It wasn’t the winning debut Bo Levi Mitchell anticipated in his first game as a member of the Tiger-Cats.
“We’re not going to throw the towel in, it’s one game. We turned the ball over and myself too much. I think I had zero fumbles last year and the year before, then I had one in the first game here and lost that. Sack or not, I’ve got to hold onto the ball,” Mitchell said post-game.
“Offensively, I think we’ll look at things and think: ‘Hey, these shots are here. This play’s here, that play’s here.’ What we’re drawing up and how we’re running the routes, it’s there. As long as we see the routes the same, we connect, everybody’s happy.”
More than half of Mitchell’s pass attempts against the Blue Bombers went toward Tim White and Duke Williams, who combined for 17 targets. No. 12 caught four balls for 71 yards and one TD while No. 1 had three catches for 53 yards. However, it was the missed opportunities on deep balls to White and Terry Godwin that the 33-year-old passer was replaying in his mind.
“Just not good enough. We have been on point, training camp, practice — everything. Even this week in practice, all those plays we hit those shots, we had some really big ones. I’ll go back and look and analyze why I missed it. It’s simple: push off your foot on the short ones and don’t add too much on the big ones,” Mitchell said.
“I was trying to stop my feet a little bit too fast and not pushing off as much. The first two to Tim were about a step behind and then the next two to Tim, I got my footwork underneath me, felt good, felt like if anything I’m throwing it a little bit less and being able to push off that back foot — all of a sudden it’s two, three yards ahead of him.”
If some vertical throws, particularly in the first half, connected, it could have been a much different football game for Mitchell and his Ticats. The black and gold were down 29-4 going into the locker room at halftime. The franchise pivot revealed part of Orlondo Steinauer’s message at the intermission, which led to a late rally.
“O challenged us at halftime and said: ‘It’s not good enough, we’re not a good football team right now, we gotta find a way to get better — do it for one another.’ Guys went out there and did it,” Mitchell said.
“I think we built off what the defence and special teams did. We put some things together, we started seeing things the same and I started hitting passes — I missed way too many in the first half. The special teams and defence really, really turned it up there. It’s easy to build off that momentum, turnovers, touchdowns.”
Hamilton outscored Winnipeg 27-13 in the second half, but it was not enough to overcome a start that Steinauer called “flat-out terrible” during a live interview on TSN. The 50-year-old bench boss was also honest in his assessment of the Ticats’ new gunslinger.
“I thought he had some good spots, I think there are some throws that he definitely would want back,” Steinauer said. “Is this the best that we’ve seen Bo play? No. But this is a team game and that’s how we always focus on it. I think Bo can play better, but Bo isn’t the reason we lost. Bo is a pro — I think Bo will be just fine.”
Hamilton’s next chance to earn win No. 1 on the season comes against the defending Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts in Week 2. The Tabbies travel down the QEW to take on the double blue Sunday, June 18 at 7 p.m. ET. Until then, Mitchell can reflect and learn from his opening week performance.
“Honestly, I felt good, I felt confident, I felt strong. I was excited, anxious to get out there and play with the boys. It felt amazing to be out there, obviously, I’d love for it to be under different circumstances, better first half and overall a better game,” Mitchell acknowledged.