A pivotal meltdown

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:16 AM ET

HAMILTON -- Tiger-Cats 40, Renegades 32

Kerry Joseph's bad habit killed the Renegades again last night.

As a result, he should soon be throwing to guys in a different colour jersey on purpose.

When the Renegades needed Joseph most, their third-year starting quarterback was grossly outplayed by a 24-year-old who was taking his first CFL snaps for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The numbers, for the most part, were quite misleading. Joseph completed 22-of-36 passes for 336 yards and three touchdowns. Ticats rookie Kevin Eakin was 17-of-29 for an incredible 407 yards and three TDs in his debut.

But it was two untimely Joseph interceptions -- one even more untimely than the other -- that broke Ottawa's back and all but ended its season in a 40-32 loss to the Ticats.

The result marks the second consecutive season the Renegades' playoff hopes have died at Ivor Wynne Stadium. Yeah, yeah, they still have a sliver of a chance at qualifying for the post-season. But if there's a merciful football god watching any of this, he'll see to it that Saskatchewan and Calgary wind up in 21-21 deadlock tomorrow at Taylor Field to mathematically put an end to yet another Renegades season gone bad.

They had their chance to save it. To make a valiant run. All they had to do was beat a team that had nothing at risk and was conducting job interviews for 2006. All they had to do was beat the Ticats. That would have given them two home games to win, and who knows what may have happened then.

But the Renegades spared us all that drama by choking against a team that had just three wins entering the night. And Joseph deserves most of the blame.

He wasted no time regaining his first-place lead in the CFL interceptions race. He tossed his league-high 21st to ex-Renegade Alphonso Roundtree in the Ticat end zone on Ottawa's initial possession. Hamilton repaid the favour by marching downfield for the game's first TD.

Joseph threw No. 22 at the most inopportune time -- with 27 seconds left in the first half and his team leading 14-10. His sideline toss intended for Jason Armstead was stepped in front of by Jason Goss and returned 43 yards for a touchdown. The score gave Hamilton a lead it never relinquished.

The turnover conjured up memories of a Joseph fumble in the last minute of the first half against Toronto last month that also turned an Ottawa lead into a deficit en route to a loss.

"When I tried to go outside, he jumped it," said Joseph. "He read it pretty well. He made a good play on it."

And Joseph made a poor decision.

In between the picks, he was credited with a 58-yard TD pass that Armstead made happen by turning on the jets and breaking a tackle after making the catch.

What the stats don't show is at least three misguided throws that either went wide or high of Armstead (twice) and Cory Hathaway.

But a team can live with incompletions. Turnovers are a killer. And how fitting that the final nail in Ottawa's coffin came came on a sack/Joseph fumble that Tim Cheatwood ran 59 yards for a touchdown with 1:02 left to play.

Earlier this week, the Renegades reminded the local media that Joseph was in line to become only the third quarterback in CFL history to throw for 4,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards in the same season. Damon Allen was one of those QBs in 1991, when he was a member of the Rough Riders. He also threw 30 interceptions that season, an Ottawa pro football record that is still within Joseph's grasp.

Ottawa gave up on Allen too soon. He was only 28 years old when he was shipped out of town. Joseph is 32 now. He is an exceptional athlete and could still have a fine CFL career. But as he enters his option year with the Renegades, it's suddenly easy to imagine him celebrating his next birthday in somebody else's uniform.

High and Outside:

Good thing all those Renegade players love Joe Paopao so much, eh? Imagine how horrible they'd be if they didn't? .... Is this a bad time to remind you that the Renegades owned two draft picks higher than the sixth-overall selection Hamilton used to take Jesse Lumsden last April? Did you see his 43-yard run to set up the Ticats' first TD last night, or the 78-yard major he scored off a screen pass in the third quarter? Hey, the Roughriders had two of the first four picks, you know. They blew it, too ... The Renegades were again at their undisciplined worst, taking 17 penalties for 135 yards while the Ticats were called nine times for 74 yards. "We didn't play that well, but in my 28 years in the league I'm not sure that was the best officiated game I've ever seen," said Paopao. "That was brutal."

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


Videos

Photos