Still winless, but Hamilton making strides
Maas, Offence Improving; Taaffe ‘Disappointed But Encouraged,’ With Alouettes Loss
Matthew Sekeres, National Post
Published: Monday, July 16, 2007
HAMILTON - Moral victories may not count for much in Hamilton these days, but they are necessary steps on what looks to be a long journey for the local CFL team.
The Tiger-Cats dropped a 29-20 decision to the Montreal Alouettes on Saturday to fall to 0-3 on the season, the only winless team in the league. Still, much progress was made, not the least of which was Hamilton’s first touchdown of the year and some entertainment for the Ivor Wynne faithful.
“There are no moral victories in professional football,” growled Tiger-Cats head coach Charlie Taaffe, who named Jason Maas his starting quarterback for a Thursday game at B.C. “I’m disappointed but encouraged at the same time. I see us getting better. When you see progress, there is hope.”
For starters, each quarterback – Maas and backup Timmy Chang – made a big play against Montreal, and Maas looked far more comfortable than he had in the Ticats’ first two games. But that doesn’t mean Hamilton will stop using Chang, who took over in the fourth quarter against Montreal and threw a 71-yard touchdown pass to Brock Ralph.
Taaffe suggested yesterday that he would “probably” go with a script where Chang, a rookie, comes in for a pre-determined series or two, likely in the second quarter. Many U.S. college teams employ such a strategy to change the pace of a game or to get a younger pivot some valuable game experience, and Taaffe has been coaching in those ranks for the last few years.
“I thought Jason played pretty well,” said Taaffe, referencing Maas’ 15-for-28, 211-yard performance, which included a 67-yard touchdown pass to Talman Gardner.
"Timmy came in and had the one big play, but I don’t think he is ready to be forced into that [starting role]. But we’ll keep playing him.
“[Maas] was much less tentative, which is maybe [him] getting more of a feel for the system. He isn’t thinking as much, he is reacting.”
But Maas did make two key mistakes Saturday. He dropped a snap in the end zone, which resulted in a Montreal safety, and he threw a maddening interception in the fourth quarter when the Ticats were poised to score. That led Taaffe to make the change for Chang.
“[Maas] is a veteran quarterback and you can’t turn the ball over in the scoring area,” Taaffe said. “I felt like maybe Timmy could give us a spark.”
Following his long touchdown pass, Chang completed just three of 10 attempts and Taaffe said he had “happy feet,” meaning his mechanics were out of sync because of Montreal’s pressure, which resulted in some overthrows.
But the production the Ticats received from the all-important position did represent an important step, and that wasn’t the only good development against the Alouettes.
Jesse Lumsden had some nice runs, carrying 10 times for 79 yards, and the line protected the quarterbacks better. Gardner emerged as Maas’s go-to receiver with eight catches for 143 yards. And the defence followed up a poor first half with a strong second half, keeping Hamilton in the game and giving the offence two cracks to win in the late stages of the fourth quarter.
But the Ticats continue to turn the ball over, most damagingly near the opponent’s goal line. They are taking too many penalties – 14 for 105 yards on Saturday – and many are coming at poor times, such as when they recovered a fumbled kickoff, or when they had a shot at a long field goal.
“It is very frustrating because we cannot do that,” said Taaffe. “There were a lot of positives, but until we stop contributing to our own downfall, it’s going to be tough.”email@example.com
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