Ticats win another ugly game (& seven other thoughts)

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

There has been a lot of chatter recently about the entertainment value of CFL games, with many fans and pundits alike wondering if the league has a problem with its on-field product.

If you watched Wednesday night’s game between the Ticats and Redblacks you would be hard-pressed to argue otherwise.

Wednesday night’s affair, a 24-7 Ticats win, was sloppy, a little boring and not at all the type of football you expect from the three-down game.

Many factors contributed to this, with the Ticats sporting a roster that was missing its top two quarterbacks, top three receivers and the league’s reigning top offensive lineman. Ottawa’s problems are, well, they just don’t have very good players.

The CFL has prided itself on having the most entertaining brand of football on the planet, but Wednesday’s exhibition showed that may not be the case any longer.

Here are some more thoughts on Hamilton’s win.

Running the gauntlet

With Wednesday’s game in the rearview mirror, the Ticats ended a brutal stretch that saw them play four games over a 17-day span. No team should play that many games in a little over two weeks.

The Ticats, however, weathered the storm about as well as one could ask, finishing with a 3-1 record, and they were a missed extra point away in their one loss from possibly running the table. A lot was made of Hamilton’s poor start, including by yours truly, but the last month has shown the 2021 Ticats are still a pretty darn good football team.

Maybe they aren’t in the same category as the Bombers and Riders, at least right now, but the team will get healthy at some point and then we could see some real magic happen.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Stout might not be strong enough a word to describe this defence

With all due respect to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, I don’t know if I would take any other team’s defence over what the Tiger-Cats have right now. Injuries hampered them to start the season, especially in the secondary and along the defensive line, but since we have seen the Ticats play with their full compliment of players this defence has been a brick wall.

The Ticats haven’t allowed a team to score 20 or more points since Week 2, they have forced a dozen turnovers and have scored themselves three times. The defence didn’t allow a single point against Ottawa, with their lone score coming on a brilliant punt return from the Redblacks’ best player Devonte Dedmon.

The Redblacks had the ball 17 times, went two-and-out 11 times, and had just three drives produce multiple first downs, one of which was the final drive of the game. Yes, this is the Redblacks we are talking about, but to hold any team to that little on offence is a testament to how good this Ticats’ defence really is.

On the flip side

This offence was… woof.

For the second straight week David Watford was given the keys to the car, and while they opened things up a little more for him, the results were still not pretty. The Hampton product went 15-of-25 for a paltry 115 yards and one touchdown. He didn’t turn the ball over again, which given how well the Ticats are playing on defence is really all the third stringer needed to do.

This was more than likely Watford’s last game as the starter as the 10 days off should give Jeremiah Masoli enough time to get back into the lineup for a pivotal division clash with the Montreal Alouettes at Tim Hortons Field.

Watford’s numbers over his two games weren’t anything to write home about, but he was efficient and effective when he had to be, executed the game plan that was needed, and helped the team win a pair of games and stay atop the East Division. You really could not have asked for anything more.

The roller coaster that is the kicking game

After a superb five-for-five performance against the Stampeders, rookie kicker Taylor Bertolet came crashing back down to earth.

He hit just half of his six field goal attempts against Ottawa, with misses ranging from the excusable — 52 yards in a torrential downpour — to the inexcusable — a 34 yarder that went wide and opened the scoring at 1-0.

Michael Domagala was once again fairly solid in the punt game, but it is hard to feel even the slightest bit comfortable with the kicking game right now. Be honest with yourself, if the Ticats needed a 40 yarder to win a game with no time on the clock, would you trust that Bertolet or Domagala would make it? I know my answer.

Wednesday night football stinks

Why was this game played on a Wednesday?

I don’t have anything pithy to say or anything, I just don’t get why this game had to be played on a Wednesday night. Unless under the most extreme of circumstance, there should never be mid-week games.

And while we are at it, why is there a Tuesday game next week? And why are the Redblacks involved in that one as well?

And whose idea was it for the Ticats to play a game four days after their last one against a team coming off a bye?

None of this made any sense when the schedule was released, none of it makes any sense now, and I have yet to see a reason, good or bad, why this game was played on Wednesday.

Duck ain’t the answer

The TSN panel is really hoping you don’t watch the NFL with the way they were hyping up the impending arrival in Ottawa of one Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges. The former Pittsburgh Steeler signed with Ottawa last week, and after injuries and ineffective play from both Dominique Davis and Matt Nichols, the broadcast spent a lot of time touting the skills of the Duck man.

I guess I have to be the one to throw cold water on this, but Hodges was not a very good quarterback when he got playing time with the Steelers in 2019. He started six games for Pittsburgh and was mostly terrible. He never threw for more than 215 yards in a game, never had a multiple touchdown game, but he did have two multiple interceptions games, including a four-pick nightmare against the Buffalo Bills.

The Redblacks are desperate to find a quarterback of the future, but Duck Hodges isn’t it.

Forward thinking

The Ticats may have gotten off to a rough start, but the schedule coming up is what could separate them from the rest of the division. They start a three-game home stand where they host each East Division team once.

Given Hamilton’s outstanding home record under Orlondo Steinauer — 12-0 including the playoffs — if the Ticats can keep that up they will put a lot of distance between themselves and the teams chasing them for first place. There is a real chance this 4-3 team could be 7-3 before they take their last trip outside the eastern time zone just two days before Halloween.

The 14-0 season was snuffed out 60 minutes into the season, but a 10-4 record and home field throughout the playoffs is still very much in reach for a team hoping to end a two-decade-plus championship drought on home soil in December.

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.