Why the Ticats are in big trouble with Ted Laurent out for Grey Cup

Photo courtesy: Alex Lupul/AlexLupul.com

Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ defensive tackle Ted Laurent has officially been ruled out for the 108th Grey Cup on Sunday after undergoing an appendectomy earlier this week, which is awful news for the Tabbies.

Hamilton’s defence struggled to stop the run in two early season losses to Winnipeg and Saskatchewan. The Bombers rushed 25 times for 149 yards in Week 1 before William Powell and Cody Fajardo skewered the Ticats the following week for 167 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.

The Ticats started the year 0-2 with the defence allowing 316 rushing yards on 51 carries for an average of 6.2 yards per attempt. Yikes.

Hamilton’s run defence tightened up dramatically as the season went on, allowing just 799 rushing yards over their final twelve regular season games. The unit did particularly well against the CFL’s leading rusher, William Stanback, allowing him to rush for just 128 yards in three meetings, including the East Semi-Final.

The Ticats finished the year with the best run defence in the CFL, allowing 79.6 rushing yards per game and 4.2 rushing yards per attempt.

Here’s the thing: Ted Laurent missed the first two games of the season due to a knee injury. He was replaced by Eddy Wilson II in Week 1 and Lee Autry II in Week 2, the latter of whom will start the Grey Cup in Laurent’s place.

The Ticats allowed 6.2 yards per carry when Laurent was injured and 3.8 yards per carry when he was healthy. That’s a remarkable difference that illustrates just how critical the six-foot-one, 300-pound defender is to Hamilton’s run defence.

Andrew Harris was sensational in Winnipeg’s 21-17 win over Saskatchewan in the West Final, rushing 23 times for 136 yards and a touchdown. He did not play Week 1 against Hamilton due to a calf injury, with Brady Oliveira eclipsing the century mark in his first career start.

Hamilton is a good football team that will be playing in front of an electric hometown crowd at Tim Hortons Field. The club still has a shot to knock off the high-flying Blue Bombers, but the absence of Laurent will make ending a 22-year Grey Cup drought all the more difficult.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.