‘No doubt in my mind’: Ticats’ QB Dane Evans believes team was on track to win game before critical Kiondre Smith fumble

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

A week after lighting the CFL world on fire with an upset of the top-ranked Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats had a chance to record a second consecutive victory over a higher-ranked opponent on Friday night.

Trailing the Montreal Alouettes by six points with under two minutes remaining, the Ticats had the ball in plus territory before an ill-fated reception by receiver Kiondre Smith sealed their fate. Attempting to gain extra yardage on the nine-yard catch, the rookie Canadian extended the football and had it punched from his grasp by Alouettes’ defensive back Wesly Sutton. Mustafa Johnson recovered the loose ball and Montreal was able to grind out the remaining clock.

Speaking to the media post-game, Ticats’ quarterback Dane Evans was adamant that victory was within his team’s grasp.

“I’m telling you, we were going to go score, there’s no doubt in my mind,” he said. “I really feel like we were going to score on the next play or in the coming plays, but we finally had momentum back on our side and we kind of just lost it in an instant. 16 [points] wasn’t enough tonight.”

Smith, the team’s fourth-round pick in this year’s CFL Draft, has impressed in his first CFL season, working his way into the starting lineup. He has caught 16 passes for 238 yards and one touchdown, which came on a 54-yard reception against the Bombers in Week 15.

Following that high, the son of former Toronto Argonaut Adrion ‘Pee Wee’ Smith had a game to forget against Montreal, fumbling his only reception at a critical moment. The only other target directed the rookie’s way was a tough drop in the endzone.

Nevertheless, Evans — who has faced significant struggles himself this year — has a great deal of sympathy for his 22-year-old pass-catcher.

“We had a chance to go win the game and Kiondre is trying to make a play. I feel bad for him because he’s a young guy. That’s happened to me before, it’s happened to me this season when you try and make a play,” the quarterback said. “I’m going to be there for him and be there for my teammate. I totally understand what he’s doing. Obviously, he’s going to learn from it.”

Head coach Orlondo Steinauer didn’t address Smith’s fumble specifically in his post-game comments but did acknowledge that his team wasted too many chances to secure the win.

“Just overall, we weren’t good enough. We did a lot of great things, but I feel like we didn’t help ourselves. Took too many penalties in key situations and turned the ball over there late,” Steinauer said. “We knew it was going to be a back-and-forth game and just disappointed in that. You’re always going to credit the other football team, but I felt like we had opportunities to make our own way and sometimes we couldn’t get out of our own way.”

The Ticats now have just four games remaining to salvage their dwindling playoff hopes and will need some additional help to get in. The team is on bye next week, followed by games against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Calgary Stampeders, and a home-and-home series with the Ottawa Redblacks to end the year.