Big trou­ble in Tiger-Town

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DREW ED­WARDS

The Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats are in trou­ble. The only ques­tion is: How much?

The Ti­cats lost 37-20 Satur­day night in Regina, re­peat­ing many of the mis­takes that cost them dearly in the sea­son-opener against Toronto — an ane­mic of­fence, a sus­pect sec­ondary — while adding some new ones as well.

The most con­cern­ing: A shock­ing lack of dis­ci­pline, in­clud­ing 15 penal­ties for 187 yards and the ejec­tion of line­backer Will Hill that likely will be the sub­ject of ad­di­tional dis­ci­pline.

Quar­ter­back Zach Col­laros was 19 of 34 for a pal­try 189 yards and a touch­down — the only of­fen­sive ma­jor the Ti­cats have scored in eight quar­ters this sea­son.

With the ex­cep­tion of one scor­ing drive in the third quar­ter, the of­fence was largely de­void of rhythm and the pro­tec­tion was, at best, sus­pect.

The one sur­ren­dered sack on the stat sheet does not prop­erly re­flect Col­laros’ con­stant need to run for his life.

And don’t just blame of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor Ste­fan Ptaszek for the unit’s woes: Head coach Kent Austin re­sumed the play-call­ing du­ties against Saskatchewan af­ter giv­ing Ptaszek the op­por­tu­nity to do so for ex­actly one game. The de­fence was no bet­ter.

For the sec­ond straight con­test, new co-or­di­na­tor Jeff Reinebold’s unit got strafed by a vet­eran quar­ter­back, this time al­low­ing for­mer Ti­cat Kevin Glenn to throw for 380 yards and two touch­downs.

Yes, they had a pick six and the oc­ca­sional de­fen­sive gem but there were also mo­ments of mass con­fu­sion and dis­com­bob­ula-

tion, with play­ers seem­ingly un­sure who was sup­posed to be on the field.

The penal­ties were fre­quent, costly and mind-numb­ingly bone­headed at times.

The Ti­cats took three un­nec­es­sary rough­ness penal­ties on the same drive to open the third quar­ter, al­low­ing the Rid­ers to push their nine-point lead into dou­bledig­its. Bran­don Banks, the small­est guy on the field, man­aged to take one of them from the bench.

Then there’s Hill, who grabbed an on-field of­fi­cial by the jersey af­ter the afore­men­tioned third-quar­ter touch­down, earn­ing him­self an ejec­tion, a likely re­view by the CFL and an in­stant rep­u­ta­tion as a loose can­non.

Austin, who had his own is­sues re­spect­ing the per­sonal space of an of­fi­cial last sea­son, all but threat­ened his play­ers af­ter the game.

“Penal­ties are a con­cern, es­pe­cially stupid ones. Undis­ci­plined play­ers aren’t go­ing to play for us,” Austin said. “If you’re go­ing to hurt the foot­ball team and you have a pat­tern of do­ing that, you won’t play for us.”

But the Ti­cats have been here be­fore. They started the 2014 sea­son with a 1-4 record and opened the fol­low­ing year at 1-6 be­fore mak­ing the Grey Cup games both times.

But this is Year Five of the Austin regime and it’s not un­rea­son­able to ex­pect this team to have some sense of sta­bil­ity and con­ti­nu­ity.

Austin’s had full con­trol of the play­ers, staff and ev­ery other as­pect of foot­ball op­er­a­tions: What­ever this is, it’s his to own.

The Ti­cats are 0-2 this sea­son and while that’s bad, it hardly seems in­sur­mount­able — es­pe­cially given this team’s his­tory of do­ing things the hard­est way pos­si­ble.

But they are also 1-9 in their last 10 reg­u­lar sea­son games and 4-12 if we go back a lit­tle fur­ther. That’s the-glass-is-bro­ken-and-let’s walk-on-it ver­sion. But let’s go full doom and gloom: All-star line­backer Si­moni Lawrence and vet­eran cen­tre Mike Filer went down early in Satur­day’s game due to in­jury and though they re­turned in the sec­ond half, their sta­tus will bear watch­ing — those are key pieces on a squad al­ready miss­ing some tal­ent.

And the Ti­cats now have four straight games against tough West Di­vi­sion op­po­nents com­ing up, in­clud­ing next week’s home opener against B.C.

Trou­ble in Tiger-Town in­deed.

MARK TAY­LOR, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Roughrid­ers’ Naa­man Roo­sevelt (82) shakes a tackle dur­ing sec­ond-half ac­tion against the Ti­cats in Regina on Satur­day. The Rid­ers beat the Ti­cats, 37-20.

MARK TAY­LOR, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers quar­ter­back Kevin Glenn (5) at­tempts a pass dur­ing sec­ond-half ac­tion against the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats in Regina on Satur­day.

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