Ticats enjoying win while it lasts
By Mike Ganter, QMI Agency
|Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Kevin Glenn need to be at his best Friday night. (REUTERS)
Marcel Bellefeuille had a little over four hours of sleep — and that was sleeping in for him — before he was back in his downtown Hamilton office going over game tape of Winnipeg.
Having just slayed one monster, the head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and his staff now have to game plan for another, albeit different kind of monster.
Where Anthony Calvillo and a high-octane Montreal Alouettes offence provided the biggest obstacle in knocking off the two-time defending Grey Cup champs, it’s that Swaggerville defence the Blue Bombers boast that will be Hamilton’s biggest hurdle.
The Ticats players will get a well deserved 48-hour break from the preparations — they don’t practice again until Wednesday — but having a plan of attack for Winnipeg is paramount and that was the order of the day for the coaching staff.
Bellefeuille gave himself very little time to celebrate the upset of the Alouettes. He knows the next challenge is equally daunting, but he did allow a reporter some time over the phone to look back on a real high point for Hamilton football club.
Bellefeuille was predictably in good humour even if he was back in the office on short rest. Being a part of a historical game like Sunday’s high-scoring affair and coming out on top will have that effect on anyone. But Bellefeuille had to be feeling particularly happy with his offence that put up 52 points against a Montreal team that finished first against the run this year. Hamilton destroyed the Als on the ground, rushing for 161 combined yards.
The Hamilton offence has put together some pretty solid games before Sunday’s breakout game. This time around, Bellefeuille started to get the feeling good things were in store on Day 2 of the practice week.
“I kinda sensed it after Day 2 for two reasons,” Bellefeuille said. “One was just personnel. We hadn’t had wide receiver Chris Williams and running back/slotback Marcus Thigpen on the field together in five weeks. Having those two guys on the field together obviously created some opportunities for us and challenges for their defence.”
With Thigpen lined up in the backfield alongside Avon Cobourne, the ’Cats used some misdirection to get the defence flowing one way and then were able to run it back the opposite way for big gains, none bigger than Thigpen’s 50-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
With Williams lined up in the slot, they were also able to utilize his speed in different ways with him coming off the edge and taking the pitch inside for some tough-to-defend yards.
By Day 2 last week, Bellefeuille saw that coming together in practice and liked what he saw.
The healthy mix of pass and run plays — 34 pass plays to 23 rushing attempts — is exactly the type of mix they’ll need to give Winnipeg a game.
“The weather is obviously a factor but that’s a great defensive team,” Bellefeuille said. “They’re going to stop the run, pass, anything you throw at them so you can’t have success against that team without some kind of balance.”
Bellefeuille will also head into this game knowing at least one of the potential distractions he had to deal with last week will not be there.
Canadian safety Ryan Hinds is expected back, which will pave the way for popular defensive end Stevie Baggs to return to his rightful spot on the defensive line.
Bellefeuille’s handling of that particularly tricky situation was key this week. It could have easily become a distraction for the whole team if Baggs decided to make it one, but he was the consummate professional, in large part because of the way Bellefeuille handled it.
“First of all, I just went through the whole process with him and the three other options I would have preferred to do but weren’t available to me,” Bellefeuille said of the ratio pickle he found himself in. “I think he understood the actual situation and the second thing I explained was that we needed to keep the focus on the team. The decision was not about he or I and especially going into a playoff game we didn’t want to make it a distraction and I give him credit. He was 100% a pro about it. Those things can go two different ways, and you know that.”
This one didn’t and as long as Hinds is healthy for Sunday, which it appears he will be, not only won’t Bellefeuille have to deal with a tough situation, he’ll get a player back in the fold who can be a difference maker.