Ticats receiver Fantuz is on a mission

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:01 AM ET

HAMILTON - There was no exasperation in Andy Fantuz’s voice, no “give me the damn ball” type of proclamation.

But the Hamilton Tiger-Cats slotback, who was supposed to provide an offensive punch along with another high-profile off-season addition, quarterback Henry Burris, knows he can be better than he was in the first nine games of his four-year contract with the Ticats.

It’s that mindset that the 28-year-old Fantuz will take to the field at the Rogers Centre on Saturday afternoon when the Tiger-Cats attempt to not only exact revenge for a Labour Day Classic loss at the hands of the Argonauts, but also to reign in a four-game losing streak.

“I need to pick it up on my own end, individually,” Fantuz said on Thursday at Ivor Wynne Stadium after the Ticats completed their only full 90-minute practice in this short work week.

“Last game, I left a few big plays out there and I need to have a big improvement from that.”

Fantuz, the biggest prize on the free-agent market last February, had just two catches against the Argos for 22 yards during Monday’s game. It was his lowest total of the season, and put him at 463 yards on 33 receptions. Fantuz, who missed one game with concussion-like symptoms, simply hasn’t been making the big plays that came with more regularity during his days with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, especially the 2010 season, when he had a league-high 1,380 yards.

Last season was a write-off, as Fantuz toiled with the National Football League’s Chicago Bears until the first week of September. An ankle injury influenced Fantuz’s return to Saskatchewan, and he had just 13 receptions for 175 yards.

Now, Ticats faithful hoped Fantuz would hit the ground running and quickly find some chemistry with Burris, but that has not happened. Still, Fantuz is not overly concerned.

“It does take time, but we seem to be getting better day by day and it’s a long season,” the native of Chatham, Ont., said. “It has been a good transition (overall). I like it here, I’m comfortable. I love the team, the guys, the community, the fans. Now it’s time to start taking care of business on the field.”

The Ticats could be without running back Chevon Walker, as well as centre Marwan Hage and linebacker Kevin Eiben (undisclosed injuries). Head coach George Cortez has not ruled any of those players in or out for Saturday’s game, but none practised on Thursday.

But Fantuz’s fortunes and those of the Ticats could start to improve in their rematch with the Argos, when it’s expected that receiver Bakari Grant makes his return after missing five games with a broken hand. If Grant is back, he will represent one more worry for the Argos defence and likely take some of their thoughts away from Fantuz.

“You expect to get a lot of attention when you have been the go-to guy,” Fantuz said. “That’s the beauty of our offence, we have so many good receivers that if they give someone too much attention, we spread the ball around. But with that being said, I have had my chances to make plays and let a few things slip through. When I do get a chance, I have to be ready for it and take advantage.

“Bakari is a huge part of our offence. We are glad to have him back.”

Fantuz could be the guy who makes the game-winning catch and it could just as well be Grant, if not rising star Chris Williams. Cortez just wants it to be somebody as the Ticats will try to forget their 3-6 first-half record.

“The No. 1 thing is we have not scored enough points,” Cortez said. “It’s a simple deal — whenever the offence scores, the defence needs to give up one less and whenever the defence gives up (points), we need to score one more. We are close to that range but we are not it in right now.”

ARGOS-TICATS REMATCH A WAKEUP CALL

The short work week for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Argonauts could make for some sluggish football.

Neither club went overly hard physically at practice this week, with little time to prepare following Monday’s Labour Day Classic between the clubs at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

Kickoff for the rematch is slated for just after 1 p.m. on Saturday, or less than five days after the clubs walked off the field after going at each other in Steeltown.

“This game is all about the team that wants it the most,” Ticats quarterback Henry Burris said, “because both teams are going to be tired in the second half and play off pure emotion and drive. Whoever wants this game the most and executes the most will win this game.”

Ticats head coach George Cortez knows what he wants out of his defence, whether the group is tired or not.

“If we could pick one thing, we would like to make more big plays,” Cortez said.


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