Bruce: ‘Give me the ball’

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:51 PM ET

HAMILTON — As anniversaries go, Arland Bruce III isn’t about to commemorate the moment, reflect on why his time in Toronto took a turn for the worse or reminisce about the good times.

Bruce lives for the moment and right now there’s no point in recalling the chain of events that led to a trade that looms one year later as one of the worst in CFL history.

A playmaker who hasn’t lived up to his reputation four weeks into this season, it’s just a matter of time before Bruce breaks loose for one of his game-changing receptions.

Exactly one year ago on July 29, the Argos had to trade Bruce to the Ticats when rookie CFL head coach Bart Andrus could not co-exist with the talented slotback.

Andrus drew a line in the sand, a line Bruce crossed by breaking team rules and ultimately telling the media he wasn’t going to accompany the Argos to Winnipeg. The point of no return was reached, which forced a trade that has netted the Argos no return.

One year later, anyone who doesn’t think that Bruce’s big-play potential wouldn’t be welcome on an Argo team that has no passing game to speak of would be out of their mind. Had the Argos known what many suspected watching Andrus coach three-down football, Bruce would likely be an Argo today.

But management chose to endorse Andrus and his way of doing things, which meant Bruce needed to be traded.

Almost from the moment he joined the Ticats, Bruce injected life into the offence, allowing others to excel when opposing defences had to double-team him.

It’s precisely what’s needed of Bruce now as the Ticats try to figure out ways to finish drives as opposed to settling for field goals.

As Week 5 kicks off in the CFL, the only teams that have scored fewer points than Hamilton are B.C. and Edmonton.

Heading into Saturday’s road game against Saskatchewan, the 1-3 Ticats find themselves at minus-3 in the all-important giveaway, take-away ratio, which ranks Hamilton second-last, trailing only the Eskimos. In four games, Bruce has caught 16 passes for just 211 yards.

His first touchdown reception didn’t arrive until late in last week’s blowout loss in Hamilton.

Bruce knows the key for Hamilton’s offensive revival lies, in part, with getting the football in his hands, early and often.

“They just got to give me the ball,’’ Bruce began following Wednesday’s workout at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

“When I first got here, it was a point of emphasis to give me the rock and get me involved more. I put a lot of pressure on myself and I want to be that guy.”

It’s not like Bruce has lost a step. And, you know, he’s never going to lose confidence in his abilities.

The fact remains that the Ticats haven’t been able to run the football well enough to at least force defences to put more players in the box.

The riddle that is Bruce’s early season slow start can also apply to running back DeAndra Cobb, whose longest run from scrimmage is 16 yards.

Cobb has averaged fewer than 10 attempts a game, a number that is clearly not good enough.

Head coach Marcel Bellefeuille confided on Wednesday that he’s had discussions with Cobb the last two days in the hopes of jump-starting the team’s ground game.

“He ran with flow last year,’’ Bellefeuille said. “At times this year he’s over-thinking.”

Under pressure

When he watches film, Bellefeuille sees a back who is forced to stop and start his feet because of penetration from the opposing defensive line.

In other sequences, Cobb isn’t able to break loose of a tackler in the hole, make people ‘miss’ in football’s parlance.

“But we also have to provide more opportunities,’’ admitted Bellefeuille. “We as a staff have to get him more touches.”

The same goes for Bruce.

“We need to figure out ways to get me involved early,’’ he said. “Other guys have to step up. This season is far from over and people should never forget that. The only frustrating part of this season is seeing that L in my column.”


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