HAMILTON — The hope is that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats get one more crack at the Calgary Stampeders.
If it does happen, it can only come in the Grey Cup, which will be played Nov. 24 in Edmonton so on that basis alone it’s a terrific goal to set.
But if that does occur there is plenty that must happen for the Ticats to get a different result.
A lot of those lessons were made plain in Saturday’s 43-28 loss to a Calgary team that were more than happy to point out they didn’t even play close to their own best game.
Lesson No. 1: The Ticats are going to have to play a lot cleaner football if they hope to beat the Stampeders.
The margin for error is not large to begin with facing a team that boasts the No. 2 scoring offence in the league and with the No 1 defence to go along with that offensive power, it gets incredibly smaller.
Even with Calgary lacking their sack leader Micah Johnson in the lineup, Hamilton struggled to provide Jeremiah Masoli time to throw the football.
Masoli had one of his most ineffective games since he became a starter last September. He was sacked four times and hurried on what seemed like every single other play.
Masoli put a lot of that on himself but conceded “we got a do a better job handling” the pass rush.
Mistakes against a team as good as Calgary, even with Calgary not playing at its best, are killers and the Ticats found that out.
“They are a good team and obviously their record reflects that,” Masoli said. “They are coached well. They are a disciplined team. We had our opportunities but we missed them. We can’t turn the ball over.”
Actually the Ticats did turn the ball over — a lot — in this one with the Ticats forcing two fumbles and Masoli throwing two picks.
Hamilton’s defence almost evened the takeaway battle with three of their own, two of which were returned for touchdowns, but did not sustain that threat for four quarters like the Stamps did.
“My thing is we got to continue to do that for four quarters,” cornerback Delvin Breaux, who returned a fumble early in the third quarter for a touchdown. “They did and what happened? They kept their offence on the field and that’s something we have to do. But I think we are all right. We are in a great position.”
Breaux made that comment long before the Ottawa RedBlacks went out west and stopped the red-hot Saskatchewan Roughriders in their tracks in their own building which is no easy feat. With the win, Ottawa takes a full game lead on the Ticats in the East, with six games remaining.
Among those six are back-to-back games against the Redblacks on Oct. 19 and Oct 27.
“We’re still in control of our own destiny in the East,” Masoli said.
But better protection and matching the Stamps in the takeaway department aren’t the only improvements the Ticats will have to make.
Both their end of half and end of game approach will have to improve drastically as well.
The Ticats should have been in the locker room with a two-point lead. They engineered a nice nine-play drive in just over two minutes to get Lirim Hajrullahu lined up for a 28-yard chip shot which he made.
With 11 seconds left though, Hajrullahu committed a cardinal football sin kicking the ensuring kickoff out of bounds giving Calgary 32 free yards.
That mistake was compounded by halfback Richard Leonard, who let Juwan Brescacin get in behind him for a 48-yard gain, setting up an easy Rene Paredes field goal from 24 yards out.
Calgary took a lead into the locker room they never should have had.
Midway through the fourth quarter following a lengthy seven-minute drive, the Ticats opted to take the sure three points with 7:09 remaining rather than gamble with third and goal from the six.
The deficit was reduced from 12 to nine points but it still meant the Tabbies would need two scores while holding Calgary at bay. At the time and in hindsight it was the wrong call.
When the Ticats did finally get the ball back there were only 50 seconds left on the clock and that nine point lead was 15.
Hamilton remains convinced it can beat this Calgary team but if it does get the chance come November they are going to have to be a whole lot better than they were on Saturday.