New season, same old Ticats

BILL LANKHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

HAMILTON -- Hamilton Ticats coach Charlie Taaffe looked like he could stomp bunnies. One game into the CFL season and it's already time for the Maalox.

Taaffe watched his club lose 33-10 to Montreal in the CFL opener last night.

As dress rehearsals go for what is supposed to be a shiny new season, it looked more like an encore performance of last season's Nightmare on Balsam Ave.

Dreadful. Maybe it was opening-night jitters.

"We've got lot of new players, a short training camp and this is all just part of growing up. It's just inexperience and the only way we'll learn is through mistakes," said quarterback Casey Printers, who was 15-of-21 but also took a key penalty that killed a drive with the game still winnable.

It wasn't that Montreal was so good but quarterback Anthony Calvillo did look rejuvenated and picked apart the secondary. He moved into second place all-time in career-passing yardage in the third quarter. And, unlike Hamilton, the Alouettes didn't make errors. Ticats' cornerback Lawrence Gordon had an awful night -- twice beaten for touchdowns. When Kerry Watkins sprinted past him along the sideline with 3:25 to play in the third quarter it was all over but the repercussions.

"I didn't lose my poise or emotions of being very disappointed, very frustrated," Taaffe said of his post-game address to the team. But he was steaming. "This performance was the furthest thing from my mind. I anticipated we'd go out and perform. I don't think we ever gave ourselves a chance. I think we had five plays the whole first quarter."

There were 17 players making their debut for a Ticats franchise that hasn't been to the post-season since 2004. There weren't a lot of good omens for the future, either.

Other than some nice defensive-line play, there was little to differentiate this team from the one that was so hopeless last year.

During one sequence in the second half, a pass to Tony Myles put the Ticats on their 47-yard line. Penalties and a sack later they were on their own 28. It was that kind of night.

The Ticats were undisciplined, getting penalized 14 times for 104 yards. They had too many drops, too many fumbles and the 16-3 halftime deficit was flattering.

"I dealt with this (costly penalties) almost all last year. You gotta have poise," said Taaffe, slamming the desk. "You gotta be able to play! It's professional football. You gotta be able to get off on the snap count and do what you're supposed to do. I'm done psychoanalyzing."

This was the first time in 31 years the CFL had opened the season in Hamilton and the pre-game festivities included an old World War II plane that did a fly past. No, it wasn't to commemorate the last time the Ticats actually had a winning season. Sometimes it just seems that long as the team is now 0-18 during July and August the past four seasons.

It was not a good omen when the Ticats turned the ball over after failing to convert on third down on their opening drive, and Calvillo took the Als down field for the score.

Hamilton didn't get a first down until 6:32 was left in the half. Printers short-circuited any hope on that drive when after running for a first down he spiked the ball and took a taunting penalty. Not that it seemed he had much to taunt about as Montreal rolled up 489 yards of offence, including more than 100 in the first quarter, and held Jesse Lumsden to 36 yards rushing.


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