The hometown fans booed the Hamilton Tiger-Cats when a last-minute drive fell short Friday night, and here’s the only problem with that.
The booing wasn’t loud, nor long, enough.
The Ticats deserve every negative reaction directed their way as they fell to 0-4 with Friday’s sad 29-25 loss to the Edmonton Elks — who kept trying to give Hamilton a chance to win — with no opportunity for any kind of redemption for at least a fortnight, because they’re on a bye week.
During that week Orlondo Steinauer and his coaching staff have a lot of thinking to do. This team is regressing from a spot which was already not very good.
As Canada fireworks exploded majestically in the backyards of the east end neighbor all around it, inside Tim Hortons Field it was a colourless dud, as the Tiger-Cats imploded.
For the second home game in a row – and there have been only two in this young, but quickly evaporating, season — the Ticats simply threw away a solid lead, and a game that was clearly theirs to win.
A late fumble by quarterback Dane Evans was scooped up by Edmonton’s Jalen Collins who took it 14 yards into the end zone to complete the Elks’ comeback from a 22-9 deficit and put the visitors up 28-25 with 88 seconds left.
Evans was also intercepted twice, including one that bounced off Sean Thomas Erlington, the fourth time in three games. He’s been picked off after a catchable ball was in the hands of one of his receivers.
Evans took all the blame upon himself, once again, and once again that’s only part, if a very big part, of the story. Some of the blame is also in the trenches and more than a little is in the coaching suite.
There are a lot of mea culpas from the players, who say they’re not executing, and that is undeniably true. Receivers aren’t getting separation or making many game-changing catches. And while there was some improvement in the running game, the Ticats still gave up three sacks and made only one of their own. The defense made some solid stops, but missed too many open field tackles. They seem to have lost the idea of how to stop a quarterback who knows how to use his feet, which Canadian rookie quarterback Tre Ford — who, this time last year, was prepping for a Hec Crighton Award season at the University of Waterloo — certainly does. He led all rushers in the game with 61 yards to keep some possessions alive and did what he had to do: not cost his team the game.
But this loss lands squarely on the coaches, offensively co-ordinator Tommy Condell and his staff, because the stunning regularity with which this team is being outplayed in the second half.
That speaks to adjustments not being made during the intermission, and perhaps a stubborn over-adherence to things that are clearly not working. To think otherwise is to not face this truth: in their four games this year, the Ticats have been outscored 86-25 in the second half, and a staggering 63-19 in the final quarter and their one overtime. In two home games they have not scored a single touchdown in the second half. They squandered a 24-3 lead two weeks ago at home to Calgary and a 22-9 lead against the Elks, who are not a very good football team and were 0-3 themselves coming into this game.
Steinauer was asked if he is considering a change at quarterback, with backup Matthew Shiltz stepping in. He was also asked if the offensive game plans have been creative enough.
“We’re 0-4, we’ll look at everything,” he responded. We’re trying to get some consistency in our lineup. Changes may have to be made, but at the same time it’s about execution. We have to be better. We’re not good enough right now. We’re not executing right now at the level that needs to happen.”
The offence seems stale and predictable and unable to figure out quickly enough where and when pressure will originate. While there have been a lot of small things adding up, something also feels fundamentally wrong with an offence that can score only as many touchdowns as the opposition’s defense and their own return — Lawrence Woods on a marvelous 72-yard kickoff return — did.
They’ve got some time to figure it out before Jeremiah Masoli and the struggling Ottawa Redblacks arrive in town, Saturday, July 16. But they’ve also had a full month to figure it out so far. Yes, they’ve had injuries, and some bad breaks, but so have most teams and only one of those team sits at 0-4.
No Hamilton team has ever made the playoffs after starting the season with four straight losses. This group has the personnel to get there, but they aren’t getting it done. At all. Four games is not a small sample size so, at this point, a team is exactly what its record says it is.
NOTES: Dane Evans was 20-for-30 for only 197 yards, with 2 interceptions and one touchdown (Steven Dunbar). He rushed for 39 yards, just one less than RB Wes Hillswho had his first start … Tre Ford, of Niagara Falls and the Waterloo Warriors, became the first Canadian to start at quarterback for Edmonton since Hamilton native Frank Cosentino in October, 1968. He was 15-for-26 and 159 yards with one interception (Cameron Kelly) and a touchdown (Kenny Lawler) . Ticat DB Richard Leonard suffered an upper body injury and left the game.