There were a number of reasons why the Hamilton Tiger-Cats blew a 24-point lead to lose 33-30 in overtime to the Calgary Stampeders in Week 2.
If you ask Ticats’ quarterback Dane Evans one of the biggest reasons should never have occurred.
“I have done those a million times in my life and the play was over,” Evans said post-game about the third-and-short QB sneak where Stamps’ defensive back Titus Wall stripped him of the ball and returned it for a touchdown.
“I knew I had the first, so I just turned back. Watch those from three years back and all the ones this weekend and you’ll see it’s over as soon as you get the first.”
Unfortunately for the Tabbies, the referees didn’t see it that way and Evans admits to giving up on the play: “Yeah, because I had the first.” He believed the play to be over. That’s why they say play until the echo of the whistle.
While the Wall strip return touchdown may have been the biggest blow the Ticats dealt with momentum-wise, the game was already starting to tilt in Calgary’s favour before Evans had the ball ripped from his hands.
Up 21 points in the third quarter, Hamilton came away with zero points on two successive drives that ended inside Calgary’s 10-yard line. With the Ticats looking for the kill shot up 24-3, Evans threw an ill-advised pass to a well-covered receiver Bralon Addison that was picked off by Wall.
“The interception to Bralon, I was just trying to force it a little bit. I thought I had it and just made a bad throw,” Evans said.
The second of those drives ended when backup quarterback Matthew Shiltz was stuffed on a third-and-two QB sneak by Stamps’ linebacker Jameer Thurman, who would later have the game-sealing interception in overtime. Why the Tiger-Cats are calling quarterback sneaks on third-and-more-than-one is something I have been unable to wrap my head around in the aftermath of this game.
That second chance came after Ticats’ linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox intercepted Stampeders’ quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell on the drive immediately following Evans’ end zone interception. Turnovers have been a big problem for Hamilton over the season’s first two weeks, especially from their newly minted franchise quarterback.
Evans has thrown four interceptions and lost three fumbles in Hamilton’s first two games of the season, a trend that needs to be reversed if the Ticats are going to get themselves in the win column any time soon.
One of the knocks on former Tiger-Cats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was that he was prone to making boneheaded mistakes in critical moments, usually throwing a “what-were-you-thinking” interception as the game hung in the balance that would make Ticats fans shake their head in disbelief.
The hope amongst a vast majority of the Ticats faithful was that the days of multiple head-slapping turnovers would vanish with Masoli heading to Ottawa but Evans has not exactly been the greatest either when it comes to protecting the football.
Evans has thrown 22 interceptions in his career compared to 33 touchdowns — a three-to-two touchdown-to-interception ratio is below average for a starting quarterback in professional football in 2022.
Masoli may be gone, but anyone who thought those ill-timed, head-scratching interceptions left with him might need to recalibrate their thinking. If the Tiger-Cats are to salvage their season before things get insurmountable, Evans will need to find a way to be much less cavalier with the ball.
A matchup against a ball-hawking defence like Winnipeg is exactly the opposite of what the doctor would order for a quarterback who has shown immense trouble holding onto the football.
In other Ticats news, the team activated Canadian receiver Tyler Ternowski from the six-game injured list on Tuesday. The University of Waterloo product was placed on the six-game injured list May 30 along with fellow Canadian receiver Lemar Durant, and Canadian offensive lineman Coulter Woodmansey.
Placing both Ternowski and Durant on the six-game injured list scuttled any plans the Ticats had to start two Canadians in the receiving group. The team now starts just one, veteran David Ungerer III, and has another in rookie Kiondre Smith who plays mostly on special teams.
With Ternoswki potentially returning to the lineup ahead of an important matchup with the two-time defending Grey Cup champion Blue Bombers this Friday night at IG Field, the possibility is there for the Ticats to once again shuffle their ratio.
Hamilton has dealt with a number of injuries to their starting Canadians during the early portion of the season. Both Alex Fontana and Kyle Saxelid missed Saturday’s game against Calgary due to injuries which forced the Tabbies to start two Americans along the line against Calgary. Rookie Tyrone Riley started at left tackle and Travis Vornkahl played right guard so Jesse Gibbon could replace Fontana at centre.
That change in the team’s ratio makeup along the offensive line necessitated making other ratio-related moves across the roster, most notably sitting dynamic American running back Don Jackson, a move that did not sit well with many Ticats fans.
With Ternowski seemingly returning to the lineup perhaps the Ticats will be able to find a way to get Jackson back onto the field, but unless someone gets healthy along the offensive line do not be surprised if the former NFLer is on the sideline once again versus Winnipeg.