Smith: There’s no defending June Jones

Tugging on Superman’s cape, messing with the Dudleyz, getting involved in a land war in Asia. And now we can add punting the ball from your opponent’s 38-yard line in a one-score game with less than a minute left.

That’s exactly what June Jones did and because of it the Hamilton Tiger-Cats left Vancouver with a 35-32 loss instead of a win.

It was an inexplicable, incomprehensible, indefensible decision. I’ve seen some rationalization on Twitter about the move, but you can’t defend this. At all. When up by seven with under a minute left and the ball deep enough in enemy territory where a field goal make isn’t a long shot, you kick the field goal and take the 10-point lead and accompanying win. Because if the Ticats try the field goal and make it, the game is over. The Lions try to make some deep throws, but there simply isn’t enough time for B.C. to score twice and the Ticats win the game.

But let’s say Lirim Hajrullahu misses the field goal, like he did a pair of 42 yarders in this one, what’s the worst that can happen? Chris Rainey returns the miss all the way to the house to tie the game. So the Ticats end up in the exact same position they found themselves in any way, except on the field goal try they gave themselves a chance to win the game. They don’t do that with the punt single. That decision extends the game and gives B.C. a faint hope of life, which they ended up using to their advantage.

Other possible outcomes on the field goal miss are the Lions down it for one, leaving Hamilton in the exact same spot they were after the punt single, or Rainey takes it out and gets tackled giving B.C. the same chance they had to try and score the tying points, but perhaps from a much longer distance. If you look at every possible outcome of trying the field goal, the absolute worst the Ticats could do was have the game be tied if everything goes against them, but if they make the field goal then the game is over. The only decision that ends the game occurs when kicking a field goal; punting needlessly extends the game.

That’s what June Jones did and it cost his team dearly, not only in the win column but also in race to host the East Final.

This could be a turning point game, and a turning point decision, but not in a good way.

Let’s not let Hajrullahu off the hook

It’s time we have this legitimate conversation: Lirim Hajrullahu has not been reliable at all this year. He missed two field goals against B.C., both from 42 yards, and both proved costly as even making just one changes the outcome of the game. He makes the earlier one, the Ticats punting the single doesn’t matter because they are up 10. He makes the second one, which was in overtime, perhaps the Ticats get at least a tie and can salvage something from a huge missed opportunity. But Hajrullahu misses both and the Ticats take an L.

He also has a habit of getting a penalty for illegally kicking the ball out of bounds, either on a kickoff or punt. It seems like a weekly occurrence from him, and if he was a rookie you might let it slide, but he is a five-year vet and for him to be this inaccurate, and shank these things indoors at B.C. Place of all places, does not imbue me with confidence. I know he’s made some big kicks with the Ticats this year, and I know he kicked the game-winning field goal in the Grey Cup last November, but when the Ticats need a big punt, kickoff or field goal, I just do not have any faith that Hajrullahu will make it.

Hit Mike Jones up on the low, ‘cause Mike Jones about to BLOW

Both in these game recaps and on Podskee Wee Wee, I have been incredibly hard on Ticats receiver Mike Jones. His bouts of the dropsies have frustrated me to the point that I created the #MFMJ hashtag (figure out what it means on your own), so when Jones plays well it is only fair to give him his props and holy smokes did Mike Jones ball the heck out against the B.C. Lions. Jones finished the game with three catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns. And those two touchdowns were absolute beauties.

On the first, he beats Lions DB Anthony Orange like he stole from him. The stop-and-go move he puts on Orange was disgusting.

Orange got burnt there. (No, I don’t regret that turn of phrase, why do you ask?)

The second was Jones using his speed to blow by Lions defensive back Winston Rose and making one move to find paydirt.

All the Ticats now need is for Mike Jones to consistently make plays. That’s been the knock on him his first three years in the league. Not downplaying what Jones did against B.C. at all, because it was tremendous, but I want to see him out there making plays and not dropping balls every game. If he wants to take that next step, he needs to be the player he was against the Lions on an every-week basis.

Daly lays the hammer

Another player who has taken some lumps recently was Mike Daly. After a very poor performance against the Stampeders last week, I openly wondered if it was time to put Courtney Stephen back at his starting safety spot. But credit where it is due because Mike Daly came to play against the Lions, with his signature play being this hit on Lions receiver Ricky Collins.

Daly also had a few other big plays in this, including a nice pass breakup on Cory Watson that was nearly an interception, and when he snuffed out a Jeremiah Johnson run on second-and-short early in the game. Much like Mike Jones, this is the Mike Daly fans want to see on a consistent basis. He proves again he is capable of being a starter in this league, he just needs to show it every week.

Anthony Thompson “Kyries Hebert’s” Terrence Toliver

While the Mike Daly hit is the textbook example of how to hit hard, but legal, in the modern game of football, Anthony Thompson’s hit on Terrence Toliver is the exact opposite. Thompson’s hit was late, dirty and has no place in the game. It was the type of hit you expect to see out of Kyries Hebert. Thompson aimed for Toliver’s head after the play was pretty much over. These are the types of hits the league is trying to get out of the game, and say what you want about Al Bradbury’s crew, but that flag was correct and Thompson will be lighter in the pocketbook later this week.

Time to end the Bralon Addison experiment

A week after taking a kickoff 104 yards to the house, Ticats receiver/return man Shakeir Ryan found himself off the roster because June Jones did not like the way Ryan held the football (Ryan also had a fumble on a punt in the game against Calgary). In his place was former Argo Bralon Addison, who showed once again that he doesn’t have the makings of a game-breaking CFL returner. He had a touchdown return negated by an illegal block, but outside of that Addison looked tentative, while also not displaying the type of vision Ryan showed a week ago. If this was meant to send a message to Ryan, fine, but now is not the time to be sending messages. Now is the time to be putting your best players on the field, and when it comes to the return game, Shakeir Ryan is better than Bralon Addison.

B.C.’s defensive line ate the Ticats’ offensive line’s lunch

Coming into the game, one of the main areas of concern was whether Hamilton’s somewhat beleaguered offensive line could keep B.C.’s dynamic 9-11 duo of Shawn Lemon and Odell Willis at bay. For the most part, the Ticats did a good job of making Willis and Lemon non-factors; however, it was a pair of former Ticats, in Davon Coleman and Claudell Louis, who wreaked havoc on Jeremiah Masoli. Coleman had a monster game, with three sacks, eight tackles and a big pass knockdown, while Louis had three tackles and generally created problems for Hamilton’s line the entire time he was on the field. The pair seemed to always be in Hamilton’s backfield and on a night when Lemon and Willis were kept mostly quiet, the Lions still found a way to get the job done thanks to Coleman and Louis.

Masoli breaks Hank’s record

It never should have happened because the game never should have gone to overtime, but Jeremiah Masoli is now the Hamilton Tiger-Cats single-season record holder for 300-yard passing games. He went over the 300-yard mark for the 10th time this season, which breaks Henry Burris’ record of nine 300-yard games set back in 2013.

Looking ahead

By snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, the Ticats now have a much more difficult path to first in the East and the all-important bye that comes with it. This loss coupled with Ottawa’s win over Edmonton puts the Ticats two games back of the Redblacks with just five games to play. The silver lining: Hamilton and Ottawa still play twice more this season, a home-and-home set in October. If the Ticats can get a little help from Winnipeg or Edmonton (Ottawa’s two opponents before the dates with the Ticats) and they can take care of their own business against B.C. and Toronto, those two games will decide who gets first in the East Division and host the East Final. The hill is steep for a Ticats team that did itself no favours with their west coast blunder, but they can make up for it over the next month and still find themselves in the catbird seat come the end of the season.

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