Ticats failed to stake claim

Jim Kernaghan -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 6:32 AM ET

Well, at least Greg Marshall can say he saw two good halves of football over the weekend. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats rookie head coach watched his team put together a strong first half against the Saskatchewan Roughriders yesterday and then fail to protect the lead in the second.

A day earlier, he was on hand to watch his old Western Mustangs do the same thing in reverse against the Laurier Golden Hawks.

After Saskatchewan won yesterday's matinee 32-30 on a field goal with one second remaining, Marshall wasn't breathing fire the way he might have as an assistant at Western, or as head coach of McMaster Marauders.

Almost.

When an ill-advised first quarter fake punt came up, his eyes blazed briefly. That was when punter Jason Currie, from his own 27-yard line, opted to attempt a pass to Wayne Shaw. It fell short.

"It wasn't a call from the side; it's an automatic (if the situation calls for it)" Marshall said. "Well, it faked me out, too. I'll tell you one thing, it won't happen again."

The game didn't hinge on the play, although the Riders did get a field goal out of it.

But it was symbolic of how things didn't work out for the Tiger-Cats in what turned out to be an exciting contest played before 27,893 Ivor Wynne Stadium fans.

A victory would have given Hamilton a .500 record. Instead, the Ticats fell to 5-7-1 with a declining window for a playoff berth. Last season, Hamilton won just one of 18 games, an overtime effort against Saskatchewan.

"This was the perfect weekend to keep pace with Toronto," Ticat guard and former Mustang Tim Bakker said. "Especially with all the excitement generated by another large crowd. We just made some silly mistakes."

Not the least of them were a run of penalties that came at the most untimely junctures. All told, the Ticats committed 15 fouls for 113 yards in losses, including one that resulted in a touchdown being called back.

The galling thing for Marshall and Hamilton fans was their team permitting Saskatchewan back into the game after assembling a 17-13 halftime lead and reasonable control of proceedings. That evaporated via a 13-point third quarter for the 'Riders, then again after Hamilton pulled ahead with 2:21 remaining to play.

"You have to put a stake in 'em when you get in that situation," Marshall said. "The O came back and put the points up and we didn't protect it."

Hamilton receiver D.J. Flick had the catch of the day to give Hamilton the late lead when he battled his cover for the ball on the goal line, bobbled it as the two fought for it, then managed to grab it while tumbling on his back.

The game wasn't televised but the Tiger-Cats tried a CFL first by making it available via webcast (ticats.ca). Team officials said there were about 4,500 hits, many from Saskatchewan but also from as far afield as England, parts of Asia and the U.S.

They saw Danny McManus complete 24 of 38 passes for 377 yards and three TDs but concede three interceptions as Hamilton mounted 407 yards of offence to Saskatchewan's 439. The 'Riders' Henry Burris connected on 17 of 29 for 270 yards and a touchdown.

A blatant offensive interference call by a Saskatchewan receiver during their last march went uncalled. Those expecting Marshall to rage about it were mistaken. He's truly become a pro coach.

"The refs are doing the best job they can. You can't use that as an excuse. The coaches didn't do their jobs and the players didn't do theirs.

"We just didn't play well enough defensively to win. When you score a touchdown to go ahead, you've got to stop (the opposition)."

Funny, his old head coach, Larry Haylor said much the same thing on Saturday.


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