Gutting one out: nine thoughts on Hamilton’s 27-24 victory over the Redblacks

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats beat the Ottawa Redblacks 27-24 on Friday night at TD Place. Below are my thoughts on the game.

He is Him

Aside from running back James Butler, no single player has benefited more from the change at offensive coordinator than receiver Tim White. The third-year Ticat had a world-destroying game against the Redblacks, catching seven passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score that proved to be the game-winner with just under three minutes left to play.

Since Scott Milanovich took over play-calling duties four games ago, White has 29 catches for 448 yards, three receiving touchdowns and one kick return touchdown, and has eclipsed the 100-yard mark three times. In the previous eight games with Tommy Condell calling plays, White had 25 catches for 403 yards, two touchdowns and went over 100 yards just once. He has more than doubled his season totals in all those categories in half the amount of games.

Around this time last year, White started to break out after a slow start but what he has done over the last month puts last year’s run to shame. He has become virtually unguardable, catching passes deep, in traffic and in tight coverage, and has become a security blanket for rookie quarterback Taylor Powell.

White got paid in the offseason as one of the league’s top receivers and after a bumpy start, he is finally beginning to live up to his big contract.

White has had some really good games since coming north in 2021 and has had stretches where he’s looked like the best receiver in the CFL. Friday night’s game was probably his best and this run he is on right now might be the most dominant he has ever looked playing the three-down game.

Halftime heater

This game was a stinker in the first half with both teams combining for just nine total points on three field goals. The most exciting plays in the first 30 minutes were a near-scoring play by Tyreik McAllister on a missed Lewis Ward field goal and the three times the Tiger-Cats stuffed the Redblacks at the one-yard line.

No one expected much in the second half as these teams were trending toward another low-scoring affair. Then, the floodgates opened. The two teams scored touchdowns on the first three drives of the third quarter and scored six in the second half in total. There were six lead changes in the final 30 minutes as they went shot-for-shot until the Redblacks ran out of gas.

Given that the Tiger-Cats were coming into this game on three days of rest while the Redblacks were coming off a bye, this was an incredibly impressive performance from the road team. When the Redblacks started to impose their will, the Ticats could have easily folded but instead reached down and showed something they had yet to show all year.

This win also completed the season sweep over the Redblacks and further buried them in the basement of the East Division. The Ticats now have a defacto three-game lead over Ottawa with six games remaining in the season.

The race for the final playoff spot now seems like a two-team battle between the Tabbies and Calgary Stampeders. Those two teams meet in Hamilton on September 30. It would not surprise me if the winner of that game ultimately claimed the sixth and final playoff berth this season.

He has the Powell

It has been an up-and-down six games as a starter for rookie quarterback Taylor Powell but he rebounded from a lacklustre performance in the Labour Day Classic with his best game of the season.

Powell finished Friday’s contest going 21-of-32 for 326 yards, three touchdowns and, most importantly, no interceptions. He is starting to find his groove and is doing so while also protecting the football.

Milanovich still seems to be protecting him some but he did allow the 24-year-old to air it out more against Ottawa. Powell had completions of 64 and 47 yards, had three completions of 20 yards and had a 44-yard pass to Omar Bayless called back on an offensive pass interference call.

You can tell that he is far from a finished product but in every game, even the bad ones, Powell does some things that make you think he could be a really good player in this league for years to come.

Omar comin’

I don’t know if Omar Bayless whistled “Farmer in the Dell” when he took the field on Friday but he should have, because he let everyone know that Omar was comin’, yo.

After a week of controversy surrounding the man he replaced in the lineup, the first-year Tiger-Cat had a nice semi-debut performance in Black and Gold, catching four passes for 53 yards.

This was just the second game of Bayless’ CFL career. He did have a touchdown to his name courtesy of a blocked punt recovery against Winnipeg but Friday was his first time being a part of the offence in any measurable way and he played rather well.

His numbers could have been even better had he not been called for a ticky-tack offensive pass interference penalty in the second half.

Bayless isn’t Duke Williams but he doesn’t have to be. If he continues to play as he did on Friday, there won’t be a significant drop off in production and fans will probably forget about the mercurial receiver Bayless replaced.

Orlondo owns Ottawa

During the mid-2010s, the Ottawa-Hamilton rivalry was as fierce as any in the CFL. The Redblacks got the better of the Ticats most of the time, including beating them in the East Final in 2016 and 2018. The tables have certainly turned since then.

The last time the Redblacks beat the Tiger-Cats was the 2018 East Final. Since then, the Ticats have won 10 straight, including five in a row at TD Place, and head coach Orlondo Steinauer has never lost to the Redblacks in his head coaching career.

Ottawa has been in the dumps since that East Final victory nearly five years ago, going a combined 13-49 and missing the playoffs in each of the last three seasons. The losing streak against Hamilton will stretch into 2024 as this was the final meeting between these two teams this year and it seems as if they will also extend their playoff drought another season as well.

For a rivalry that was so fierce for half a decade, things have cooled considerably since Ottawa has gone back to being the free space on the bingo card.

Shutting the Behar down

Redblacks’ receiver Nate Behar did a lot of talking prior to Friday’s game, calling the Tiger-Cats out for what he considered some dirty tactics in previous meetings. You would have thought that would motivate him to have a big game against a team he despises but you would be mistaken. Behar was a complete non-factor in Friday’s divisional showdown, catching just two passes for 30 yards.

The 28-year-old is known to speak his mind and while I admire and encourage that, you have to back up your talk. Behar has not backed up his mouth as much this year as he did last year when he had career highs across the board in catches, yards and touchdowns. His numbers are down significantly and given that he put a target on his back with his comments, his lack of production made his battle with the Ticats far less entertaining than it otherwise would have been.

Hurtin’ and hobblin’

Playing a game on three days of rest was going to be a factor and the Tiger-Cats were hit hard with injuries against Ottawa. Defensive lineman Dylan Wynn, defensive back Richard Leonard, running back James Butler and receiver Omar Bayless all left the game at various points and did not return.

I touched on this last week but Hamilton playing a game on Friday after playing on Monday was a recipe for something like this to happen. Bodies need time to heal and asking very large men to play a second game with very little time to recuperate is inadvisable at best and idiotic at worst.

In a nine-team league, scheduling quirks are going to happen but the CFL needs to come up with a way to get rid of these three-day turnarounds following the Labour Day Classics.

Wilson’s season over

Speaking of injuries, linebacker Kyle Wilson took to social media this week to announce that his 2023 season is over after he suffered a ruptured Achilles last week.

Wilson signed a two-year contract extension with the Ticats last November after starting 10 games and registering 42 tackles in 2022.

The 27-year-old’s numbers dropped this year, with just 15 defensive tackles in 10 games, as he saw his role reduced due to the team opting to stick with veteran Simoni Lawrence at weak-side linebacker and sign Jameer Thurman in free agency to be the team’s middle linebacker.

Wilson showed tremendous ability in 2022 when he filled in for Lawrence and at the time of his extension, it certainly felt like he would be handed the reins in 2023. That did not happen and unfortunately for Wilson, his season is now over.

Hopefully, he can come back next season and compete for a larger role in 2024 than he had in 2023.

Up next

Things do not get much easier for the Ticats in the final third of the season as five of their last six games come against teams that currently sport a record above .500. First up is a date with the three-time West Division champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers next Saturday at Tim Hortons Field.

Almost exactly one year ago these two teams met during a similar stretch where we had written off the Tiger-Cats and were just waiting to crown the Bombers. While the Ticats aren’t as bad record-wise this time around and the Bombers aren’t the undisputed kings of the league anymore, the situations are still similar.

Of course, Hamilton won that game last year 48-31.

Last year, Hamilton used their victory over the Bombers to springboard them to a 5-1 finish, so perhaps a similar outcome in similar circumstances could have a similar effect.

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.