Saturday, 31 July 2010

Saskatchewan 37, Hamilton 24

This might be the toughest loss yet. The Calgary loss stung hard, but the Cats very well could have won this game. The 13-point margin of victory is not indicative of how close this game actually was. I don't believe in moral victories, but there were some very good things to take away from this game, even in defeat.

Positives
Can I start with anyone other than Arland Bruce? Tying a CFL record for receptions with 16, posting a career high in yards with 272, and adding two TDs. Whatever the team did to get Bruce open, KEEP IT UP! This was Bruce's best game of his Hall-of-Fame career and one of the greatest receiving games in the history of the CFL. BRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCE!

Kevin Glenn looked good as well. He had two interceptions, though neither was his fault (more on that later), and he threw for 425 yards. Looks like Glenn reacted quite well to the talk of him getting benched.

Let's give a little love to DeAndra' Cobb and the running game. It finally looked like the team figured out how to run the football. It wasn't the best game in terms of rushing the football, but it was the best Cobb has looked all season. I'm hoping this is a sign of things to come.

The Defense needs some love as well. Once again, they held when needed. Another seven field goals by the opposition, and the goal line stand when the Riders started on the two-yard line was one of the most impressive stops I've seen by a Defense. The bend-but-don't-break style might bite them soon, but as of now, it is working wonders.

Negatives
If Drisan James was cut for dropping too many passes, I think it's time for Chris Bauman to be shown the door. That dropped pass was probably the turning point of the game. If Bauman catches that easily catchable pass, then Palardy doesn't punt, which in turn doesn't get blocked (more on that later).

Glenn's two INTs were not his fault, and the blame lies with the normally sure-handed Dave Stala and Maurice Mann. Those were two HUGE turnovers, and they, along with Bauman's drop, were the key moments in what was a tight, well-fought game. Without those drops/tips, this game probably turns out very differently.

Jason Shivers is absolutely brutal. A few weeks ago I said he was teetering ever so closely to being the 2010 version of Bo Smith. Well, consider the teetering complete. Jason Shivers is the new Bo Smith. And to think, the Cats traded away Chris Thompson for Maurice Mann because Will Poole (who is no longer with the team) and Jason Shivers (who, simply put, sucks) were on the verge of signing. I know Obie says "better is better" but I think he made a grave error here. (In case you didn't know, Chris Thompson has five interceptions so far in 2010.)

I have preached patience with Punter Justin Palardy, but I think enough might be enough. While it wasn't because of his constant stutter-stepping, Palardy still had his third punt blocked this season. That is three too many, especially only five games into the year. I think it might be time the team brought someone in to light a fire under Palardy's butt.

Final Thoughts
As I said above, I do not believe in moral victories; moral victories are for losers. This is not a team of losers, even if they have done more losing than winning. Plenty of good things can be said of today's performance. For the third consecutive season, the Tiger-Cats went into Regina and nearly came away with a win. However, 'nearly' isn't good enough anymore. If the Cats want to be taken seriously, they need to begin winning these games. Turnovers cost the team today, and demonstrates that the loss today was more the Cats losing the game, rather than Saskatchewan winning it.

With the 1-4 start to the season, the next five games will dictate whether the playoffs are a possibility or not. With back-to-backs against Winnipeg and then Toronto, followed by a home date with the Als, the Cats' season will be determined over the next five games. I think following these five games, the Cats need to sit at no worse than 4-6; that's the only way I think this team can still be considered a playoff contender.

This whole season will rest on these five games. We've seen the moral victory, now we need to see the actually victories. It begins next Friday, in Hamilton, against the Blue Bombers.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Preview: Tiger-Cats (1-3) at Roughriders (3-1)





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I like to think that the two most loyal and vocal fan bases are those in Rider Nation and Tigertown, and as a very loyal Ti-Cat fan I have disliked the Riders since 1989. Yes, I still harbour ill feelings towards Saskatchewan because of a game that was played almost 21 years ago.

This game has some very interesting elements to it. Saskatchewan lost for the first time last week and were drubbed in the process. The Cats couldn't muster much of anything in their game either. These are two hungry teams, both looking to avoid back-to-back losses.

In Hamilton, the Cats need to find some consistency on Offense. From one week to the next, it seems like you never know what the Cats are going to do when they have the football. The Defense has done everything in their power to keep the games close, but sooner or later, the Offense is going to have to show what they can do.

When a team is 3-1 it is hard to find many faults. The Riders have played great football almost all year, with the exception of last week. Was that simply a case of a one-week letdown, or was it Saskatchewan falling back to Earth after their great start? The Riders still look like one of the best teams in the CFL, but even the best get beat.

One thing that can't be discounted is the Riders' home field. Mosaic Stadium is not an easy place to pick up two points. It is loud, the fans are nuts (they wear watermelons on their heads for Christ's sake!), and the team seems to feed off that atmosphere. The Cats themselves, while putting up a handful of good showings in Regina, have not won there since 2000.

I think we are in line for a pretty good tilt, as the Riders and Cats usually provide a lot of excitement when they are on the field together.

For all those interested, the game will once again be broadcast on the radio by AM900 CHML and on television by TSN and TSN HD. I should also mention that Y108 also simulcasts the AM900 CHML feed. I have neglected to say this in previous weeks, but they have done so all season.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Smitty's Selections: Week 5

Not only was a 3-1 or 4-0 week wishful thinking, but it was downright foolish. Last week I was able to go an astonishingly putrid 0-4 in my weekly picks. I have said in the past that it can't get much worse than the week before, and this time I can say it 100% cannot get worse than last week. Unless they somehow add a fifth game that I will also pick wrong, I can do no worse than I did last week. Maybe taking all road teams wasn't the smartest move. Well, what's done is done, and it is time to move on.

Toronto (3-1) at Montreal (3-1)

When the schedule came out, I was sure there would be a Thursday night game in July in Montreal that would decide first place in the East. I thought that game would be taking place on July 22nd, not July 29th. The Argos have been the surprise team of the early part of the 2010 season. Even the most optimistic of Argo fans never believed a 3-1 record to start the season was possible, but behind a strong running game and a great Defense, the Argos find themselves neck-and-neck with the Als. I think this will be a tight contest, but the home team prevails.

Winner: Montreal, 30-24

British Columbia (1-3) at Edmonton (0-4)

Casey Printers will be out again this week, so Travis Lulay will once again be the starting QB for the Lions. He played very well in the Week 4 loss to Toronto. He made some rookie mistakes, specifically the 4th quarter INT he threw to Byron Parker, but on the whole, the Ginger Slinger performed admirably in his first CFL start. The Eskimos are in complete disarray. They are 0-4 for the first time since 1965 and showed little fight for most of the game against Winnipeg last week. I think things get much worse in Edmonton before they get better. BC wins in a bit of a walk.

Winner: BC, 31-14

Hamilton (1-3) at Saskatchewan (3-1)

Both teams should come out hungry in this one after getting pasted in their respective games in Week 4. The Riders came back down to Earth last week, getting pummeled by the Stampeders in Calgary, 40-20; the Cats got their hats handed to them in Montreal by the Als, losing 37-14. Both teams should be chomping at the bit to wash away the stink of last week's embarrassments. Mosaic Stadium may be the toughest place to play in the CFL. Having said that, I think the Cats have something to prove and will come out ready to go from the opening kickoff to the final whistle.

Winner: Hamilton, 27-23

Winnipeg (2-2) at Calgary (3-1)

In their two wins, the Bombers have looked great, pounding both the Ti-Cats and Eskimos. In their two loses, they came out flat and never recovered. Calgary finally looked like a 3-1 team last week when they put the boots to the Riders. Stephen Jyles looked very good for the Bombers in his first start for Winnipeg, and if he can keep up that level of play, there may be a QB controversy brewing in the 'Peg. Regardless of how well Jyles plays, I think the Stamps are on Cloud 9 and have so much confidence that they think they can beat anyone. Not a blowout, but the Stamps will win.

Winner: Calgary, 35-20

Recap
Montreal, BC, Hamilton, Calgary

Season Record: 5-11

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Quarterback is NOT the Problem

There was some talk in Hamilton of Kevin Glenn being replaced as the starting Quarterback in favour of Quinton Porter. That possibility has since been put to bed, and Glenn will start for the Tiger-Cats against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Week 5.

The fact that this is even being discussed is beyond ridiculous. There are a lot of problems with the Tiger-Cats right now, but the starting Quarterback is not one of them. Glenn has not played great, but he hasn't played badly either. He was the Offensive Player of the Week for Week 3, after all.

When a team that had Grey Cup aspirations begins the season 1-3, the locker room can get a little tense, and changes are inevitable. Drisan James was recently released because of his inability to show any consistency. I doubt that this will be only change to come out of the Tiger-Cat camp. But, one change the team does not need to contemplate is at the Quarterback position.

There are a couple of things I would like to see changed. I will not recommend firing coaches or other front office staff, nor will I suggest players that should be released due to poor performance. I truly believe that the team has the right people in the right places to compete for championships, and that a few tweaks – some minor, some major – are all that is needed to get this team back on track.

Offensive Playcalling
There is absolutely no creativity with this offense. It almost feels like the defense knows what the offense is going to do before they do it. Guys like Arland Bruce, Maurice Mann and DeAndra' Cobb should be having tremendous seasons, yet each and every one of them has underperformed to an almost ludicrous level. Bruce has one touchdown in four games, Mann has less than 100 yards receiving on the year, and Cobb's longest run of the year is for 16 yards. With the amount of talent on the offensive side of the ball, these types of statistics are inexcusable.

The man who can fix this (or at least whose job it is to fix this) is Offensive Coordinator Mike Gibson. Gibson has been a coach in the CFL in one form or another since 2001 (he also had a stint with the BC Lions in 1995 before going to Rutgers), so his experience is an asset. However, his offensive creativity leaves much to be desired. It's not only his plays, but his formations. It just seems like the offense has no groove, no consistency, no rhythm. A couple of wrinkles would add some mystery to what the offense is trying to do and would likely lead to more success for the unit as a whole.

Running Game
The running game might be the most disappointing aspect of the team so far in 2010. In the first four games, the Ti-Cats have been able to muster next to nothing when running the football. DeAndra' Cobb is on pace for 616 yards for the season, a far cry from his 1,217 yards in 2009. Cobb might very well be a one-yard wonder, but I hold out hope that the running game will get going.

What ails the running game right now seems to be the Offensive Line. The line has played great when in pass protection (part of the reason why I don't think Glenn needs to be replaced), but their run blocking leaves a lot to be desired. The Line seems to get no burst at the snap of the ball. Cobb is not completely blameless here either. He dances too much before hitting the hole and needs to correct that if the running game is to get back on track.

Goal Line Offense
A more specific area of the Offense that needs work is the goal line packages. I have seen with my own eyes five, yes FIVE, instances where the Tiger-Cats had Something-and-Goal from the 1-yard line and failed to score a TD. Pardon my irascibility, but this is completely unacceptable. In the CFL, the Defense must line up one yard off the line of scrimmage. That means, in essence, that the Offense should be able to fall forward to gain one measly yard. On five separate occasions, the Tiger-Cats have failed to simply fall forward.

This has been a problem with the team since the days when Joe Paopao was the team's Offensive Coordinator, if not longer. I cannot recall a worse goal line team than this decade's Tiger-Cats. Much like the running game problems, the O-Line gets pushed around way too much when trying to punch it in in the red zone. There isn't anything schematically that the team can do to fix this problem. The O-Line needs to exert their will when they are in goal-to-go situations.

Defensive Backs
Another area that has been a weakness for the Cats for a long time. With the recent retirement announcement by Sandy Beveridge, who was probably playing the best football of his career, and the off-season loss of former All-Star Chris Thompson, the DBs are no better off in 2010 than they were in 2009.

One player who deserves to be called out is Jason Shivers. Shivers has had flashes of brilliance, but for the most part he has looked as bad as Bo Smith did in 2009. He is far from alone, however. Jykine Bradley still goes for the "Sportscentre hit" too often, and Dylan Barker was unable to unseat Sandy Beveridge for the starting Safety spot, so I am a little worried about how he'll hold up now that Beveridge will no longer be there to provide that veteran safety net.

All is not terrible with the DBs, though. Will Heyward has been a revelation. He has filled in more than admirably for Jykine Bradley since Bradley was injured in Week 2. Jerome Dennis has been a nice addition as well, and Geoff Tisdale has played consistently, as per usual.

I don't quite know what the team should do to fix the DB problem. Finding better players is always the answer, but it's not like young-ish All-Star-caliber DBs are just sitting on their couches waiting for a phone call. Also, as I said in the introduction, I won't advocate for the release of any players. Men much smarter than me are getting paid to make these types of decisions. If "In Obie We Trust" is to be more than just a cute t-shirt slogan, we fans need to have confidence that the front-office staff know what they are doing.

Kicking Game
When the Tiger-Cats signed Sandro DeAngelis in the off-season, it was supposed to be the end of the kicking woes that had plagued the team since the retirement of Paul Osbaldiston. To say that DeAngelis hasn't lived up to his "Most Accurate Kicker in the History of the CFL" tag would be an understatement. He came into this season as a career 85% kicker, and so far with the Ti-Cats he has gone a paltry 6-for-11. I haven't seen a kicker lose his "mojo" so abruptly since Mike Vanderjagt with the Dallas Cowboys. DeAngelis was signed because Nick Setta couldn't be counted on to make the big kick. So far, DeAngelis has just been a more expensive version of Setta, except DeAngelis can't punt.

Which brings us to the final area that needs fixing: the punting game. Justin Palardy is a rookie, and therefore he gets a little more leniency than if he was a veteran. The kid still has mistakes to correct, and those corrections will come with time. He needs to stop with the stutter step that he seems to be fond of. He could get away with that stuff in the CIS because most of those players were never going to be professional athletes. In the CFL, he can't hesitate, even in the slightest. The punt block against Montreal was particularly troublesome because (a) it was Week 4 and that problem should have already been fixed, and (b) it gave the opposition great field position. The Cats will lose a lot of games if the punting troubles are not corrected soon.

Final Thoughts
So those are the five areas that I think the Cats need to improve on if they are to right the ship and get this season back on track. Not one of those problems has anything to do with the Quarterback, and a change there would only be a Band-Aid solution. It would appease the fan base, while not addressing the real problems that are evident with this team.

Even having said all that, I still believe that this is a team that can hoist the Grey Cup at season's end. I am still of the view that this is a good football team with many talented players. This is a team that can win, a team that should win, and it is a team that will win. I am confident that by the end of the 2010 season, the 1-3 start will be a blip on the radar. This team is capable of great things, and I still have confidence in this team to make 2010 a season for the ages.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Beveridge Bids Bye-Bye

After an eight-year CFL career, all of it with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Sandy Beveridge has decided to retire.

For almost his entire tenure with the Cats, I have not been a fan of Sandy Beveridge. The odd thing is, I was pleasantly surprised with how well he had played so far this season. I thought he played particularly well in the win against the Blue Bombers, and I praised him for it.

I'm not going to retroactively begin gushing over Beveridge, but I also won't bury the guy either. Sandy Beveridge has decided to move on with his life after football, and I wish him the best of luck in his new role as a Hamilton firefighter.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

My First Trip to Montreal

Ti-Cat Warmup, Prior to Kickoff
When the CFL schedule came out, I, along with two of my friends (Richard, Emily, take a bow) decided to make my first trip to Montreal to watch the Cats play the Alouettes at Percival Molson Stadium at McGill University. I had heard such great things about watching a game at Molson Stadium that I felt I owed it to myself to see a game there sooner rather than later.

While the game was terrible and put a real downer on the trip, watching a game at Molson Stadium is a real treat. It is an absolutely gorgeous place to watch a game. The seats are comfortable and the atmosphere is tremendous. I've seen games at Canadian universities before (McMaster and the University of Toronto), but McGill's stadium puts those two to shame.

Some interesting stories came out of attending this game. Before we even entered the stadium we were heckled. That caused me to roll down the window and shout "OSKEE WEE WEE" at the passersby. I then high-fived a fellow Ti-Cat fan who appreciated my rowdiness.

Next, on our way to our seats we ran into some people who work for the Tiger-Cats. As we were the only people decked out in Ti-Cats gear – they were all wearing those nice Ti-Cat polos, while I was wearing my Dave Stala Gold jersey, and Emily sported her blank Black home jersey (Richard was on a plane from Toronto at the time) – we naturally gravitated towards one another. I said it was nice to see some people in friendly colours, and we chatted for a bit about all things Ti-Cats (though it was mostly about the stadium location) and then parted ways.

Third, the section I sat in (M2) had a fair amount of Tiger-Cat fans in it (three sat right in front of us, one wearing a game-worn Dylan Barker jersey). It was nice to watch a game in enemy territory with some friendly neighbours. While we were razzed a bit by Alouette fans, it was all in good fun. I was hooting and hollering when the Cats made nice plays, so if I can give it, I have to be able to take it. Even so, they weren't rude, and quite honestly, Montreal football fans really are very friendly. I guess when your team wins so much, there is no point in being a gloating blowhard.

There is no shortage of praise I can heap upon my first game in Montreal. The experience was completely positive, except for the parking. Parking at McGill sucks HUGE! The parking facilities are not equipped to handle 25,000+ fans. It was downright nightmarish waiting to get out of the lot. It doesn't detract from the overall great time I had (aside from the loss), but it did put a damper on an already tough evening. I might try to find a hotel closer to the stadium when I go again and just walk to the game. Yes, I did write "go again," as I think as long as I can afford it, I will try to make the trip to Montreal an annual event.

If you haven't been to Percival Molson Stadium yet, do yourself a favour and go. The Cats don't play there again this year (barring a potential playoff matchup), but when the 2011 schedule comes out, go get yourself some tickets. You will not regret it. Great atmosphere, great stadium, great time.

Morning-After Thoughts (Week 4)

Another week down, and still more questions than answers. The beauty of professional sports is its unpredictability, and the 2010 CFL Season has had more than its fair share of that. From one week to the next you never know what is going to happen. You have to love the CFL!
  1. I think it is safe to say that parity has arrived in full force in the CFL. No team has looked unbeatable, and no team has looked completely inept every week. Bad teams look good some weeks; good teams look bad, but mostly everyone is clumping around the middle. This is going to be one long and crazy CFL season.
  2. Two teams that many thought would get to the Grey Cup, Hamilton and Edmonton, are a combined 1-7 after four weeks. Fans in both towns must be pulling their hair out (I know one Steeltowner who is for sure) because of the failure of their teams to produce. It's still a long season, but this is not the way any team wants to start the year.
  3. Every week a new team looks like they can't be beat: Calgary was that team in Week 4. Nobody thought the Stamps would even come close to Saskatchewan, and when all was said and done, Calgary had pounded the previously undefeated Roughriders.
  4. Cory Boyd is the real deal. Three straight 100-yard rushing performances is one heck of a start to a CFL career. Boyd is a potential star in this league. As well as Jamal Robertson has played for the Lions, Boyd's play has made the decision to let Robertson walk in free agency not seem as stupid as it looked back in February.
  5. Doesn't look like the Bombers will miss a beat with Steven Jyles. From the looks of it, they might not even need Buck Pierce.
  6. All respect to Montreal, but their slow starts might be a sign of them showing their age. This is one of the most veteran-laden teams, and while that has many positives, it also has some negatives. The positives outweigh the negatives, but age will eventually catch up with Montreal, and despite a 3-1 start, that catching up might be beginning.
  7. Cory Boyd and Terence Jeffers-Harris have to be the front-runners for Most Outstanding Rookie. If not them, then who?
  8. Another week, another big dropped pass. Emmanuel Arceneaux dropped a sure TD pass, and like Fred Stamps before him, the drop proved to be costly. This is starting to become an epidemic.
  9. Was I the only one who saw Dante Marsh pull his pants down? You never know what you'll see on live television.
  10. What has to happen to Arland Bruce for him to get a pass interference call? Yes, one was called on him, but it seems as if he gets consistently mugged by opposing DBs and yet nothing ever gets called.
  11. Are you kidding me? That Fred Stamps catch was ri-donk-ulous! To use volleyball parlance, he 'set' it to himself, then took it for a big gain.
  12. Solomon Elimimian seemed to be all over the place for the Lions, yet he finished with only one tackle and one fumble recovery. Never has one player done so little, yet seemed so important.
  13. One 'play' by Elimimian that won't show up on the stat sheet was his dirty, dirty, late hit on Cleo Lemon. How that wasn't called for roughing the passer is beyond me. Bad missed call by the refs.
  14. Is it just me or is Rod Black useless? He says things sometimes that make me shake my head in disbelief. He was talking about a potential retribution hit after the aforementioned Elimimian-on-Lemon hit, and he said, "I wonder if that is any residue from the earlier hit?" What the hell does that mean?
  15. While I'm on the subject of bad announcers, could Glen Suitor be any more obvious about his Roughrider bias? I don't think I've ever heard him say a bad word about Saskatchewan, nor do I think anything the Riders have ever done is poor. It's getting to be farcical.
  16. I don't want to be too negative, so I will say that Chris Cuthbert continues to show why he may be the best play-by-play man in all of pro sports. Duane Forde is also very good. He may not have much of a personality, but he's a better colour commentator than Suitor, and his knowledge of the CIS is unrivaled. Both men deserve to be commended for their unparalleled excellence.
  17. Does this week's signing of Joey Elliott by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers mean that Kerry Joseph's CFL career is over? Sure seems like it to me.
  18. I have to give some love to Travis Lulay. He made some mistakes, but he played a pretty good game in the Lions' loss to the Argos. Not too often does a Ginger brother (yes, I am a pale and freckled redhead) get some shine in professional football. Here's hoping fellow Ginger-in-Arms Jared Zabransky of the Edmonton Eskimos will soon get his chance to shine like he did at Boise State University.
  19. Six INTs in six quarters for Henry Burris is not good. However, it looks like he shook that off and delivered one heck of a performance. If he doesn't go interception happy in Toronto in Week 3, the Stamps are undefeated.
  20. Maybe I should get out of the prognostication business, for I now have an 0-4 stain on my record. Going 0-4 in a week is almost as hard as going 4-0, but I have yet to do the latter. I selected all away teams in Week 4, and every home team held serve. Terrible. My season record now stands at 5-11, so it is going to take quite a bit for me to get back to .500. Oh well, I never said I was a prophet.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Rumour: Cats Cut Drisan James

According to Drew Edwards, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have released WR Drisan James.

James had not had a great start to the season. He was one of many WRs around the league who seemed to have a case of the dropsies. It looks like his inability to hold on to the ball cost him his job in Steeltown.

When a team that was predicted by many to be a Grey Cup contender starts the season 1-3, changes are inevitable. I will be surprised if this is the only change that the Cats make in the next week to ten days.

I guess we'll all have to stay tuned to see who is still around after the next couple of days.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Montreal 37, Hamilton 14

How can one team be so schizophrenic from one week to the next? Last week against the Blue Bombers, the Tiger-Cats' Offense couldn't be stopped; this week against Montreal, they couldn't get started. There was not a lot to be excited about following this week's uninspired performance, but here we go anyway.

Positives
The Defense was about the only thing that could be deemed positive following the game. They held Montreal's Offense to 10 points in the first half and held them to field goals on numerous drives inside the Tiger-Cats' 35-yard line.

Arland Bruce finally scored a TD. I guess that too is a positive.

The Offense was able to move the ball rather successfully, but couldn't punch it in. However, that was in the first half; the second half was uglier than John Goodman in a Speedo.

Negatives
As I said, the Offense was almost non-existant in the second half. Mistake after mistake after mistake crippled the Cats. The worst part is how close the score was to start the second half: it was only 10-6 for Montreal! The Als didn't play particularly well and were very beatable.

Continuing with the Offensive ineptitude, once again the Ti-Cats' goal-line execution left a lot to be desired. This is the second time in three weeks that the Cats have had a 1st and Goal from the one-yard line and failed to score a major. Simply put, that is completely unacceptable.

I have held my tongue regarding our kicking game. I have preached patience with both Sandro DeAngelis and Justin Palardy. I am thisclose to changing that stance. Another Palardy punt was blocked (which, thanks to the Defense, only netted Montreal a field goal), and DeAngelis clanked one off the uprights, contributing to his early-season struggles. With guys like Justin Medlock sitting out there, I can't imagine it will be long before the Cats seriously consider making a change with their two kickers.

Last week I joked about Marcus Thigpen not returning a kick, but this week I do have to be a little hard on the kick returners for Hamilton. Neither Thigpen nor Cobb could get anything going with their returns. The Offense constantly had poor field position because the return teams could not make anything happen.

Last year, DeAndra' Cobb was a revelation. This season, he seems to have disappeared. In the four games so far Cobb has rushed for 137 yards, which equates to 34.25 yards per game. He is getting less than 10 caries per game (39 in four games), but he has still not done much even with his limited carries. No team in any football league, be it professional or amateur, will win games when they have no running game. His fumbling problems persisted as he coughed up the ball on the aforementioned maladroit goal-line attempts. Cobb is quickly beginning to look like a one-year wonder. I have to wonder how long it will be before the Cats look to find someone to 2009 Cobb the 2010 Cobb.

Final Thoughts
I think the only word that can describe this game is 'ugly.' I don't just mean the Tiger-Cats, either. Montreal did not look particularly good, especially in the first half. The Als only looked so good because the Cats looked so bad.

Many, including myself, saw this Week 4 matchup as a big game for the Cats. I don't necessarily think it was a must-win or any sort of measuring-stick game, but if the Cats are to be a great team (which I do still believe the 2010 version can be) then they need to win these games; they need to beat Montreal in Montreal. Moral victories are no longer acceptable. What occurred on Thursday night is even less acceptable.

Next week, the Cats have a similar game when they head to Regina to play the Roughriders. A 37-14 loss there cannot be tolerated. If that happens, it may be another long year in Tigertown.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Preview: Tiger-Cats (1-2) at Alouettes (2-1)





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This is a BIG game for the Tiger-Cats. All off-season, people were talking about how Hamilton had the best shot of dethroning Montreal as the Beast of the East (shout out to the late Bam Bam Bigelow). In Week 4 we finally get to see if the hype can be matched by results.

Week 3 saw the Cats dominate from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. In beating Winnipeg 28-7, the Cats exorcised the demons of Week 1 (where they lost 49-29 to Winnipeg) and avoided starting the 2010 season at 0-3. As a Ti-Cat fan, I can only hope that Week 3 was the start of great things for the Tiger-Cats.

Rarely does a CFL team win a game without scoring a TD, but that's exactly what Montreal did, beating BC 16-12 in Week 3. Montreal has not looked like its regular dominant self in any of its three games so far, especially in Week 2 and Week 3.

Montreal is still Montreal, and until proven otherwise, they are the class of the East Division. This game is a great litmus test for the Ti-Cats, as Hamilton has not won in Montreal since 2002. I have the feeling that this is going to be one great game.

Much like every other week, AM900 CHML will broadcast the game via radio, whereas TSN and TSN HD will show the game on television.

On a personal note, I will be attending the game in Montreal in person. This will be my first trip to Montreal for a football game (and my first trip to Montreal since the Alouettes first season back in 1996), so I hope the Cats can provide a good kickoff to my weekend in la belle province.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Buck Pierce Out (UPDATED)

It looks like that injury is a little more serious than first thought, as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers announced today that Buck Pierce will miss this week's game against the Edmonton Eskimos.

Pierce was injured in the 3rd quarter of the game on Friday. He was tackled by Ti-Cat Defensive Lineman Demonte Bolden, who landed very awkwardly on Pierce's leg.

I never, ever like to see players get injured, but Pierce's injury is a good thing for Hamilton. Pierce, who was acquired in the off-season from BC, had been playing great football in the first two games and looked to be a real difference maker for the Bombers. He looked especially good against Hamilton in Week 1 and won Player of the Week for his performance in a losing effort against Toronto in Week 2.

Without Pierce, the QB spot is now handed over to Steven Jyles, who was acquired this past off-season from Saskatchewan. Jyles, who came in for Pierce on Friday, looked decent, but not spectacular.

This isn't the first time that Pierce will miss a game because of injury. He was let go by the Lions because of his history of injury problems.

The Bombers have dropped two in a row, including the beating they took at the hands of the Ti-Cats in Week 3. If Winnipeg is to remain a competitive force, they need Buck Pierce.

UPDATE: According to TSN, Buck Pierce will miss 2-4 weeks with a sprained knee.

Glenn, Stala Named Players of the Week

Two Tiger-Cats were rewarded for their stellar performances on Friday with Player of the Week honours. Kevin Glenn was named the Offensive Player of the Week, while Dave Stala was named the Canadian Player of the Week.

Glenn was 29 of 36 for 340 yards and 3 TDs, while Stala amassed 124 yards of 9 catches, as both players helped the Ti-Cats earn their first win of the season, a 28-7 rout of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Glenn was absolutely lights out on Friday, completing his first 14 passes and marching the Cats up and down the field almost at will. It was one of the most impressive QB performances I have seen. Glenn has proven that when he is on his game, no one can touch him. His play this past Friday was very reminiscent of Danny McManus in his prime. Just a dominating performance by Glenn.

Stala looked every bit like the go-to WR that he has become for Kevin Glenn. All Dave Stala has done since he came to Hamilton is reel in catch after catch. He has one of the best sets of hands of any player in the CFL. Rarely does Dave Stala drop a pass.

Both players more than deserved their recognition for the great games they played on Friday night.

Smitty's Selections: Week 4

Since I will be in a car on my way to Montreal for Thursday's game between the Cats and Als, I'm bringing my weekly picks ahead of schedule. I doubt the extra time would have made me change my picks. After last week's 2-2 finish, I am hoping that I can finally post a 3-1 or 4-0 record. Is that wishful thinking? Probably.

Hamilton (1-2) at Montreal (2-1)

This is, without a doubt, the most difficult prediction I have had to make so far this season. Being that I am a Ti-Cat fan, my heart is screaming at me to pick the Tabbies. As an unbiased commentator, my head says that it's Montreal's home-opener and the Als should come out guns a-blazing. Head, heart; heart, head. The coin is flipped, and it comes up...

Winner: Hamilton, 34-28

British Columbia (1-2) at Toronto (2-1)

The Argonauts, thought to be the league's doormat in 2010, have ripped off two straight wins and sit atop the CFL's East Division. BC, thought to be on the rise with Casey Printers back for a full off-season, lost two straight at home and are floundering. Can the Argos keep their momentum going and make it three straight wins? I don't think so. Sooner or later Cleo Lemon is going to have to win a game, and right now I don't see him being able to do that. It will be a close one, but in the end, the Lions will get to .500.

Winner: BC, 27-23

Edmonton (0-3) at Winnipeg (1-2)

The two worst teams in the CFL? Perhaps. After demolishing the Tiger-Cats in Week 1, Winnipeg have not just fallen back down to Earth, they have gotten a little closer to the Earth's core. Edmonton, who could be 2-1 if WRs could catch and/or hold onto the ball, just can't seem to get any breaks. Well, they got one this week with the news that Buck Pierce will miss this contest with a sprained ankle. No Pierce means no win. The Eskimos end their losing streak and finally post a 'W' in 2010.

Winner: Edmonton, 35-24

Saskatchewan (3-0) at Calgary (2-1)

I feel like I should make some attempt to justify picking Saskatchewan, but to be honest, it doesn't matter. The Riders are the best team in the CFL right now, and Calgary is lucky to have two wins. This one won't even be close.

Winner: Saskatchewan, 40-14

Recap
Hamilton, BC, Edmonton, Saskatchewan (Interesting note, I picked all away teams. So much for going 4-0 in Week 4.)

Season Record: 5-7

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Cats Add O-Lineman, Lose Schmidt

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced today that they have signed Offensive Lineman Belton Johnson, while simultaneously announcing that Tight End/Fullback Steve Schmidt has been placed on the nine-game injured list.

I don't really know anything about Johnson. I believe he was the player that was reported to be signed during that crazy, and completely erroneous, story about Quinton Porter being released after the first pre-season game.

Johnson is going to start off on the practice roster, and it would be my guess that he'll be groomed to be Jason Jimenez's backup, once Jimenez returns from his injury.

Tough break for Schmidt. While he had yet to contribute on the stat sheet, he had played pretty well in limited duty. Maybe this paves the way for the return of 2010 draft pick Sam Fournier? We'll have to wait and see.

1970s Retro Jerseys

I was planning on waiting until the Tiger-Cats decided to unveil them, but they've been listed on the CFL website for almost a week (and I saw a couple of people sporting them at the game on Friday), so here is what the 1970s jerseys will look like:

The Cats will wear these jerseys, at home, on August 7th when they face off against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The team will also be honouring the 1972 Grey Cup championship team, and will institute 1970s prices on various items; which ones they are escape me at the moment.

When leaving Ivor Wynne on Friday, I was able (or more specifically, my friend Richard was able) to peak into the Tigertown store and notice that Kevin Glenn, Arland Bruce and Jamall Johnson were the players available in the 1970s uniforms. What about the players from the 1970s? If the team and the league are celebrating the 1970s, shouldn't the jerseys on sale by the team reflect that? Having said that, I'm still likely to buy one. I'm an absolute nutbar when it comes to buying merchandise, and even at 28 years of age, I still have a sickening fascination with jerseys.

RELATED: Retro Week

Morning-After Thoughts (Week 3)

Another week is in the books; nineteen more to go before we crown a Grey Cup champion. A lot of things happened in the four games this weekend. This is the first week where I didn't see every second of game action. I missed the first quarter of the Montreal-BC game because I was out getting a victory Slurpee following the Cats' win on Friday night, and I was out enjoying my free slice of pizza on Saturday, which made me miss the first quarter of the Edmonton-Saskatchewan game. I still have thoughts on what I did see, so here we go.
  1. Is this the year that parity solidifies itself in the CFL? I mean, there isn't one team that I'd say is head and shoulders above the rest so far in 2010. The Riders are 3-0, but they didn't look dominant against the Esks. Each week a new team plays like the top dog. In Week 1 it was Winnipeg; Week 2 it was Saskatchewan; Week 3, dare I say, it was Hamilton. This could be one of the most exciting seasons in CFL history.
  2. Montreal does not look like its usual, dominant self. This can't be all about the loss of Brian Chiu, can it?
  3. Raise your hand if you had the Argos at 2-1 after three weeks. Yeah, that's what I thought. As much as I hate Toronto, the league is healthier when the Argonauts are a competitive team.
  4. Win or lose, I still cannot peg whether the Stamps are good or bad. They haven't looked good in any of their games so far, yet they sit at 2-1. Some bounces and calls don't go their way, and they could just as easily be 0-3. I think the Stamps could be the definition of mediocrity in 2010.
  5. Winnipeg did not seem up for the game. With Buck Pierce, they played uninspired football. Without Pierce, they were even worse. The Bombers are probably not as good as they looked in Week 1, and not as bad as they looked this week. If they lose Pierce for any length of time (and right now I do not know the status of his injury) they could be in some trouble.
  6. The Als-Lions game was one of the ugliest games I've ever watched. It looked like neither team wanted to win it. Seemed more like a pre-season game than a Week 3 contest.
  7. While we're talking about ugly, I'm all for history, but the pants worn by the Saskatchewan coaches were horrendous. Words cannot describe how ugly they were.
  8. Still on the topic of ugly, the Red & Black uniform was not good. I understand its historical significance, but it was as weird as the Philadelphia Eagles' Yellow & Blue combo from a couple of seasons ago. Not a good look.
  9. It was nice to finally see offside called when a WR was 2-3 yards beyond the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball. I have seen it happen too many times this season with nothing being called.
  10. What happened to that vaunted Blue Bomber pass rush? Their fans were talking about sack records after Week 1, and this week they were manhandled by the Ti-Cat O-Line.
  11. Is Simeon Rottier good enough now? That's two consecutive stellar weeks for the man who was completely obliterated by the online community after Week 1.
  12. I just love watching Fred Stamps play. The guy is an absolute treat to watch play football.
  13. I love the nickname "Big Top" for S.J. Green. They are calling him that because he's always making circus catches. Great nickname, very appropriate.
  14. Arland Bruce is like the Terrell Owens of the CFL. Both are elite WRs, and both drop way too many passes. Bruce is one of my favourite players, but he needs to find a cure for the dropsies.
  15. Speaking of dropsies, Kelly Campbell, you have to learn how to hold onto the ball in the end zone. Two weeks in a row Campbell has dropped a gimme TD. Football is a team game, and you win and lose as a team, but Campbell's drops really, really hurt the Esks. If he catches those passes, Edmonton might be 2-1, not 0-3.
  16. Sandro, Sandro, Sandro. Not a good couple of games for you. I know that you have your worst career numbers at Ivor Wynne, but you must change that or you won't be around much longer.
  17. Great game by Sandy Beveridge. I've been hard on him since he first put on a Tiger-Cat jersey, but he played great against Winnipeg.
  18. It looks as if the late-season swoon that Henry Burris had to end the 2009 season was not the aberration I thought it was. Maybe Burris's best days are behind him.
  19. It looks like Cory Boyd is the real deal, with two straight weeks of stellar play. Boyd could be the 2010 version of DeAndra' Cobb.
  20. I really thought that Casey Printers would revert back to his MOP form now that he is back in BC; looks like I was wrong. It looks more and more like the aberration was the MOP season, not the year and a half Printers spent in Hamilton.
  21. It's too bad that Chad Owens and Marcus Thigpen play in the same division, because only one will be able to be the nominee for Most Outstanding Special Teams Player. (Yes, I did just hand them their team nominations.) Both are tremendous Special Teamers, and both deserve all the praise they are receiving in this young season.
  22. Putting DeAndra' Cobb and Marcus Thigpen in the backfield at the same time is a great move. The more playmakers on the field, the better.
  23. So ends the Alouettes' drought in BC. The last time they won on the left coast was when Bill Clinton was the President of the United States. It seems as if the Als can only win in BC when there is a Democrat in the Oval Office. Hm, maybe voting Republican isn't so bad after all.
  24. At this point, I think it is safe to say that the Roughriders got the better end of the Prechae Rodriguez trade. Hamilton got a WR that doesn't dress and a neg-list player that, well, hasn't seen a single second of practice, let alone game time. It's not often that someone gets the better of Bob O'Billovich, but this may be one of those cases.
  25. This week I went from 'suck' to 'mediocre' with my picks. After last week's pathetic 1-3 showing, I went a more respectable 2-2. That puts me at 5-7 for the season. I could have been 3-1 if I had had the intestinal fortitude to pick the Argos. I wanted to pick them, but I just couldn't. But this isn't about coulda, shoulda, woulda because I didna. Maybe I can finally get over the .500 mark in Week 4. We'll see.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Hamilton 28, Winnipeg 7

Now that is more like it. From the opening whistle until the end of the game, the Ti-Cats simply dominated all three phases of the game. At no point did Winnipeg look like they belonged on the same field as the Cats. The Cats just seemed to want this game more than Winnipeg.

Positives
There are a lot of good things to rave about, but I need to start with Kevin Glenn. I can't recall watching a QB play that efficiently since Joe Montana was slinging passes for the 49ers. He had seven incompletions all game and didn't have one until his 15th pass of the night. Simply put, Glenn's performance was dominating.

As a former O-Lineman, I need to give some love to the Hogs. They absolutely manhandled the Bombers' front seven. At no point did Glenn look uncomfortable, and he had plenty of time to find his third and fourth read on almost every play. Simeon Rottier, who was absolutely killed by fans after his poor performance in Week 1, has shown everyone why he was the #1 pick in the draft. He has looked great the last two weeks.

Does Dave Stala ever drop a pass? His speed leaves much to be desired, but when the team needs to get the yards for a first down, it goes to the new Polish Hammer (Ivan Putski will always be the original).

Welcome to the Hammer, Mo Mann. Catching two TDs (and completely juking one Bomber out of his jock) is a great way to endear yourself to the Ti-Cat faithful.

The Defense plays the bend-but-don't-break style, but tonight they really only allowed two or three drives by the Bombers. The Bombers had just over ten minutes of possession time in the first half and went two-and-out on their first three series.

Negatives
There were not many, but one was Sandro DeAngelis. I know that he is only 50% (10 of 20) when kicking at Ivor Wynne in his career, but if he wants to be in Hamilton, he's going to have to change that, and fast. He went 0-2, and that makes four misses and one block in his seven attempts at Ivor Wynne this season. Not good, not good at all.

The running game was better this week, but it still doesn't make me feel comfortable. Deploying both Cobb and Thigpen could lead to some great things, but right now the running game still isn't much to write home about. Hopefully this performance will be the beginning of something good, but only time will tell.

C'mon, Marcus Thigpen! What are you doing? How dare you not return a kick for a TD. I am majorly disappointed in his performance this week (please note my tongue firmly planted in my cheek).

Final Thoughts
This was the first game this season where the four first-time season ticket holders all attended a game together, and lo and behold, the Cats get the win. Fear not Tigertown, there are no trips to Spain (Sarah) and no multiple games against Winnipeg left (Emily), so it should be clear sailing from here on out.

Seriously though, this was just an all-around dominating performance by the Tiger-Cats. There wasn't one moment during the game where I didn't think the Cats would pull it out. They looked better, they played better, and it showed on the scoreboard. There are still some kinks that need to be worked out, but a win is a win is a win, and this was a great win for the Black & Gold.

With the next two games on the road against the two 2009 Grey Cup participants (July 22nd at Montreal, July 31st at Saskatchewan), the Cats needed this win to avoid going 0-fer the month of July. The next two games are going to be tough ones, but if this team is as good as was claimed before the season started, they need to go into these places and win.

But next week is next week, so let's savour this win and be glad that the Cats finally got off the schneid.

Lastly, congrats to Ryan "6 Pack" Lapadat, "Furious" Pete and the over 1,000 people who did the Oskee Wee Wee cheer on the field at halftime for breaking the world records. Also, I hope everyone will enjoy their free slice of pizza from Pizza Pizza. A win has literally never tasted so good.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Preview: Blue Bombers (1-1) at Tiger-Cats (0-2)





vs.





This is the second of four very big meetings between these two teams in the first seven weeks of the 2010 CFL season. Whoever wins the season series will be sitting in the catbird seat for a playoff spot. Currently, Winnipeg has the advantage after they pounded the Ti-Cats 49-29 in Winnipeg in Week 1. Is it time for some Tiger-Cat retribution?

Hamilton comes into this game relatively healthy. Lineman Jason Jimenez is still out, and Defensive Back Jykine Bradley will miss the game and is being replaced by Will Heyward. Winnipeg is having some injury problems, but who will and will not play is currently unknown. Safety Ian Logan was at practice, and may play. Defensive Back Alex Suber, who along with Logan shut down Arland Bruce in Week 1, looks to be out. Of course we won't know any of this until game day.

Both teams are coming off losses at home. The Cats lost to the Stamps, and the Bombers lost to the Argos. Both teams had the chance to win their games, but failed to make plays when necessary. Buck Pierce had his second strong game for the Bombers, and Tiger-Cat Kick Returner and Running Back Marcus Thigpen had two more TDs to take his league-leading total to four.

This is a big game for both teams. Winnipeg can put a foot on the throat of the Ti-Cats early on in this young season, whereas the Cats can finally get off the schneid.

The Cats go on the road for two games after this, first playing in Montreal (a game I will be attending) and then in Saskatchewan. A loss here by the Cats makes an 0-5 start a very real possibility.

Coverage for the game remains the same as AM900 CHML will provide radio coverage and TSN and TSN HD will broadcast the game on television for those that cannot make it out to Ivor Wynne Stadium.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Smitty's Selections: Week 3

For some inexplicable reason, the Calgary-Toronto game is on a Wednesday this week, so I have to submit my weekly picks earlier than usual. Hopefully this week will be better than last week. I went 1-3 last week, so it can't get much worse. I can take solace in the fact that Chris Schultz of TSN has gone 2-6 over the first two weeks, whereas I have gone 3-5. It may be small, but I'll take it. Now on to my predictions for Week 3.

Calgary (2-0) at Toronto (1-1)

Toronto's win last weekend was probably the most surprising result of this young season. No one expected the Argos even to be competitive this early on, let alone be good enough to win a game. But win they did. Calgary came into Hamilton last week and stole one from the Tiger-Cats. This is a short week for both teams, and this is the last time these teams will meet each other barring an unlikely playoff meeting. The Stamps won the first game 30-16 in Calgary. I think this is going to be a very good game, with Calgary eking out a victory.

Winner: Calgary, 27-23

Winnipeg (1-1) at Hamilton (0-2)

It took Winnipeg about a quarter and half to wake up last week against the Argos. Despite a valiant effort, they came up just short. The Cats played better than they did in Week 1, but still could not get the win against Calgary. This is the second of four meetings in the first seven weeks for these teams. The Bombers won the first game in Winnipeg by a score of 49-29. This is about as close to a must win as it gets for the Cats. Win, and they're right back in the thick of things. Lose, and it could be another long season in Steeltown.

Winner: Hamilton, 33-23

Montreal (1-1) at British Columbia (1-1)

If Edmonton had any sort of red-zone offense, the Als would be 0-2 right now. As it is, they escaped Edmonton by the skin of their teeth, and head to BC to face a Lions team that is coming off a drubbing at the hands of the Roughriders. It looks as if Casey Printers will start for the Lions, which is very important because as Printers goes, so go the Leos. BC has been a tough place for the Als, and while it's hard to fathom a Montreal team under .500, I think the BC jinx continues.

Winner: BC, 34-27

Edmonton (0-2) at Saskatchewan (2-0)

No team has looked better than the Saskatchewan Roughriders during the first two weeks of the 2010 CFL season. No team has looked worse than the Edmonton Eskimos during the 2010 CFL season. On paper this is a giant mismatch. The Esks had a chance to put away the Als, and they squandered the opportunity. The Esks lost back-to-back home games to start a season for the first time since 1969, and from the looks of things, it doesn't get any easier for the Eskies. The Riders will continue their run, and this one won't be close.

Winner: Saskatchewan, 41-17

Recap
Calgary, Hamilton, BC, Saskatchewan

Season Record: 3-5

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The CFL on NFL Network

The day before the 2010 CFL season kicked off, the CFL announced that they had reached an agreement with NFL Network to broadcast 14 CFL regular-season games in 2010.

CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon is jubilant about the partnership. He says that reaction to the two games aired so far (Montreal-Saskatchewan in Week 1, Calgary-Hamilton in Week 2) has been mostly positive.

I think it is a great thing for our great league to get some exposure south of the border. Whether we fans want to admit it or not, the CFL does not get much respect among many football fans. People see the NFL as the be all and end all, and with the added exposure that NFL Network gives, my hope is that the players in the CFL will finally be given their due.

Also, this shows that there is some demand in the United States for Canada's brand of football. The CFL is an exciting game, with great athletes and great games. Just look at the Canada Day game between the Als and Riders. Any league would have been happy to have a game like that. Tell me of a game in the NFL, CFL or NCAA in the past five years that was more exciting than that game.

I have been thinking of reasons why NFL Network would look to acquire any CFL television rights. Unless you've been living under a rock, you are well aware that the NFL is facing its most divisive labour negotiations in a generation. There is the very real possibility that the NFL will go on a year-long lockout starting in 2011. While any fan knows that this could be suicide, it could still occur. How might this affect the CFL, you ask? Well, perhaps NFL Network took CFL games in 2010 hoping to foster friendly relations with the league so that the CFL would agree to broadcast more or all of their games on the network in 2011 when they are looking for content. Could NFL Network become the US-based broadcaster for every CFL game in 2011? The idea might seem ludicrous now, but without the NFL playing games, their network will be looking for something to broadcast. This could be the biggest boon to the CFL in years, and could help establish the league in the United States on a more permanent basis.

I'm not saying the above scenario is going to happen, but it's a possibility. I personally believe that cooler heads will prevail and the NFL and NFLPA will come to an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Too much can be lost from a prolonged work stoppage. However, the NFL's loss could be the CFL's gain.

The CFL on NFL Network could be the start of something special for the CFL.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Morning-After Thoughts (Week 2)

Another week is down in the 2010 CFL Season. A lot of good games with some surprising results. It's still very early in the season, so it's a bit too soon to be making grand proclamations, but that's not going to stop me, now is it? Of course not. Here are some of the things I noticed from Week 2 action:
  1. Saskatchewan just looks awesome. Offensively and defensively, this team is clicking on all levels. They are going to be a very scary team to play this year. Maybe they really are using last year's Grey Cup loss as motivation.
  2. Two wins by the Stamps and I still have no idea if they are that good or just that lucky. To them it doesn't matter; 2-0 is 2-0. But as a fan, I don't know if this is a team that can win the Grey Cup or if they will fall off the face of the earth later in the year. C'mon Calgary, give me something to work with here.
  3. Another solid game for Cleo Lemon. He impresses me more each and every week. He was smarter this week than he was last week. He seems to be learning the Canadian game, and learning it quickly.
  4. Rob Maver, right now, is the Calgary Stampeders' MVP. Without him, the Stamps might be 0-2, not 2-0.
  5. Kudos to Jim Barker (or whoever) for calling that quick kick play. Smart, heads-up play.
  6. Why did the Cats not try to punt for a single on the final play of the game? Palardy hit a 79-yard punt earlier in the game going in the same direction, so why not tell him to go out there and boom one again? It would have been smarter than attempting an almost impossible field goal.
  7. Another bad week for the Bombers' kick coverage. Last week it was Marcus Thigpen; this week it was Chad Owens. If the Bombers want to win consistently, they need to fix this problem. In the long run, it's going to cost them.
  8. The "Year of the Returner" continued in Week 2 with Chad Owens of the Argonauts and Marcus Thigpen of the Tiger-Cats returning kicks for TDs in their respective games. The return game is thriving in the CFL.
  9. Typical terrible job by Andre Proulx and his crew. This guy is the worst ref in the CFL, bar none. How he keeps his job is beyond my comprehension. Arland Bruce gets completely mugged, twice, yet no flag was thrown.
  10. On the other side of the coin, it's nice to know that there is at least one refereeing crew that knows what Pass Interference looks like. Now, if someone could please send the tape of the Als-Esks game to Andre Proulx's crew, I'd greatly appreciate it.
  11. After getting absolutely abused during the first half, the DBs for Montreal really stepped up in the second half, helping Montreal turn the game around.
  12. For anyone who wants to see how to block down field, check out Dave Stala's block on the second Marcus Thigpen TD. An absolutely phenomenal, textbook example of how to block properly.
  13. The Tiger-Cats continue to have the worst goal-line offense in the CFL. Three shots from inside the two-yard line to score a TD and they get nothing? That's unacceptable, and Tiger-Cat fans have had to put up with it year after year after year. I don't know what they can do, but they need to do something to fix that problem.
  14. The Esks' Offense has about the same problem as Hamilton's. Edmonton went up and down the field against the Als, but couldn't move as soon as they got inside the 5-yard line. They settled for field goals too often. They need to punch those in if they want to win games. The Esks left way too many points on the field against Montreal, and it's the main reason why they lost.
  15. Two HUGE drops by Fred Stamps and Kelly Campbell. Guys, you gotta catch those passes. Those are the types of plays that make the difference between winning and losing.
  16. How many uniform combinations do the BC Lions have? Seriously, it seems as if they wear a new uniform every week!
  17. Where the hell is Avon Cobourne? The guy seems to have disappeared. While you're looking, could you see if DeAndra' Cobb is with him?
  18. No disrespect to Travis Lulay, but the Lions are a better team with Casey Printers on the field. If he misses any amount of time, the Leos are in trouble.
  19. Mark Restelli's injury was as gruesome an injury as I've ever seen. I hope he has a full and speedy recovery.
  20. Simply put, I suck at picking games. Last week I went 2-2; this week... 1-3. Montreal's win was the only thing that kept me from going an ignominious 0-4 in Week 2. That puts me at 3-5 for the season. Hopefully Week 3 will be a bit better.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Calgary 23, Hamilton 22

I'll get to my normal review in a second, but I have to get this off my chest.

The officiating in that game was atrocious. Andre Proulx's crew, year after year, continues to be the worst officiating crew in the entire CFL. The missed calls that were blatant were numerous. I can think of at least two instances where holding should have been called, and two other instances where pass interference should have been called. Arland Bruce got mugged twice, and nothing was called. This crew constantly makes errors, and I cannot believe how any of them are still employed as officials. Andre Proulx is the Koman Coulibaly of the CFL. Get Proulx out, and get him out NOW!

With that rant over, let's get to the game review, shall we?

Positives
Words do not do justice to Marcus Thigpen. This guy is instant offense. Another two TDs today, which gives him four for the season. This kid is a star, and the team needs to find more ways to get the ball into his hands. Once he's been here long enough, watch out. Thigpen is special.

After the way he was tarred and feathered following last week's poor performance against Winnipeg, Simeon Rottier deserves some plaudits for his performance this afternoon. In fact, the entire Offensive Line does. Glenn wasn't pressured at all today, and the Stamps had only one sack.

I'll even give a little love to Kevin Glenn. It wasn't his best day ever, but his stats were fairly good. If the WRs had caught a few more passes, Glenn would have had a phenomenal afternoon.

I am always impressed with Dave Stala. The guy catches everything thrown within a 45-mile radius of him. He's the most sure-handed player on the team, and he's Glenn's most reliable target.

Garrett McIntyre seemed to be in the Stamps backfield all game, especially in the first half. If he keeps progressing, he could be the next great Hamilton defensive player.

I love the way the team has decided to deploy Quinton Porter. The kid has speed to spare, so putting him in during zone-read plays is perfect. That could be a great niche role for him until he's ready to replace Glenn in a couple of seasons.

Negatives
I already talked about the refs, so I won't bother going there again.

I have to question the play calling on offense. Why does the team never try to establish the run? Cobb hasn't looked good so far this season, but the team barely even attempts to run the football. The Cats need to try and get the running game going early so the passing game can open up.

As much as I liked the way the O-line played in regards to the passing game, I equally disliked their play in the running game. It seemed that Cobb had no holes to run though for most of the game. That needs to be fixed in a hurry for this team to start getting some wins.

Arland Bruce drops too many balls for an elite WR. I've seen him not haul in catches that should be routine for him. Of course, then he goes out and makes some nice ones, which he did this afternoon. But that 3rd-and-goal pass that Glenn threw from the one-yard line should have been caught. The DB was all over him, but it hit Bruce right in the hands. He's got to bring those ones in. They're the difference between a win and a loss.

Who taught these players how to tackle? The tackling is atrocious, and that needs to be corrected soon. Too many players either don't wrap up or try to make the highlight tackle, which results in giving up more yards than they should have.

Those Linebackers that I said were the best in the CFL look very slow all of a sudden. I don't know if it's the heat or if it's something else, but they do not look like the fierce unit they were in 2009.

We signed Sandro DeAngelis to big money because in close games he was supposed to be the difference. I won't blame him for the block on the 59-yarder, but he cannot miss two field goals, especially ones from 45 yards and under. If he hits one of them, the Cats win today's game.

Final Thoughts
This is a tough one to lose. When a team loses by 20 like the Cats did last week, it's sometimes easier than losing by a single point. Listening to CHML's "The 5th Quarter" on the way home, I heard Kevin Glenn say this one was a tough one to lose.

There are both positives and negatives to take away from this game. Thigpen continues to shine, and the O-line stepped it up and gave Glenn time to make plays. In the end, the Cats just didn't make enough of them.

Being 0-2 means next week's game in Hamilton against the Blue Bombers is almost a must-win. The Cats travel to Montreal and then Saskatchewan, which means a loss to the Bombers and the Cats could very easily be looking at an 0-5 start to the 2010 season.

No Rough Riders

I don't know about you, but I love watching the CFL Roundtable on TSN.ca. I look forward to it every week. This week, there was some talk about the prospective Ottawa CFL franchise. Dave Randorf had this to say:
They don't have a name, but don't expect them to be called the Rough Riders because the current Roughriders are going to move heaven and earth to prevent that from happening because they feel, rightfully so, that they've had free reign.
There are lots of things I don't like about this statement.

First is the fact that they won't be called the Rough Riders. I never liked the name Renegades, and the team in Ottawa should be called the Rough Riders. It's tradition, and I know we can sometimes be quick to abandon old traditions when new things arise, but as far as I am concerned, this is a tradition that is more than worth holding on to.

Second, the "move heaven and earth" and "rightfully so" parts about Saskatchewan. I'm sorry, but when did we start bending over to make sure Saskatchewan gets what it wants? It seems that in the past few years Saskatchewan has somehow become the be all and end all of Canadian football. I know they have great fan support, I know that they are one of the most profitable teams in the CFL, but the situation in Ottawa has absolutely nothing to do with them. This is just another example of the arrogance that permeates the province of Saskatchewan regarding the Riders and the CFL. For some reason, their fan base believes that only the Riders matter. Not true. Sure, they probably have the largest fan base, but so do the New York Yankees in baseball, and when they try to use their clout, fans get angry. Well, I'm doing the same with the Riders. It's not "rightfully so" regarding your use of the name Roughriders. There were two Riders before; there can be two Riders again. Get off your high horse and show some respect for the history of our game. The Riders like to bring up their history and their pride in it; it's time they started to do the same with league-wide history.

When an Ottawa team hits the field again, I hope that their name will be the Rough Riders. The Rough Riders are the team of Russ Jackson and Tony Gabriel, and the history of the franchise should continue on when the new team becomes a reality.

Ti-Cats on NFL Network

In my weekly Tiger-Cats game preview I forgot to mention that today's tilt with the Stampeders will be broadcast on NFL Network in the United States.

It is one of five Cats games that will be shown south of the border, three of which will be from Ivor Wynne Stadium.

I guess if anyone ever wanted to be on TV, you should think about taking some kind of NFL Network sign to the park this afternoon.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Preview: Stampeders (1-0) at Tiger-Cats (0-1)





vs.





Last week was ugly for the Ti-Cats, no doubt about it. But this is a new week, and a new week brings hope and optimism.

Last week was bewildering for the Stampeders. Are they good or bad or somewhere in between? The roster turnover on the Offensive Line clearly had an effect on the fluidity and precision of the Stampeders' Offense. While they marched up and down the field against the Argonauts, the Offense stalled when trying to score TDs. I know that Toronto's Defense is actually pretty good, but if you can't score against the rebuilding Argos, who can you score against? If it wasn't for Rob Maver's five field goals, the Stamps would probably be sitting at 0-1.

There is no way the Cats can look as bad this week as they did last week against Winnipeg. If that happens, we could be in for another long season in Tigertown. That said, I can't imagine that this team won't come out fired up to what will hopefully be a large, raucous crowd at Ivor Wynne Stadium. With the Cats coming off a season-opening loss, people might be hesitant about coming to the game, but I hope last year's 9-9 playoff team will still be fresh in people's minds and we'll see around 25,000 at the park on Saturday afternoon.

It looks like Maurice Mann (whom the Tiger-Cats acquired in the off-season for Chris Thompson) will make his regular-season debut in the Black & Gold. Having Mann in the lineup should help create some room for Arland Bruce, who was blanketed by the Blue Bombers last week.

These two teams tend to play each other rather close. Last year they split the season series, with each winning at home (Cats 24-17 on September 18th, Stamps 15-14 on October 3rd). I expect this one to be a close affair as well. Hopefully the home crowd will play a factor in the outcome.

As always, AM900 CHML will handle the radio duties, while TSN and TSN HD will handle the television broadcast. But don't rely on them; get down to the stadium for what will surely be a fantastic game. Ivor Wynne should be rocking!

You've Got To Be Kidding Me

Sorry for yet another non-CFL post, but this is just too ridiculous not to post. As soon as I type out and post my criticism of the whole LeBron James nonsense from last night, I go to SI.com and read Jim Kelley's article about NHL free agency, and here's what he says the NHL should do to spruce up its lackluster free-agency period:
So, imagine the NHL borrowing a page from the LeBron James "mebook" page and opening its free agent season to prime time TV -- in Las Vegas. It might just put some real juice into otherwise sleepy proceedings like this year's.
At first I thought it was a joke, but then I realized he was serious. I can only shake my head in disbelief. The CFL looks better and better with each passing day hour minute.

RELATED: LeBron James: The Decision

Smitty's Selections: Week 2

Going 2-2 in the opening week isn't terrible. The early weeks are the hardest to predict because no one knows how good or bad any team is. It's why I hate the term "upset" in regards to victories that occur in the first four weeks. Take last year, for instance. When the Cats beat the Lions in BC it was a "monumental upset" because everyone thought the Cats would stink. Lo and behold, they finished with a better regular-season record than BC. Anyway, take my Week 2 picks with a grain of salt as well. Here's hoping I have at least another 2-2 week in me.

Toronto (0-1) at Winnipeg (1-0)

Winnipeg took the boots to the Cats last week and looked very impressive in doing so. Bomber QB Buck Pierce looked great, finding open Receivers and running when need be (and, of course, sliding so he didn't get his head taken off). Toronto looked like the work in progress that they are. No one expects big things out of the Argos in 2010, not even their own fans. In Winnipeg, with the Bombers supremely high off last week's drubbing, I think this one is a no-brainer.

Winner: Winnipeg, 34-17

Calgary (1-0) at Hamilton (0-1)

It's s**t-or-get-off-the-pot time for the Tiger-Cats. There was a lot of talk going into the season (by the fans and the team) that this was a Grey Cup-caliber club. They sure didn't look like it against Winnipeg. Calgary looked every bit as confounding as I believed they would in their win against the Argonauts. They needed every ounce they had to eek out a win. The score does not do the game justice. If not for a late-game fumble-recovery TD, the game would have been a lot closer. The Stamps outplayed the Argos, but couldn't score, settling for five Rob Maver field goals. With this being the Ti-Cats' 2010 home opener, I expect them to come out ready to play. Cats take this one.

Winner: Hamilton, 30-20

Saskatchewan (1-0) at British Columbia (0-1)

What else can be said about the Canada Day Classic? Saskatchewan's Offense looked dynamite against the Alouettes. The Defense...not so great. That could pose a problem for the Green Riders, traveling to BC to open the new Empire Stadium. BC looked very good in their game against the Eskimos. Jamal Robertson showed that he was just as good as advertised as he ran over, under and around many Eskimos. I expect this to be the best game of the week, and I see a BC win by the slimmest of margins.

Winner: BC, 37-34

Montreal (0-1) at Edmonton (0-1)

Montreal enters this week's contest against Edmonton in a somewhat unfamiliar position: winless. Since returning to the CFL in 1996, the Als have only lost twice on the opening weekend (1996 to Toronto, 2007 to Saskatchewan). The Eskimos enter the second week of the season with lots of questions. Their Offense could not put up points against BC, and the Defense allowed Jamal Robertson to do whatever he wanted in the running game. An angry Montreal will notch their first win of the season, while giving Edmonton their second home loss to open up 2010.

Winner: Montreal, 41-21

Recap
Winnipeg, Hamilton, BC, Montreal

Season Record: 2-2

LeBron James: The Decision

Thrown off a little by the title? Don't worry, I haven't changed the subject matter of this blog, but what occurred last night made me do a little thinking. I will tie this all together with the CFL, but allow me to start by going a little off topic.

Last night, ESPN aired "LeBron James: The Decision" (which aired in Canada on TSN and could be streamed live on TSN.ca). This was a one-hour love-a-thon dedicated to where LeBron James, arguably the best basketball player on the planet, would play in 2010. While I sat and watched this spectacle, I couldn't help but feel uneasy about the whole thing. Something was amiss, but I didn't know what it was. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks:

"Why am I watching this? Why am I partaking in this disgusting exhibition of excess?"

I won't lie; I am a big basketball fan. I have a long-lasting love affair with the New York Knicks, and I held out hope that LeBron would sign with them. That said, even before he made his decision known, I had the above epiphany.

People can blame the United States all they want, and say that it is a product of their culture, but that's simply not true. In Canada we have "Free Agent Frenzy" for the NHL, and TSN aired the whole LeBron fiasco. In Europe, the major soccer clubs (for example, Manchester United in England and Real Madrid in Spain) fork out billions of dollars every year to pry the best players from other teams. This is not an American phenomenon; it goes beyond that.

I don't blame LeBron for this; I blame us. We, the fans, bring about this behaviour in modern athletes by lionizing them as if they are kings (some even take on the moniker, like a certain "King" now residing in Miami). I don't blame Alex Rodriguez for taking a $250-million contract from the Yankees. If my employer agreed to pay me that much, I'd take it too.

Then we have the CFL. The players don't get rich playing in the CFL. They don't go broke either, but they don't play the game simply to cash a large paycheque. They truly play because they love the game of football.

I have been critical in the past of fans who champion this notion and revel in the fact that the CFL has some sort of pro-sports superiority because it isn't all about the money. After last night, I have done a complete 180ยบ. We CFL fans don't have an "Anthony Calvillo: The Decision" show to watch, and we don't have to hear about petulant athletes declining a 3-year, $21-million contract because they have "a family to feed."

Now, more than ever, I stand proud in calling myself a fan of the Canadian Football League.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Tim Horton's and the Tiger-Cats (UPDATED)

When you walk into your local Hamilton-area Tim Horton's (yes, I still use the apostrophe, dammit!) you'll find something new behind the counter:


This, my friends, is the Tiger-Cat Supreme. It's the new Tiger-Cat doughnut. What screams out Hamilton more than Tim Horton's doughnuts? It's about time two of Hamilton's greatest and most recognizable institutions came together in a cross promotion.

The question is, however, is the doughnut any good? As someone who has consumed more than his fair share of doughnuts over 28 years I think I am qualified to give an opinion on the taste of the newest Tim Horton's treat. The doughnut is so-so. It has a delicious cream centre, but the area where the logo is located has an odd taste that detracts from the overall quality of the doughnut. Total score: 7.2/10

Having said that, I still plan on eating one every time I go to Tim Horton's, if only to show my support for the team. Maybe the two will come together and we'll be able to get Tim Horton's products in the new stadium!

Tim Horton's and the Tiger-Cats. Not since peanut butter met jam have two different products made more sense together.

UPDATE: A couple of things. One, Tim Horton's also introduced a Tim Card emblazoned with the Tiger-Cat logo. Here's what it looks like:

Yes, I did pick one up. I forgot to add this in when I posted earlier.

Two, the Spectator has a story about the new cross promotion as well.