TI­CATS STAMPEDED:

At least they got one. Hamil­ton dec­i­mated in lack­lus­tre 60-1 show­ing against Cal­gary

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - DREW ED­WARDS

While the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats may have lost Sat­ur­day’s con­test to the Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers with a truly pu­trid first half, in which they fell be­hind 39-1, it was the sec­ond half that may cost them the sea­son.

With the game out of hand af­ter 30 min­utes, Ti­cats head coach Kent Austin im­plored his play­ers at half­time to fo­cus on ex­e­cu­tion, to show some pride and con­fi­dence in them­selves. A win was out of reach; but they could still make a state­ment be­fore the night was out.

How did his team re­spond? By giv­ing up touch­downs on the first three Cal­gary drives of the third quar­ter — with backup quar­ter­back and Cana­dian An­drew Buck­ley at the helm — while fail­ing to reg­is­ter a sin­gle point on of­fence.

The fi­nal score was 60-1, the sec­ond-worst de­feat in fran­chise his­tory and the third-worst in CFL his­tory. The only game on the ledger with a larger mar­gin of de­feat for Hamil­ton was an 82-14 drub­bing by Mon­treal in 1956.

Even more con­cern­ing: Austin couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say if he thought his play­ers had con­tin­ued to play hard un­til the fi­nal whistle.

“I can’t speak for the en­tire team,” Austin said. “I’ll know that bet­ter when I talk to the in­di­vid­ual coaches and when we watch film.”

There have been plenty of ups and downs dur­ing Austin’s four-plus sea­sons at the helm of the Ti­cats, his record now at 36-41. But even dur­ing the low­est points — and the 1-6 start in 2014 and the strug­gles af­ter quar­ter­back Zach Col­laros tore knee lig­a­ments in 2015 — there was never any ques­tion that Austin had the room, that play­ers were giv­ing it their all.

That’s not a given any­more. And if play­ers have “let go of the rope,” as Austin put it, then there may not be a way back for this group of play­ers and this coach­ing staff.

There could be changes in the off­ing, but it ap­pears that Austin is safe, at least for now. Owner Bob Young, who was asked for com­ment af­ter the sec­ond-worst loss in team his­tory, said that Austin or team CEO Scott Mitchell would de­liver any news on changes.

“As is ob­vi­ous — what we have been do­ing has not been work­ing. We are work­ing on im­prove­ments. Some im­me­di­ate, some longer term,” Young said. “Kent, Scott will be in touch as soon as we have any­thing to re­port.”

Un­less Austin is be­ing asked to de­liver the eu­logy at his own foot­ball fu­neral, it sounds like he’s stay­ing on. He did, how­ever, ac­knowl­edge there would spec­u­la­tion on his em­ploy­ment sta­tus. “I un­der­stand that. I can’t fo­cus on that. I told the team, ‘we al­ways start with our­selves first as a staff. I look at my­self first, hold my­self ac­count­able,” Austin said. “I’m pretty hon­est and self aware and I’m not go­ing to hide be­hind any­thing. I’m go­ing to be very hon­est in eval­u­at­ing that, get­ting bet­ter and do­ing right by our team.”

Col­laros’ job is also safe, de­spite be­ing pulled in the third quar­ter in favour of backup Jeremiah Ma­soli hav­ing com­pleted 14 of his 21 passes for 102 yards and a pick six. Austin said his strug­gling starter will be be­hind cen­tre against the 5-0 Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos on Fri­day.

“There might be a sit­u­a­tion where Jeremiah has to play this year,” Austin said.

“And we were down by quite a bit. It was an op­por­tu­nity to get him play­ing time in a real game and take hits off of Zach.”

As they have been for much of this sea­son, Austin’s postgame re­marks were de­liv­ered in thought­ful, mea­sured tones — a far cry from the terse, of­ten con­fronta­tional me­dia ses­sions that had of­ten fol­lowed losses dur­ing his ear­lier time in Hamil­ton. In other words, he’s made an ef­fort to change.

Whether he can man­i­fest the same kind of evo­lu­tion within his locker-room re­mains to be seen. He de­liv­ered a longer-than-usual speech to his play­ers af­ter the loss, echo­ing much the same sen­ti­ments he ex­pressed at half­time. “The hard prov­i­dences are go­ing to be there. And what we’re go­ing to do is demon­strate the qual­ity of in­di­vid­u­als that we are and get back to work,” he said. “This a pretty low point but I have a strong be­lief in our abil­ity to over­come those things.”

Whether they heard him is any­one’s guess.

JEFF MCIN­TOSH, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

With a com­fort­able lead, Stam­ped­ers QB An­drew Buck­ley, right, was handed the ball. He be­came the first Cana­dian quar­ter­back to throw a touch­down pass since Bran­don Bridge in 2015.

Cal­gary de­fen­sive back Roy Finch hu­mil­i­ated the Tiger-Cats with a 97-yard punt re­turn for a TD in the first half, beat­ing Mercer Tim­mis, left, and Do­minique Ellis.

Ti­cats quar­ter­back Zach Col­laros, pic­tured, was pulled in the third quar­ter in favour of backup Jeremiah Ma­soli, hav­ing com­pleted 14 of his 21 passes for 102 yards and a pick six.

PHO­TOS BY JEFF MCIN­TOSH, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers quar­ter­back Bo Levi Mitchell got a break him­self af­ter rack­ing up a huge lead on the Tiger-Cats, whose de­fence he picked apart and whose of­fence was non-ex­is­tent.

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