July 14, 2012
Ticats look special against Argos
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
HAMILTON, ONT. - Given the unique nature of the CFL, when teams barely have enough time to rest their aches and bruised egos, Saturday night’s missed opportunity must be put to rest as quickly as possible.
It simply must be and has to be with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers coming to town to play the Argos on Wednesday.
While the smell of a 36-27 loss will linger for the next day or two, the true impact won’t be unknown until the Argos hit the field on Wednesday and show their bounce-back ability.
Three games into the season and the Argos could easily be looking at a 3-0 record, which is not a stretch when one looks at the many mistakes that were more self-induced than forced.
Nothing should be taken away from Hamilton’s win, its first of the season, because the home side produce big plays, none bigger than Chris Williams’ first-half explosion, and Henry Burris’ ability to make plays would ultimately help lead to the dagger touchdown.
But the Argos are entertaining, are absolutely brutal in their cover units, which leads to entertaining returns by the opposition, and all the mistakes they’re making can be coached.
At halftime, which saw the Argos trailing, 29-13, there was no panic amid the sauna-like conditions inside the locker room.
“We knew we were in it,’’ Argos head coach Scott Milanovich said. “All we needed to do was chip away at it and get in the fourth quarter where we’ll find a way to win it.”
Milanovich’s words nearly came to fruition, his team taking control until two Burris run right up the gut of the Argos led to a Hamilton major that basically sealed George Cortez’s first win as Ticats head coach.
Veteran punter Noel Prefontaine, who has struggled in each of Toronto’s first three games, suffered a leg injury on a missed field Williams would take to the house.
Ironically, Prefontaine was voted special teams captain, but his two missed field goals in a four-point loss in Edmonton were critical.
Rookie Anthony Alix was making his CFL debut.
And while Alix does have a big leg, the kid has no control and attempts every field goal, even from short distance, like it’s a 50-yard heave.
When the Argos drove the football in the third quarter, they had to yet again settle for a short field goal in the wake of some red zone breakdowns.
What should have been a gimme from 24 yards would result in a single point that cut Hamilton’s lead to 29-17.
Most of the 24,264 in attendance, when they weren’t sweating buckets in the sweltering conditions, were on pins and needles as the Argos made it a 29-24 game one minute into the final quarter on a Cory Boyd plunge.
It was become a 29-27 game when the Argos settled for a field goal that was set up by an Evan McCollough interception.
Dropped passes, poor pass protection, breakdowns in the secondary, name an area and the Argos were getting completely exposed.
But as bad the mental lapses were in Toronto’s back end, as bad the blocking would emerge, nothing would compare to the Argos’ cover units, so completely outclassed that they had to head to cover at halftime and somehow regroup.
Bad enough that the Argos yielded a 125-yard return on a missed field goal in last week’s win over Calgary.
Downright pathetic that a 119-yard return would be surrendered on what would turn out to be the final play of the first half Saturday night, a dagger provided by Williams who was a one-man wrecking ball for Hamilton.
Williams produced football’s trifecta in the opening 30 minutes, a display reminiscent of Earl Winfield back in the day, scoring a major on a reception when the Argos got caught in zone coverage, returning a punt to paydirt and his decisive missed field goal return.
Just like they did last week, the Argos could not cash in on red-zone opportunities.
The Argos were too sloppy at times, but there were some questionable calls by the officials that clearly had an impact on the game.
On a Chad Owens fumble on a punt return, it looked as though he had possession of the ball.
The Argos would challenge the ruling, but the call stood and the turnover on special teams led to Andy Fantuz’s first touchdown as a Ticat.
On Williams’ missed field goal return, at least two Ticat players appeared to have delivered illegal blocks, but no flag was thrown.
What the Ticats were able to do, at least in the opening quarter, was manufacture a big play, something the Argos could not.
Defensively, Hamilton’s front was much more active and stout, but its secondary got caught in some man on man matchups that led to gains or yards produced when a penalty was committed.
When a team is able to produce but five first downs, rush for only 33 yards and gain a total of 141 yards on offence, you know that big plays were leading to points.
And that’s exactly what unfolded.
In a lot of ways, the opening half was eerily familiar to opening night in Edmonton, where the Argos did more to shoot themselves than anything the opposition would muster.
At the same time, you can’t take anything away from Williams’ flat-out burst and big-play capability.
The Argos certainly had no answer, especially on special teams.