Saskatchewan rides over Ticats

Tiger-Cats wide receiver Chris Williams is swarmed by Saskatchewan Roughriders defenders during...

Tiger-Cats wide receiver Chris Williams is swarmed by Saskatchewan Roughriders defenders during last night's game in Hamilton. The Riders won 43-16. (Reuters)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:51 PM ET

HAMILTON - Even with just 16 points in the season opener, it doesn't seem possible that scoring is going to be a real issue for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this season.

Stopping an opponent might be another story.

Yes it's Week 1, but A new head coach (with an offensive bent), a new starting quarterback and a bolstered receiving corps is all well and good, but if you can't stop your opponent even the best offence is going to be under a ton of pressure just to keep up.

Sadly neither unit had its best game in the opener as the Saskatchewan Roughriders, under the guidance of former Ticats defensive coordinator Corey Chamblin, waltzed into The Hammer and gave its host a 43-16 wake-up call.

Outside of linebacker Rey Williams, who was all over the field last night, the Ticat defence gave the 25,682 in attendance plenty of reasons to be anxious about the 2012 season.

It was clear to everyone in attendance that the defence as a whole had no answer for the Darian Durant-to-Weston Dressler combination that hooked up 13 times for 180 yards and three touchdowns to lay waste to any hopes of a fast start for the Tabbies.

Durant finished the night completing 25 of 39 passes for 390 yards.

Outside of Dressler, the rest of the Saskatchewan receiving corps combined for 12 catches, the next busiest receiver being Chris Getzlaf, who hauled in three for 96 yards and a touchdown.

Numbers like those will likely lead to a lot of questions about the Hamilton defence over the next week and perhaps a few tweaks among the starters.

The first instinct is not to panic, but Williams, for one, seconds after issuing the no-panic directive, admitted some changes are likely coming.

"I'm concerned," Williams said. "It's the first game, yes, and there's no need to panic, but we have to do something. Forty-something points at home, there's no excuse. We have to do better.

"We're in the CFL and when you get beat up like this there is going to be change," Williams said. "It is what it is. Guys have to come ready to play. I don't know what the changes will be, it might be scheme-wise, I don't know, but we're going to make changes. We have to get better for next week."

Offensively the going was marginally better, but only marginally.

With a nod to Chris Williams who had a career night with nine catches for 109 yards, the story of the Hamilton offence on the night wasn't one of the high-profile additions like Henry Burris or Andy Fantuz, but one who slipped under the radar in running back Chevon Walker.

Walker was a bit of a surprise starter over veteran Avon Cobourne in the Ticats backfield, although Cobourne was a late arrival in camp after Martell Mallett went down with an injury.

The way Walker played though one has to wonder if Cobourne will get another opportunity.

Walker was the only reason this one was even close at the half thanks a jaw-dropping run by the new back. Walker has a burst of speed and a change of direction that is going to make him the focus of every defensive coordinator in the league.

The play was a seemingly harmless draw play, with Walker getting through Saskatchewan's first line of defence untouched and then simply running away from anyone who got near him.

The burst of speed left onlookers stunned even after Walker made a bit of a name for himself in the pre-season.

The play went for a whopping 89 yards and came on the first Hamilton possession following a Chris Getzlaf 26-yard touchdown pass from Darian Durant.

Walker finished the night with six carries for 139 yards and that one touchdown but there just wasn't much after that offensively and just as little defensively.

The vaunted Hamilton linebacking trio of Williams, Jamall Johnson and Markeith Knowlton of a year ago remain in the black and gold, but ratio issues and a strong training camp by former Argo Kevin Eiben have combined to force Knowlton out of the starting trio and into a reserve role.

Eiben had at least three missed tackles in the game but felt the best thing the Ticats can do is use this one as a teaching tool.

"Learn from your mistakes, no one played the perfect game out there," Eiben said. "It's game one, we were all getting the cobwebs off and we just have to go back to the drawing board and make sure when we have the chance to make the play, make it, and make sure you are in the right defence in the right spot. At the end of the day we just made too many mistakes tonight."

Head coach George Cortez echoed that insisting he needs improvement from both his offence and his defence.

"We only scored 16 points," Cortez said. "I'm concerned about everything."

If there's a silver lining in this loss for Hamiltonians it is that season openers have never been good to the Tabbies. The club has just two wins in season openers going back to 2000.

This was one game. There's still 17 more to go and plenty of time to make adjustments.

BURRIS CAN'T FINISH

Henry Burris saw some positives. He just didn't see them through to the end.

The Ticats new starting quarterback threw for 284 yards in a season-opening loss to Saskatchewan, but never found the end zone with a pass.

"We moved the ball pretty much up and down the field, but we got in situations where we could put points on the board and didn't."

Burris had one long touchdown to Chris Williams called back on an illegal block by one of his linemen but felt the touchdowns were there to be had. Collectively they just couldn't finish the drives.

"You could definitely tell we are a team in growth," Burris said. "When we're playing good, we're playing good. We just have to be more consistent. There was just too much sputtering going on here and there."

Burris remained upbeat despite the thrashing in the home opener.

"We're gong to be good," Burris said. "I have never seen a championship won in Week 1. This is a journey and we are going to be fine. We have the guys in this locker room. We just have to assess what some are better at than others."


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