Tiger-Cats already in reruns & 12 other thoughts on Hamilton’s 29-25 loss to the Edmonton Elks

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

As a kid of the 1990s, one of the things I hated about television in the summer was reruns.

Back before dozens of streaming services were creating content year-round, television networks filled the summer months with old episodes of their most popular shows from the prior year.

If you missed an episode of Frasier or Seinfeld during their initial run, it was great because you could catch up. But if you watched all the episodes when they originally aired, it made for some pretty boring weekday evenings in July.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats must be waxing nostalgic about their collective childhoods because they’ve spent the summer showing reruns of their own worst episodes.

The Ticats once again gave up a halftime lead on Friday, this time a 10-point one, to the previously winless Edmonton Elks and ultimately lost the game 29-25 when a Dane Evans turnover was returned by the defence for a touchdown.

This is the second straight home game where the Ticats have given away a double-digit halftime lead and where Evans has been stripped of the ball for a defensive touchdown.

Like I said, reruns. But at least when The Simpsons or Friends ran a rerun in 1998, they were funny.

This is like watching reruns of Joey.

Giveaway Dane

There is no more sugarcoating it, no more downplaying it, and no more covering for it. The questions surrounding Dane Evans’ ability to be a franchise quarterback need to start being asked.

While he was never that protective of the football even in his rise to fame in 2019 — Evans threw 13 interceptions in 11 starts after all — what we have seen this year is a regression so steep, it is almost unbelievable.

Evans tossed another two interceptions and lost another fumble in Friday night’s loss. The final turnover was the killer, as Edmonton defensive back Jalen Collins scooped up the ball for a walk-in touchdown that gave the Elks a late lead they would not relinquish.

You are going to hear a lot about how both of Evans’ interceptions came off tipped balls, about how they are not his fault and are just a case of bad luck. Don’t buy into it. Some of his turnovers have come due to some unfortunate circumstances but all bad luck comes about partly because of poor decision-making. Evans’ decision-making has been very questionable since the season began.

His first interception probably should have been caught but Evans was indecisive in what he wanted to do and fired a late ball into the chest of running back Sean Thomas-Erlington. Edmonton would kick a field goal to end the drive.

His second came on the very next drive when Evans forced a ball to receiver Papi White, who was blanketed by Elks’ defensive back Nafees Lyon. The pass was broken up and landed in the hands of defensive end Matthew Thomas. The Elks would find the end zone on the ensuing drive when quarterback Tre Ford hit receiver Kenny Lawler for a 10-yard touchdown that tied the game at 22.

If you do the simple math, that means Evans’ three turnovers led to 17 points for the Elks. Evans now has eight interceptions and four lost fumbles in just four games this year. He also only has five touchdown passes on the season, meaning his touchdown-to-turnover ratio is an abominable 5:12.

If Evans had just half of the turnovers he currently has, the Ticats are probably no worse than 1-3 and might have squeaked to 2-2. Evans turning over the football at his current clip is the main reason why his team is winless after four games.

Keeping the wrong guy

One thing we should nip in the bud right now, however, is the idea that the Tiger-Cats made a mistake in keeping Evans over Jeremiah Masoli, who signed with the Ottawa Redblacks in free agency.

If we are being honest with ourselves, the Ticats would likely still be winless even if Masoli was under centre and Evans had left for Ottawa.

In fact, Masoli’s new team is also winless in 2022, having dropped their first three games of the season while the offence that the former Tiger-Cat is piloting has looked far from effective.

Evans’ current problem of protecting the football is the same issue fans had with Masoli whenever he was the starter. To act as if Masoli didn’t make the same bonehead decisions game in and game out would be disingenuous.

During his stint as the mostly unquestioned starter for the Tiger-Cats from Labour Day, 2017 until last season, Masoli had one stretch where he looked like he would be able to protect the football with some consistency. That was the tail end of the 2017 season where he threw 15 touchdowns to just five interceptions in 10 games.

The 10-year veteran threw 18 interceptions in 18 games in 2018, seven in five-and-a-half games in 2019, and six last year. His touchdown totals those years were 28, nine and 10 respectively.

At some point, we are going to have the discussion about if the Ticats kept the wrong quarterback but that time is not now. I have no doubt that regardless of the decision the Tabbies made this off-season, both Ottawa and Hamilton would be in the exact same positions they are currently: winless.

Second-half struggles

If once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, and thrice is a pattern, then what does that make five times? Because Friday’s night loss to Edmonton was the fifth straight game in which Hamilton has been outscored by more than a touchdown in the second half.

Dating back to last year’s Grey Cup against Winnipeg, the Tiger-Cats have been outscored in the second half and overtime of their last five contests 26-15, 24-10, 30-6, 12-3, and 20-6.

The fourth quarter and overtime have been especially awful, with the Ticats being outscored by a combined 86-25.

The Ticats’ seven drives in the second half against Edmonton ended with a missed field goal, a field goal, two consecutive interceptions, a punt, another field goal, a fumble, and a turnover on downs. They failed to pick up a first down on four drives and only made it into the red zone twice in the game and once in the second half, each time settling for short Michael Domagala field goals.

Part of this lack of success is too many turnovers but even when Dane Evans isn’t giving the opposition the ball, the offence just is not doing enough to keep this team in games or extend leads.

They have scored just 12 combined points in four second-half quarters at home after taking large leads into the locker room at halftime. That is completely inexcusable and speaks to not just an execution issue but a coaching one as well.

To make a change

With the Tabbies heading into their first of three bye weeks, we are likely going to hear a lot about the types of major changes this team should make, whether it is benching the starting quarterback, making a change at offensive coordinator or doing the seemingly unthinkable and making a change at head coach.

Far be it for me to be the voice of reason but I do not foresee a scenario where the Ticats make any of those changes. Maybe they make a trade or cut an underperforming veteran, but I do not see the team attempting a headline-grabbing move like the ones many fans are hoping to see.

Despite his struggles, does anyone really believe that benching Dane Evans and installing Matthew Shiltz as the starting quarterback would make any major difference? Shiltz is a fine player but there is a reason the Montreal Alouettes kept bringing in players to replace him.

Firing coaches midseason is a panic move and rarely results in a team making a climb up the standings. The last time the Ticats made such a move was in 2017 and while the team clearly improved going 6-4 after starting 0-8, it was still not enough to make the playoffs.

One thing that Tiger-Cats team had that this one doesn’t is a ready-made replacement. Kent Austin stepped down and handed the job to June Jones. If the team was going to replace Orlondo Steinauer, who would take his place?

Fans are already upset with the offence’s performance under coordinator Tommy Condell, so there is no way you could sell that move. Defensive coordinator Mark Washington might make a good replacement but that feels like adding too much to his plate if he was to continue in his current role.

The only other in-house options are young coaches like Craig Butler or experienced hands that probably aren’t head coaching material, like linebackers coach Robin Ross, defensive line coach Randy Melvin or offensive line coach Mike Gibson.

All of these same reasons extend to the fans’ desire to see Condell shown the door. There is no one in-house or outside the organization that could replace him.

Like it or not, this is the coaching staff that will likely see this team through to the end of the season.


When the Elks announced that Canadian Tre Ford was going to start at quarterback, a lot of Tiger-Cats fans were salivating thinking of what this defence could do against a rookie quarterback making his first career start.

I was terrified. Not because I think Ford is the next great quarterback in the league, but because his skill set is tailor-made to exploit Hamilton’s biggest defensive weakness of the last half-decade: containing a mobile quarterback.

During his collegiate career at the University of Waterloo, Ford rushed for 2,816 yards and 19 touchdowns in his four seasons with the Warriors. His ability to use his feet to extend plays or break contain fits the mould of the type of quarterback that has given Hamilton fits. Think Saskatchewan’s Cody Fajardo or Montreal’s Vernon Adams.

When Brandon Bridge started for the Saskatchewan Roughriders against the Tiger-Cats a few seasons ago, he flummoxed the Ticats’ defence because of his ability to use his feet to extend or make plays, similar to what Ford is capable of doing. Bridge would lead the Riders to a victory that day.

Ford had a decent game against the Ticats, completing 15-of-26 passes for 159 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but it was his rushing that really helped the Elks get the win. He rushed for 61 yards on just six carries, with two of his runs picking up first downs in second-and-long situations.

While I think some of the high praise for Ford following the game is a little over the top, I am not the least bit surprised he found success against a Hamilton defence that has had issues with players of his skill set for years now.

A run game of sorts

For the first time all season, the Ticats decided to utilize the run game, albeit to mixed results.

Seven of Hamilton’s first eight plays were run plays and in total the team rushed the ball 23 times for 105 yards. Running back Wes Hills — making his first career start — led the way with 40 yards on eight carries, followed closely by Dane Evans who had 39 yards on eight carries.

Mixing the run with the pass worked early, keeping Edmonton’s defence guessing, but it wasn’t entirely effective as 12 of their runs, discounting quarterback sneaks, went for four or fewer yards. When more than half of your total rushing attempts pick up four yards or less you are not using the running game effectively.

Another week, another miss

I could probably copy-and-paste this each week, but kicker Michael Domagala missed another field goal, marking the fourth straight week he has missed at least one field goal or extra point.

While some will point out that an early missed field goal was critical in what turned out to be a four-point loss, that is probably unfair. While I definitely think he should have made the kick, the Ticats would have found a way to lose this game regardless of its outcome.

With Lirim Hajrullahu signing with the National Football League’s Dallas Cowboys on Friday, any hopes that the former Ticats’ all-star would come to save the day are gone. Like it or not, it looks like the Ticats will not be making a kicking change any time soon.

The highlight of the game

There was not a lot to like about Hamilton’s performance on Friday night but the one man that continues to stand out in what is already starting to feel like a lost season is return man Lawrence Woods.

Woods had come close to breaking a few returns earlier this season but he finally did so against Edmonton, returning a kickoff 72 yards to the house for the first touchdown of his CFL career.

Woods finished the game with 144 yards on five kickoff returns, 25 yards on three punt returns and four yards on one missed field foal return.

In a season that has not had many bright spots, the ascent of Lawrence Woods into one of the league’s premier return men has been one of them.

Canada Day blunder

When Canada Day falls on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, it is a no-brainer for the CFL to schedule a game. In fact, I think the league made a mistake in not doing a Canada Day doubleheader.

Unless you are enthralled with the current drama regarding the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and their superstar players Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, there is very little else going on in the sporting world right now. This was a prime opportunity for the league to capitalize on that and schedule two games for Canada Day, one in the east and one in the west.

The Ticats and Elks could have kicked off at 4:00 p.m. local time with the Riders and Als game scheduled for Saturday providing the nightcap on this country’s birthday. I know that primetime is primetime for a reason but it just felt wrong to not have Canadian football to watch on a Canada Day afternoon.

It was a golden opportunity for the league to make the day theirs and they passed it up.

East vs. West: why do people care?

With Hamilton’s loss to the Elks, the East Division is now a horrendous 1-9 against their western counterparts so far in 2022.

Why does anyone care?

Maybe because I have spent my entire life in Ontario, I have never really understood that type of regional pride. It has always confused me as to why anyone cared how one division fared against the other.

This is really just a CFL thing, too.

You don’t hear NBA fans talking about East versus West or NFL fans talking about American Football Conference versus National Football Conference.

You don’t even hear it about the divisions either. I have never once heard a Buffalo Bills or New England Patriots fan chirp a Denver Broncos or Las Vegas Raiders fan about the AFC East going 11-5 against the AFC West whenever those two divisions meet in a season.

Maybe if I lived out west, I would understand it better but the whole East versus West thing has never mattered to me. It confounds me that it matters to anyone.

Going too far and not far enough

With under three minutes to go in the first quarter, Ticats’ linebacker Kam Kelly was called for roughing the passer on Tre Ford. Had the penalty not been called, it would have been third down and the Elks would have tried a field goal. Instead, the Elks were given a fresh set of downs and scored a touchdown three plays later.

That was a bad call.

I understand the desire to protect the quarterback but seeing that play numerous times, what Kelly did just doesn’t rise to the level of a roughing flag for me. It was a hard shove almost immediately after the ball was released. That felt very ticky-tacky and was a big momentum booster for the Elks.

In this same game, Dane Evans was hit after giving himself up on a run and while I can see the argument that Evans slid too late, if you are going to go so far as to protect the quarterback on the Kelly hit on Ford then this one has to be called as well.

And don’t even get me started on if that play was the other way and the man doing the hitting wore No. 21 for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

For the record, I don’t think either play should have been flagged but I think if you are going to be cautious in protecting the quarterback — and that is clearly the purpose of these calls — then a flag was warranted on both.

Up next

The Ticats get a much-needed — albeit maybe not a much-deserved — rest week with the team now on their first bye week this season.

Some changes, either minor or major, will need to be made over the next week before the team comes back to prep for their third home game of the season, a critical divisional matchup with the Ottawa Redblacks.

We know Hamilton will enter that game 0-4 and it is entirely possible the currently 0-3 Redblacks will as well, with their fourth game of the season being a difficult road test in Saskatchewan.

These are two teams that many had as contenders in the East and both are off to the slowest of slow starts.

This will be Jeremiah Masoli’s first trip back to Hamilton since he departed the team in free agency, and he will bring a lot of familiar faces with him in the form of fellow former Tiger-Cats such as receiver Jaelon Acklin, offensive lineman Darius Ciraco and running back Jackson Bennett.

It is bad enough that the Tabbies are 0-4. It was bad enough that they lost a lead to a team as bad as the Elks at home.

The cacophony of boos and curse words raining down from the stands at Tim Hortons Field will be deafening if Masoli and Co. come back to Hamilton and hand the team their fifth straight loss and further bury them in the basement of the East Division.

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.