Bran­don Banks sparks team with mo­ment of bril­liance in 31-7 vic­tory over di­vi­sion ri­val

Banks a thing of beauty as Hamil­ton sees im­prove­ments and moves to 2-2

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - DREW ED­WARDS ded­wards@thes­pec.com 905-5262481 | @scratch­ing­post

— In a game with so much ug­li­ness, there was a sin­gle mo­ment of unadul­ter­ated beauty and it came cour­tesy of Bran­don Banks.

Banks came into week three of the CFL sea­son ranked sev­enth in punt re­turns with a pal­try 8.4 yard av­er­age. Op­pos­ing teams had taken away Bank’s favourite piece of real es­tate to the wide side of the field, es­sen­tially con­duct­ing the spe­cial teams ver­sion of the pin­cer move­ment.

But early in the third quar­ter of Fri­day’s game in Mon­treal, the Alou­ettes tried the same thing, flar­ing play­ers out wide to take away the out­side. Banks went up the mid­dle, made one cut, and was gone.

“He’s that guy. He can change the game,” said head coach Kent Austin. “He’s a coura­geous guy.”

It was the turn­ing point in a 31-7 vic­tory and one of the few el­e­ments of a game that was, at times, a strug­gle to watch.

Quar­ter­backs Jeremiah Ma­soli and Ra­keem Cato were largely in­ef­fec­tive, par­tic­u­larly in a mind­numb­ing first half that saw Ma­soli post just 64 yards pass­ing. The Alou­ettes turned the ball over five times — they were lucky it wasn’t sig­nif­i­cantly higher — and the teams com­bined to com­mit more than two-dozen penal­ties.

Hamil­ton did, some­what im­plau­si­bly, emerge with a 5-4 half­time lead. The Alou­ettes took a safety af­ter Mon­treal tried to chal­lenge a play that wasn’t re­view­able — the in­ter­minable de­lay was the same — and Brett Ma­her banged through a 56 yard field goal a few plays later as the clock hit zero (though not be­fore tak­ing a de­layof-game penalty to make it ex­po­nen­tially harder.)

“They came in with a com­pletely dif­fer­ent de­fence and we had to make the ad­just­ments at half­time,” Austin said. “They didn’t take a sin­gle snap in the de­fence that we were pre­pared for.”

But Banks’ mo­ment of bril­liance sparked the Ti­cats and shat­tered what was left of Mon­treal’s ten­u­ous psy­che, vul­ner­a­ble as it was af­ter hav­ing lost their start­ing quar­ter­back, two top re­ceivers and lead­ing run­ning back com­ing in. They took a suc­ces­sion of stupid penal­ties as Hamil­ton turned a nar­row mar­gin into a 15-point lead by early in the fourth quar­ter.

For the third straight week, head coach Kent Austin stuck with Ma­soli de­spite his strug­gles and was fi­nally re­warded for his pa­tience. Ma­soli wasn’t spec­tac­u­lar in the se­cond half but he was ef­fec­tive enough to or­ches­trate a vic­tory and he did man­age — and this is im­por­tant — to pro­tect the foot­ball.

There were other bright spots, in­clud­ing a Hamil­ton de­fence that made minced meat of Cato and the in­ept Mon­treal of­fence. De­fen­sive end Adrian Tracy was a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor, run­ning back C.J. Gable looked like his old self and re­ceiver Ti­quan Un­der­wood, who dropped a po­ten­tially game-win­ning touch­down last week, had a long fourth quar­ter re­cep­tion that felt like a mea­sure of redemp­tion.

“That’s kind of the brand of foot­ball we play, a full game: spe­cial teams, de­fence and of­fence,” Austin said. “We got back to who we are.”

The win im­proves the Ti­cats to 2-2 while giv­ing them a key road win over a di­vi­sion ri­val — their se­cond straight in Mon­treal af­ter 13 years of fu­til­ity. The travel to Ed­mon­ton next week be­fore head­ing on a bye, then con­clude their fourgame road odyssey with con­tests in Win­nipeg and B.C.

Which is to say that things aren’t likely to get any eas­ier — par­tic­u­larly if the Ti­cats are in­clined to make it tough on them­selves by start­ing slow.

Luck­ily, they have the fastest guy on the field.

PETER MCCABE, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Hamil­ton’s C.J. Gable, left, bar­rels past Mon­treal Alou­ettes’ John Bow­man dur­ing mind-numb­ing first-half foot­ball ac­tion in Mon­treal on Fri­day night.

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