HAMILTON -- Last week the Hamilton Ticats shook a monkey off their back, proving they could beat the Montreal Alouettes.
Saturday, they go after the elephant in the room. McMahon Stadium has been a house of horrors for the Ticats.
They always lose. Not since 2004 have the Ticats left Stampede country feeling good about themselves.
But change is wafting in the prevailing breeze from the east. The Stampeders won more games than any other CFL club last year but for the first time since Kevin Glenn joined the Oskie-Wee-Wee chorus the Ticats have a legitimate reason to believe this could be their moment.
Calgary has won three of its past four games but McMahon Stadium hasn't been the unassailable bunker it has been in the past. Calgary is oh-for-two at home.
It seems to be a league-wide trend, with visiting teams winning 12 of the first 21 games, well above the traditional 41% average. Meantime, Hamilton is riding the crest of a three-game win streak that includes a thorough manhandling of the Grey Cup champion Alouettes.
The Hamilton defence has allowed an average of just 339 yards of net offence in the past five games. The Tiger-Cats added Renauld Williams in the off-season to anchor the linebacking corps. Jamall Johnson in the middle is among the league leaders in tackles. Receivers Aaron Kelly 25, Bakari Grant 24 and Chris Williams 23 have performed well enough that the Ticats' brain trust decided to part ways with veteran Arland Bruce III.
So, it's all good, right Marcel Bellefeuille?
"I don't like to think of it that way," said the Ticats' head coach. "I like to think that we have to come out and do everything every play that we need to do to be a success." He is not a big believer in the momentum theory.
And, if there is anyone who can kill another team's momentum it would be the combination of Stampeders' returner Larry Taylor and quarterback Henry Burris. Nobody on the Hamilton sideline has had a closer vantage point of that than defensive co-ordinator Corey Chamblin. He spent three seasons as the Stampeders' defensive back coach before heading to Steeltown this year.
"I know those guys and what they can do. They have a number of weapons over there, starting with Hank. You can't let Hank get loose," he said. "He can still run at a high level. We have to make sure that 100% of the time we keep him contained,"
Calgary may have had trouble sticking the ball into the end zone but they have been able to move it. Burris is third in the league in passing through the first five weeks of the season. He's also leading all quarterbacks on the ground with 167 rush yards.
All of which should keep Justin Hickman, with three sacks during the Ticats' three-game winning streak busy.
"They're so skilled, quarterback, running back, receivers, they've got all-stars everywhere," said Bellefeuille. Slotback Nik Lewis had six catches for 90 yards last week (the fourth game he has had at least five catches). Lewis is seventh in the CFL in receiving with 21 receptions for 299 yards and is second in both yards after the catch (197 yards) and second-down conversion receptions with 11.
Hamilton's secondary has been better this season and will need to be because last year Lewis and wide receiver Romby Bryant decimated them. Lewis had 11 receptions for 142 yards and a touchdown while Bryant had nine catches for 193 yards and four TDs.
Throw in Joffrey Reynolds who had 132 yards and one TD in two games last year against Hamilton and it's easy to see why Chamblin holds his former club in such high regard.
Calgary's starting pivot leads all rushers in the CFL sporting a yards per rush average of 9.2. "Obviously that's a challenge. Henry does such a great job of keeping plays alive with his legs," said Bellefeuille. "You get those broken plays suddenly being big plays. Keeping him in the pocket is going to be important to us. And, stopping the run is going to be key. Getting them into second and long is going to be a critical thing.
"They've been one of the elite teams for the last five or six years and anytime you go play out west against an elite team you're going to have a tough game. For us to be an elite team we have to be able to compete in these places."