Ticats throttle Edmonton (and eight other thoughts)

It was 42 for No. 42.

On the night No. 42 Rob Hitchcock was enshrined on the Ticats’ Wall of Honour, the 2019 version of the Ticats made sure to make the night extra special by putting up his jersey number in points in a 42-12 trashing of Edmonton.

The Ticats started hot, scoring on their opening drive and never looked back. They were up 19-3 at the half and scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to put it away.

They got contributions across all three phases, with big plays on offence, timely stops and turnovers on defence and big returns on special teams. It was a full team effort, the type of performance we are used to seeing from this team this year.

This might be the best Ticats team I have ever seen in my 30-plus years of watching the CFL. Hamilton has had some dominant teams — 2015 and the 1998-99 teams come to mind — but none that felt this inevitable. The Ticats are Thanos right now and even without any Infinity Stones to use, they are snapping their fingers and obliterating their opponents.

Daney Dimes

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats can win a Grey Cup with Dane Evans at quarterback.

When Jeremiah Masoi went down, the silence at Tim Hortons Field was deafening. Many thought, understandably so, that Hamilton’s season just went down. But all Evans has done since is win… a lot. The Ticats are 8-2 when Evans plays the majority of the game (7-2 in games he has started) and No. 9 is getting better each week.

His numbers against Edmonton weren’t as gaudy as the last time these two team’s met, but completing 75 per cent of your passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns is far from a bad night. Zero turnovers is also big, as Evans had struggled somewhat with interceptions until recently. He had three two-pick games in a row and had thrown at least one interception in six straight games, but threw zero against Edmonton and has nine touchdowns to just three interceptions in the last four games.

There are a couple throws each week by Evans that make your jaw drop. This week’s how-did-he-do-that throw was a deep corner route to Brandon Banks. It was a perfectly thrown ball that floated into Banks’ hands in double coverage to pick up 23 yards on a first-and-20 snap. Nothing came of the drive as the Ticats punted a few plays later, but it was the type of throw we see at least once a game from Evans.

Evans is also probably playing himself into the MOP conversation. While I have a hard time making the case for someone who didn’t play all of the season, Evans could end the year top three in every major quarterbacking category.

He’s sixth in passing yards, but will surpass McLeod Bethel-Thompson and is within striking distance of Vernon Adams Jr. and Cody Fajardo; he’s second in TD passes, three back of the leader, Bethel-Thompson (side note: why is Bethel-Thompson benched in Toronto?); and is second in completion percentage among quarterbacks who actually started this past week.

In a wide-open MOP race, Evans has as good a résumé as anyone else.

All of a Sutton the Ticats have found their running back

After 15 games, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ leading rusher is still Sean Thomas-Erlington with 224 yards. STE hasn’t played since being injured early in Hamilton’s Week 4 loss to the Montreal Alouettes. That’s almost unbelievable.

The Ticats have been able to run the ball, but they’ve done it in myriad ways with myriad players, be it a feature back like Maleek Irons or Cameron Marshall or by using Brandon Banks and Bralon Addison, but it sure looks like they have found their man for the rest of the year in Tyrell Sutton.

Sutton picked up 88 yards on 11 carries, added 23 yards on three catches and set the tone early with a 13-yard run on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Sutton ran over, through and by a lot of Edmonton defenders on Friday night and looks rejuvenated after being unceremoniously dumped by the Argos back in the summer.

The addition of Sutton reminds me of when the Ticats brought in Nic Grigsby at the end of the 2014 season to replace an injured C.J. Gable. Grigsby had some great games for the Ticats to help them reach the Grey Cup that year. Sutton could have a similar impact for the Ticats this year.

Many say you need a strong rushing attack as the weather turns cold and if that is indeed true, the Ticats have their guy in Tyrell Sutton.

Two picks, one for six

Richard Leonard had, by all accounts, a tough sophomore season last year. His numbers dipped and he seemed to be the weak link in the defence.

Not so much now.

Leonard has had a tremendous third season, bouncing back huge after last year. His two picks against Edmonton were his third and fourth of the season, his second was a pick-six that completed the romp.

Leonard was second on the team with six tackles, one fewer than his field-side battery mate Frankie Williams, to go along with those two interceptions.

Hamilton’s secondary has been stupendous this year and the reemergence of Richard Leonard as a lockdown defender is a big reason for that.

Partying like its 1999

The jokes always come, especially from Argos fans, but seeing the 1999 Ticats squad, the last to win a Grey Cup for the franchise, brought back a lot of great memories.

I feel like each generation of Ticats fans have a team they call their own. For the elder statesmen of the fandom, it’s the teams from the late 1950s, early 1960s. For the next generation, it’s the 1972 team; the one after that is the 1986 team. For my generation, it’s those 1998-99 teams. That was the team of my youth, many of the 30-something-year-old Ticats fans who pack Tim Hortons Field, that is their team, too. Seeing all those guys back in black and gold, getting to relive that time, truly got the night off to the best possible start.

#HitchOnWall

Those 1999 Ticats wouldn’t have been in attendance if it wasn’t for Rob Hitchcock. The team’s all-time leader in total tackles took his rightful place in Ticats history by having his name placed on the Wall of Honour.

The Ticats don’t retire numbers — they have retired just two, Bernie Falony’s No. 10 and Angelo Mosca’s No. 68 — but instead opt to enshrine players’ name on the Wall of Honour. I think it is the better option — I think retiring numbers is kind of dumb, but that’s another topic for another day — and there are fewer Ticats on the Wall than there are in the Hall of Fame.

Speaking of the Hall, that should be the next stop for Rob Hitchcock. His continued exclusion from the Hall of Fame is mind boggling to me, and sooner rather than later he should take his rightful place among the league’s greats in the greatest shrine to football excellence in this country. #HitchForWall is a reality; now it’s time to make #HitchForHall one, too.

Home cooking

Not since Tim Hortons Field first opened have the Hamilton Tiger-Cats been this dominant at the Doughnut Box. The Ticats are 7-0 at home this year and with home dates remaining against the Redblacks and Argos aka the two worst teams in the CFL, it is entirely possible that the Ticats will post an undefeated record at home for the first time since going 6-0 at home during the 1963 season.

East beast bests West

Hamilton only has games remaining against Eastern divisional opponents, so we can take stock of how the Ticats did against the mighty, might West and, yeah, it was good.

The Ticats end the season with an 8-2 record against the supposed superior division, losing games in Regina and Calgary by six- and one-point margins, respectively. They swept Winnipeg, Edmonton and B.C., and technically won the season series over both the Riders and Stamps if we take total margin of victory into consideration.

I have long proclaimed that the Ticats are the best team in the CFL, and said the debate on it was over after last week. With Calgary’s loss to the Als, the Ticats being two wins clear of every other team in the league, and their excellent record against the West, anyone who isn’t already on board that sentiment is deluding themselves. The best team in the CFL plays in Hamilton. Case closed.

Magic number update

I am going to go out on a limb and say this is the last time we will talk about magic numbers. The Ticats did their part this past week beating Edmonton, but the Als had to go and muck things up by winning against Calgary. That means the Ticats magic number to clinch the division sits at one. One win or tie by the Ticats or one loss or tie by the Alouettes and the Ticats will host the East Final.

The Ticats don’t need the help, but this can be accomplished while they are on their bye when the Als hit the road to take on a reeling Bombers team in Winnipeg. If the Als are able to leave IG Field with the win, then the Ticats can clinch the division title when they host the Redblacks on October 19.

So the division will be clinched no later than October 19.

The road to the Cup comes through Tim Hortons Field. Whether we know that for sure on October 12 or October 19 is the only left to be decided.

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