Sunday, 30 September 2012

Hamilton 41, Montreal 28

I think it is safe to say that no team is looking forward to the closing of Ivor Wynne Stadium more than the Montreal Alouettes. The Ti-Cats have defeated the Als in five straight contests at Ivor Wynne, and most of them have been tremendously lopsided. The latest was Friday night's 41-28 pounding that was not as close as the score indicates.

The only proper place to start is with Henry Burris. Burris was magnificent on Friday, completing 28 of 32 passes for 326 yards and five touchdowns. In two game played at Ivor Wynne against the Als, Burris has an incredible nine touchdown passes to just seven incompletions. Let that sink in for a second. That's an absurd level of efficiency.

Any debate over who should be the starting running back for the Tiger-Cats should now be put to rest. As the whether gets colder this is Avon Cobourne's load to carry. Cobourne had his third 100-plus-yard outing in four games and was once again a clock-killing machine. Any rust or tired legs that he may have had earlier in the season is long gone. Chevon Walker still has a place on the team, but Cobourne is now the lead back.

It has been an up-and-down season for Andy Fantuz, but Friday was a lot of up and no down. Fantuz exploited holes in Montreal's secondary all night to the tune of seven catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns. This was Fantuz's best game in some time, maybe since his eight catch, 135-yard performance against the Als back in July. This is the type of game that could get Fantuz back on track heading down the final stretch of the season.

Sticking with Canuck pass catchers, Dave Stala continues to prove why he is an important cog in the offense. While his final numbers were spectacular, four catches for 40 yards, he did haul in two big touchdowns and one of them was definitely of the spectacular variety when he managed to haul in the pass despite a Montreal defender wearing him like a shirt. It was a spectacular catch and one that shows Stala still has a place on this team.

Newcomer Brandon Peguese had a heckuva game. He was a force all night and picked up one tackle, one sack, one forced fumble and one tipped pass (on a third-down play no less). He was also in the backfield creating havoc most of the night. He has been stellar since arriving from BC earlier in the month and the defense has been better since he stepped on the field. That doesn't seem like a coincidence.

Another newcomer acquired through trade that acquitted himself rather well was Ricardo Colclough. Colclough was thrust into a starter's role in the linebacking corps because of the lingering injury to Markeith Knowlton and the recent injury to Brock Campbell. Colclough didn't finish with great stats, but he made some plays and didn't look out of place. Hamilton is once again looking like a place where linebackers can shine and Colclough is just the latest example of that.

I say this a lot after a big win, but there wasn't a lot that I didn't like in Friday's game. The only thing that springs to mind is the play of Chevon Walker. Returning from an injury that cost him three games, Walker didn't do himself an favours when he fumbled on his first carry of the game. Later, he missed a block that led to a sack and he just didn't seem in rhythm with the rest of the offense. I'll chalk that up to his being rusty after missing three games and won't be too harsh on the guy. It was a bad game, but I am sure he'll find a way to bounce back.

Final Thoughts
No getting too high after this win because we all know what happened that last time we all did that. The Cats came out flying against the Als and seriously beat them for a full 60 minutes. The only slow spot was the third quarter, but the defense – yes, the defense – kept the Als at bay and allowed just a single touchdown in those 15 minutes when the offense sputtered.

Now the Ti-Cats find themselves in control of their playoff lives. They sit tied with the Eskimos, but Edmonton must have a better record than Hamilton if wish to cross over into the East come playoff time. Hamilton's next challenge: a date with the Eskimos in Edmonton next Friday night. If the Cats can win that, their playoff chances are probably pretty solid. Now we just have to hope the team that showed up in the last two home games touches down in Edmonton and not the one that inexplicably lost to Winnipeg two weeks ago.

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