Smith: Ticats defence is setting the tone again

Is “those who dance last, dance best” a saying?

No? OK, fine, I won’t try to make it happen.

But after Logo-gate took over the Twittersphere, it was the Ticats who got the last laugh (and dance) as they waltzed all over the B.C. Lions en route to a 40-10 win on Saturday afternoon at Tim Hortons Field.

For the Ticats, it was the defence that lead the way. Being physical from the first play of the game — where they scored on a Don Unamba pick-six — to the last. In total, the defence scored more points than they allowed, and while the recipe cannot be expected to be repeated, it definitely made for a fun afternoon of football for the Hamilton faithful.

Hamilton’s defence scored two touchdowns, produced three turnovers and tallied six sacks against a B.C. Lions offence that didn’t turn the ball over once and only allowed one sack last week. This was the first game where the Ticats got any consistent pressure, and it showed. Hamilton’s front four accounted for all six sacks, including two by Ted Laurent. Hamilton’s defence had their way with a B.C. offence that looked out of sorts a week after they staged a miraculous comeback.

Bryan Burnham, the man who haunted the dreams of Ticats fans all week, was held to just two catches for 21 yards. Grey Cup MVP DeVier Posey, four catches for 29 yards. The team’s leading rusher was backup QB Cody Fajardo, while Jeremiah Johnson was limited to just six yards on three carries and Chris Rainey didn’t fair much better, with a minuscule 13 yards on four carries.

While the offence did its part, Jeremiah Masoli tossed three touchdown passes, it was the defence that paved the way for the Ticats to get back within striking distance of the Ottawa Redblacks for first in the East.

Brandon Banks is the Ticats’ MOP

When Brandon Banks is in the lineup the Ticats’ offence is just better. I know that’s a the-sky-is-blue-type observation, but the last three weeks makes it crystal clear that as good as Jeremiah Masoli has been (and he has mostly been fantastic) this team, this offence, goes as Brandon Banks goes.

Banks didn’t post massive numbers, but his nine catches and 79 yards were both team highs and he found the end zone twice. He now has 78 catches for 1,112 yards and nine touchdowns on the year. He is second in the league in every one of those categories and just look at how the offence operated with him out of the lineup the last two weeks and with him in it this week. Night and day would be an apt description.

Hamilton’s offence didn’t post huge numbers, but they were efficient all game and explosive when they had to be, and Speedy B was a big reason for that.

Anthony Orange juked out of his jock… again

Anthony Orange spent time with the Argos earlier in his career, so he probably already had a general dislike for the Ticats, but if he didn’t he sure does now after the last two weeks saw him get absolutely schooled by a pair of Ticats.

Last week, Mike Jones (WHO!?) made Orange look silly on a stop-and-go route that ended 75 yards later with Jones in the end zone. This week, it was John White’s turn to embarrass Orange when the former caught a pass in the flat and well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so take a look for yourself.

Here is another angle.

And here is one last one.

That’s nasty.

That wasn’t the only highlight for White, who had easily his best game as a Ticat running the ball 15 times for 108 yards, including runs of 14, 26, 14 and 32 on Hamilton’s first two offensive scoring drives. White finally looks like the all-star-calibre John White we saw during his peak years in Edmonton. With Alex Green on the six-game, the Ticats need White to be the bell cow, and he answered the call against the Leos on Saturday.

Donny All-Star does it again

It seems that every week I say that Don Unamba is having an all-star season, but every week Don Unamba does something that makes me have to say again that he is having an all-star season. This week, it was his first-play pick-6 of Jonathon Jennings that put the Ticats up 13-0 early in the first quarter in what was a tone setter for the rest of the game. Unamba finished the game with five tackles, including one for a loss, in addition to the interception return for a touchdown, and his ability to make a key, potential game-altering play is nearly unmatched. That pick-6 whipped Tim Hortons Field into a frenzy, and gave the Ticats all the points they would need to ensure victory, and further added to what should be an all-star highlight reel come year’s end. While a lot of the time all-star selections are based on reputation, not to mention that SAM linebackers rarely get all-star love because their numbers don’t tend to be as eye-popping as their WILL and MIKE counterparts, if there was any player who could (and should) break that up it is Don Unamba. Few, if any, are playing the linebacker position better than Unamba has in 2018.

Daly Double

Since a terrible performance against the Stampeders, safety Mike Daly has put together back-to-back strong outings, with maybe his best game of the year coming Saturday. Not only did Daly register his first career touchdown on the second Jonathon Jennings pick-6 of the game, but Daly also had two nice pass knockdowns. I have been critical of Daly at times this year, and I will admit to wondering whether a move back to Courtney Stephen at safety might be best. Since then, Daly has played exceptionally well and made me eat those words. When Mike Daly is making plays and laying hits like he has the last couple of games, the Ticats defence is that much better.

Ticats win the trench battle

Keeping B.C.’s vaunted 9-11 duo of Shawn Lemon and Odell Willis at bay for one game is a tall task; asking to do it in back-to-back weeks is nearly impossible. But consider it mission accomplished as the Ticats kept those two relatively quiet for a second straight week. While last week other players, mostly Davon Coleman, were allowed to feast, Lemon and Willis were mostly kept off the stat sheet. This week, the Ticats were not only able to silence those two, but everyone else as well. Both Lemon and Willis are nowhere to be found on the stat sheet, and last week’s terror Davon Coleman had just one tackle. With the Ticats starting a new player at left tackle — Avery Jordan missed the game due to family matters, Kelvin Palmer took his place — surrendering just one sack to the team that leads the league in that category is tremendous. The line also paved the way for John White’s 100-yard game and Jeremiah Masoli did not look harassed all that much when he was tasked to throw. It was an all-around splendid game for the hogs.

Looking ahead

The Ticats are off next week with their third and final bye of the season. Winning against the Lions puts them back in play for first in the East, and a little help from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (who play the Ottawa Redblacks next week, and are in a dog fight for a playoff spot themselves) would really make this a race.

After the bye, the Ticats face four straight Eastern opponents, starting with the possibly-out-of-the-playoffs Argos, followed by the back-to-back showdown with the Redblacks, before finishing out the regular season against the Alouettes. It is a stretch where the Ticats could win out, but we have seen this team vacillate between looking like world beaters and looking like also-rans that it is foolish to try to predict how this team will do down the home stretch.

But the good news is that at 7-7 the Ticats are all but assured of finding themselves playing more than the 18 regular season contests. The Ticats need just one more win, or one loss by the Argos and Als to punch their playoff ticket. In fact, the Ticats could have a playoff berth all wrapped up before they ever hit the field again. If the Als drop their Week 17 game to the Stamps and the Argos fall to Lions then Hamilton is post-season bound for the eighth time in the last 10 season.

Then it becomes about one thing and one thing only: catching Ottawa and securing their place in the East Final. Should be a fun last month for the Ticats and their fans.

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