Owner's confidence buoys top Ticat

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

Owners' votes of confidence can be dangerous things at times, but to Hamilton Tiger-Cats coach Greg Marshall it was one of the few uplifting things that have happened in the most difficult season he's ever experienced.

It left him more reason than ever to get his Ticats into the CFL playoffs.

"When Bob Young told me I was his coach no matter what and expressed his confidence in me, it meant a lot to me," the former Western Mustangs star fullback and assistant coach said the morning after his Tiger-Cats sneaked up on and beat the Toronto Argonauts in their Labour Day game.

So now, it's a return engagement with the Argos as they meet in a matinee game Saturday at Toronto's Rogers Centre.

The Tiger-Cats know the resounding slap they administered to the Argos' collective kisser will have severe consequences.

They know the 33-30 nail-biter has the Argos seething. And they sure know time won't heal anything because there isn't very much of it between games.

While the majority of a sold-out Ivor Wynne Stadium was rejoicing after a Labour Day classic that lived up to its name, the players weren't.

It was right back to business yesterday.

"It definitely was a great win, but you can't get too high or too low in this game," former Mustang Tim Bakker said from Hamilton after a players meeting in preparation for the return game.

He and the Ticats have seen enough of low this season. After a return to plus-.500 football last year following a club futility record of 1-17 the previous year, the Ticats appeared poised to recapture some glory.

Marshall had won coach-of-the-year honours in his rookie season, key players were returning, departing players were astutely replaced. Yep, they were on their way.

Oops. They opened this season with eight straight losses.

Hamilton fans caught up in the restored excitement of the franchise began screaming for heads, including that of injured quarterback Danny McManus. There were times Marshall looked as though he might rip a few off. The fans' heads, that is.

But he has shown an important trait during the early season travails. Patience is a virtue.

While surely tempted to make changes, he kept McManus at the controls and it paid off handsomely as the hard-throwing 40-year-old hit a groove the Argos couldn't handle en route to Hamilton's second straight win.

McManus, the CFL's offensive player of the week last week, at one point completed 17 demoralizing passes in a row.

"Danny was hurt early on and that hurt us," Marshall said yesterday. "He can still do it when he's got the protection and our O-line gave it to him."

It has been said the Ticats were better than their record. Both Bakker and Marshall agree with that assessment.

"We had some close wins last season and we've lost some close ones this year," Marshall noted.

"We ARE a better team (than the record shows) but you have to be responsible for what happens," Bakker said. "Football's a funny game. Things bounced our way a few times against Toronto. In the first eight games, it was as though everything went against us.

"We're hoping we can put a string together," the big guard added. "We want everyone to feel us coming from behind. We want to make it a habit."

It will have to be mustered against a Toronto team that took it on the nose both during and after the game. Some Steeltown fans, despite the fun atmosphere owner Young has imbued on the scene, acted as though they've been standing near a blast furnace too long and put excess heat on visitors with a shower of debris.

Just about everyone dumped on the Argos, in other words. Both teams better have their chin straps done up tightly Saturday.


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