Tiger-Cats face tough home contest with Blue Bombers
They don't face another ridiculously quick turnaround but it's another tough week for rookie Taylor Powell and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Powell completed 21-of-32 passes for a career-best 326 yards and three TDs in leading Hamilton past the Ottawa Redblacks 27-24 last week. The Ticats (5-7) secured the win just four days after a 41-28 Labour Day loss to the Toronto Argonauts to move closer to the second-place Montreal Alouettes (6-6) in the East Division standings.
This week, Hamilton has substantially more down time between games. But on Saturday afternoon the Ticats host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (10-3), who are coming off a 51-6 home victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The Bombers faced this exact scenario last year when, following a 54-20 home win over Saskatchewan, they travelled to Hamilton and dropped a 48-31 decision at Tim Hortons Field.
It's difficult to see history repeating itself.
First of all, Hamilton has struggled at Tim Hortons Field, having lost five of six games there.
And while Hamilton is 2-2 versus the West Division, Winnipeg is 3-1 against Eastern competition, including a season-opening 42-31 home victory over the Ticats. The lone blemish was a 31-28 overtime loss in Ottawa back in July.
Last week, Winnipeg starter Zach Collaros completed 18-of-21 passes for 319 yards and five TDs, with three going to Dalton Schoen (five catches, 104 yards). Kenny Lawler had four receptions for 104 yards as well as one of Collaros's touchdown strikes.
Collaros has thrown 27 touchdown passes this season — most in the CFL — and stands second overall in passing yards (3,136).
Canadian Brady Oliveira ran for 154 yards on 18 carries versus Saskatchewan while adding four catches for 57 yards and a TD. He leads the CFL in rushing with 1,144 yards.
Granted, last weekend's contest versus Saskatchewan was a rivalry game and followed a Labour Day loss in Regina. But regardless of the comparisons made involving Winnipeg and Hamilton, the Bombers come out on top.
However, if Hamilton has shown anything this year it's been resiliency. In a perfect world, Powell would've had the luxury of sitting behind veterans Bo Levi Mitchell and Matt Shiltz and learning the nuances of Canadian football by watching them play.
Injuries, though, changed all of that although, to be fair, Powell has progressed steadily. He has weapons at his disposal in running back James Butler (736 yards rushing, five-yard average) and receiver Tim White (54 catches, 851 yards, five TDs) and has had time to work with new playcaller Scott Milanovich.
But Winnipeg's defence leads the CFL in fewest offensive points allowed (16.9 per game), offensive TDs (17) and net offensive yards (292.4). The Bombers are also second overall in sacks (37) while Hamilton is sixth in sacks allowed (34) with Powell having been sacked 22 times.
Now, that's just one more than Collaros but the two-time CFL MVP has made twice as many starts (12) as Powell (six).
Toronto Argonauts versus Montreal Alouettes (Friday night)
At Montreal, Toronto (10-1) can clinch first in the East Division with a fifth straight win and second in as many weeks over the Alouettes, who've had three consecutive losses. The Argos are 6-0 versus conference rivals. A big key for the defending Grey Cup champions has been protecting quarterback Chad Kelly as they haven't allowed a sack in five games and given up a CFL-low 10 all year. Turnovers plagued the Als in last week's 39-10 road loss, a game that also saw CFL receiving leader Austin Mack being ejected in the first quarter.
Edmonton Elks versus Saskatchewan Roughriders (Friday night)
At Regina, the Riders (6-6) return home following last week's lopsided road loss to Winnipeg. They're 4-2 at Mosaic Stadium, having won their last three contests there. Saskatchewan is also 2-0 versus Edmonton (3-10) but the Alberta club is 3-2 with Canadian Tre Ford at quarterback. Last week, the Elks outscored Calgary 18-0 in the fourth quarter for a 25-23 home win. Ford threw for 173 yards and a TD with two interceptions but also ran 10 times for 82 yards as Kevin Brown led the way with 143 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Ottawa Redblacks versus B.C. Lions (Saturday night)
At Vancouver, the Lions (8-4) come off a bye week after downing Montreal 34-25 on Sept. 2. Quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. threw for 306 yards and three TDs while running eight times for 54 yards against his former team. The Lions' defence added five sacks. Ottawa (3-9) is living proof having a week off doesn't always guarantee a victorious return. The club was coming off a bye last week but lost 27-24 at home to a Hamilton team playing twice in four days. The Redblacks have dropped six straight overall.
Last week: 3-1.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 13, 2023.