the league-best Calgary Stampeders, but too many mistakes and turnovers, as well as a flaccid offensive performance, saw the Ticats fall to the Stamps for a 14th straight time, this one by a score of 43-28.

We can talk about moral victories and how the score isn’t reflective of how close (or weird; there were five non-offensive touchdowns scored between the two teams) this game actually was, but none of that matters because the Ticats couldn’t get the job done in a game they could have won even without Brandon Banks in the lineup.

Hamilton got TWO scores from their defence, a 60-yard interception return by Larry Dean and a 31-yard scoop-and-score by Delvin Breaux, and one from special teams on a 104-yard kickoff return by rookie Shakeir Ryan, but the offence couldn’t muster a single touchdown drive, turned the ball over twice and didn’t find their way into the red zone until late in the fourth quarter. Even just an average output from the offence would probably have been enough to turn this game in Hamilton’s favour.

The Ticats also gave up two special teams touchdowns of their own, one came via a Shakeir Ryan fumble on a punt return that Tunde Adeleke took 20 yards to the house and the other was 83-yard punt return touchdown by Terry Williams that put the Stamps up for good.

When the Ticats face the Stamps, it doesn’t end well for the Ticats, but that is usually because of how well the Stamps play. Neither team played particularly well in this one, but the team that made the fewest errors came out on top and that was Calgary.

Masoli and the offence have gotta wear this one

Jeremiah Masoli has been a very good QB for most of this season, but he was downright awful on Saturday afternoon. Masoli had perhaps his worst game of the season, throwing for just 210 yards on 23-of-37 passing, and tossing two very bad interceptions. It was his second-lowest passing yardage output of the season and his first multi-interception, zero-touchdown game. Masoli was just bad in this one and did more to help this team lose the game than he did to help the team win it.

But he’s not alone, as the running game had no spark for most of the afternoon and the offensive line was getting beaten repeatedly by a Calgary front that was missing one of their best defensive players in Micah Johnson. I cringe thinking about what this could have looked like if Johnson was in there.

The offence, but especially the quarterback, have to wear the goat horns for this one. They simply did not do enough in this game to back a defence that did all it could to win this game.

Hajrullahu does, too

Another candidate for the dunce cap in this one was kicker Lirim Hajrullahu for some spectacularly terrible play in key moments. Let’s start with the obvious and the four points Hajrullahu left on the field. In the grand scheme of things it didn’t end up mattering that much, but those lost points (one missed field goal, one missed convert) changed the complexion of the game. Because of the missed extra point, the Ticats had to go for two after a second half score to try to get their then-lead to seven points (they didn’t convert).

But maybe the worst thing Hajrullahu did was boot a kickoff out of bounds in the waning seconds of the first half. The penalty set the Stamps up with decent field position and one long bomb later and Calgary was in a position to kick a field goal to end the half with the lead. I don’t have the numbers to confirm, but it feels like Hajrullahu has kicked the ball out of play a lot on kickoffs. I’d be willing to bet that he leads the league in that penalty category.

Much like with Masoli, this is one performance the kicker will surely like to forget.

June Jones morphs into Jason Maas

Down 12 and inside Calgary’s 10-yard line, the Ticats opted to kick a field goal to make it a nine-point lead for the Stamps. Now, maybe I’m an idiot, but I don’t think there is a nine-point play in football, so I really do not understand why June Jones would opt to kick the field goal there. I know there were more than seven minutes left in the game, but the offence had not been that close to the end zone all game and instead of using that opportunity to try to punch it in and make it a one-score game, you kick a meaningless field goal. It makes absolutely no sense to me. At least Jones didn’t do it in the division finals, right, Jason Maas?

Good and bad from Shakeir Ryan

The Ticats’ special teams have been the exact opposite of special for most of the season, especially in the return the game, but for one brief moment the unit looked like they were back to their old selves when Shakeir Ryan took a kickoff over 100 yards to the house. It was brilliantly blocked, and Ryan found the smallest of creases to get through and then sprint to the end zone. It put the Ticats up nine and had Tim Hortons Field rocking.

So, of course, the next time Ryan touches the ball he fumbles and Calgary scoops it up and takes it to the end zone themselves. That’s the type of game it was for the Ticats, where one good thing was followed by one (or two) bad things.

Breaux Show gets air time

Delvin Breaux may have had his signature play that helps him nab the East nomination for top defensive player. Breaux is as shutdown as shutdown gets, so he rarely sees the ball, but he not only saw it today, but found a way to take it the other way for just the second touchdown of his CFL career. Breaux was in the right place at the right time, but his continued stellar play makes Hamilton’s secondary very scary.

Donny All-Star (with one glaring exception)

Breaux may have got the touchdown, but it was all set up thanks to Don Unamba’s strip of Calgary backup QB Nick Arbuckle, which was just one of the many plays Unamba made in this game. His coverage was sound, his tackling was superb and his timing is almost always excellent. He had another key pass knockdown, the second in as many weeks, that snuffed out a Calgary drive.

But we can’t talk about Unamba’s game without bringing up his idiotic headbutt on William Langlais. I understand emotions can get the best of you sometimes, but there is no place in the game for stuff like that.

Umamba will be a little lighter in the pocketbook after the league takes a look at that. And it is a shame that this one play will overshadow the otherwise excellent game Unamba had because he was one of the best players on the field for the Ticats.

Richard Leonard bounces back

It’s been a tough sophomore season for Richard Leonard, but against Calgary he had one of his best games of 2018. He had a couple timely knockdowns and came oh-so-close to producing a pick-six of his own when he jumped a route by DaVaris Daniels but just missed the ball (he did make the tackle for loss on the play, though). When Hamilton’s full starting secondary is healthy (which they weren’t in this one; standout rookie Jumal Rolle missed the game due to a concussion) there are few better in the league. The #NoFlyZone was in fairly good form on Saturday, but they weren’t perfect. And that leads me to…

Mike Daly does the opposite of bounce back

Saturday was not a good day to be one Mike Daly. I’ve been criticized in the past for being too critical of Daly, and while I think he has for the most part done a good job as the team’s starting safety, Saturday was the first day that I wondered whether the team would be better with Courtney Stephen back in the starting lineup. Daly was victimized on Bo Levi Mitchell’s 99-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Begelton that blew the game open for the Stamps. Daly was alone in coverage, but Begelton got behind him and while Daly was chasing, his attempt to break up the pass was all for nought. Maybe it is time to see what Stephen can do as the last line of defence in the secondary.

Looking ahead

A tough loss is a tough loss, but all is not doom and gloom in Tigertown as the Ticats still sit comfortably in second place in the East at 6-6, one game behind the Ottawa Redblacks for first. So despite another loss to the Stamps — their 14th in a row — the Ticats are still likely headed to the post-season.

Up next for the Tabbies is a home-and-home set with the B.C. Lions that kicks off in Vancouver next Saturday. The Ticats have played some tight games at B.C. Place the last few years, but last year was the first time they won in Vancouver since 2011. The Lions are likely going to be without Travis Lulay after he separated his shoulder against the Montreal Alouettes and the Lions have been a much better team since Lulay displaced former starter Jonathon Jennings as the team’s starter. Now it is Jennings who will have to deal with a ticked-off Ticats team that will want to get back in the win column and keep pace with the Redblacks.

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