Brandon Banks not 100 per cent but doesn’t want to sit any longer

Nikita Whitlock is happy to face the B.C. Lions again.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats host B.C. on Saturday to complete a home-and-home series after the Lions rallied to win 35-32 in overtime last week in Vancouver. While many players loathe consecutive games against the same team, Whitlock enjoys the back-to-back encounters.

“I love them,” said the Ticats’ defensive lineman and running back. “It puts something in the air. It becomes an authentic rivalry game.”

One reason why many players dislike facing the same team in consecutive weeks is they overthink what tweaks or changes the opposition might make in the second game. And sometimes there’s precious little time between games, meaning little to no formal practice time to prepare.

“I don’t mind it,” said Hamilton head coach June Jones. “It’s interesting some of the things you’ve got to tweak and have to do . . . for me it’s just lining up to do the next one.

“I think there’s a little of that (guessing what changes opponent might make) but at the same time, you’re only as good as what you do. You can’t worry about what they’re doing, you prepare for everything.”

Even then, Jones figures those changes are minimal.

“Eighty-five to 90 per cent of packages are going be the same,” he said. “In football you can’t all of a sudden start running the wishbone or something totally different.”

Playing the same opponent in consecutive weeks is nothing new this season for Hamilton. This will mark the fourth time the Ticats will face the same team in back-to-back weeks.

The Ticats have registered the sweep twice – versus Montreal and Toronto – and were swept by Saskatchewan. Hamilton (6-7) needs to earn a split with B.C. (6-6) to pull to within two points of the idle Ottawa Redblacks (8-5), who are atop the East Division.

After this game, Hamilton will have a bye week before heading into a crucial home-and-home series with Ottawa.

Fortunately for the Ticats, they’ll have Brandon Banks back Saturday. Hamilton’s leading receiver (69 catches, 1,033 yards, seven TDs) has missed the last two games with a groin injury.

“No, I’m nowhere near 100 per cent,” a candid Banks said. “If I’m on the field, I’m good to play.”

But Hamilton will be minus starting left tackle Jordan Avery (family issues). Fellow American Kelvin Palmer will take his position.

Banks admitted that, with the bye week coming, there was the thought of having him skip Saturday’s game to get more time to heal. But the five-foot-seven, 155-pound Banks, a 1,000-yard receiver for the second straight season, offered a simple explanation for nixing that idea.

“My competitiveness,” he said. “I can’t sit out (any) longer.”

Banks, for one, isn’t a huge fan of back-to-backs.

“You can’t change it (schedule) once it comes out but it’s pretty tough,” he said. “Nobody wants to do it but it is what it is.

“It brings out a little bit more in you as a football player . . . it’s fun as a competitor but definitely tough.”

Ticats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was 19-of-25 passing for 311 yards and two TDs in the loss while running four times for 37 yards. Mike Jones had three catches for 138 yards and two TDs.

Masoli was also sacked five times, with former Ticat Davon Coleman registering three and eight tackles. Johnathon Jennings, starting in place of injured veteran Travis Lulay (shoulder), was 32-of-47 passing for 347 yards and three TDs and added 26 yards rushing on four carries.

Jennings and Bryan Burnham hooked up on a 20-yard TD pass, then the two-point convert late in regulation to tie the score 29-29. Ty Long’s 39-yard field goal in the second overtime earned B.C. the victory.

But offensive co-ordinator Jarious Jackson the Lions can’t dwell upon last week’s contest.

“You can’t carry last game into this game,” Jackson said. “I think than anything we have to be more aggressive and attack more like we did in the second half.

“I think Jonathon has gotten his feet wet . . . there’s still growing pains, there’s still things he needs to get better at but I’m trying to take the reins off of him and let him just go compete and play football.”

B.C. has won three straight, all against East Division teams (Ottawa, Toronto and Hamilton) but is 1-5 on the road. Hamilton has lost two straight and is 3-3 at home.

Must Read