The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are itching to get back on the field against the B.C. Lions – not only to fix their mistakes, but to show they can compete with the CFL’s elite teams.
Hamilton (4-5) plays host to B.C. (6-3) on Saturday in Guelph, Ont., a rematch of last week’s 29-26 loss in Vancouver.
Hamilton’s four wins have all come against the league’s bottom-feeders – three against the Winnipeg Bombers (1-8) and one against the Edmonton Eskimos (1-8).
The Tiger-Cats are looking to make a statement at the University of Guelph’s Alumni Stadium after a number of missed assignments and untimely penalties cost them at B.C. Place Stadium.
“We had a great opportunity in Vancouver,” said Hamilton quarterback Henry Burris, who leads the league with 2,806 passing yards (with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions). “But when you get out of the gates that slow and then you make the mistakes that we did down the stretch, that’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to lose the close ones like that.”
The Lions held the Burris and the offence scoreless in the first quarter and never trailed. B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay had his best outing of the season, throwing for 359 yards, three touchdowns and rushing for another.
Tiger-Cats running back C.J. Gable said having back-to-back games against B.C. has made it easier for Hamilton to focus on what needs to be done.
“It’s easier because you already know what you did last game, instead of waiting two or three weeks later when it’s not fresh in your mind,” he said.
Gable is tied for third in the league with seven touchdowns. He acknowledged he missed some blocking assignments and he’s seen on the film the holes he missed running through. “It’s fresh in my mind what I did and what I saw so when I go back out there I’m ready for what they’re going to bring.”
Burris said he will be looking to establish a running game with Gable this week, something he said was hard to do last week when the Tiger-Cats found themselves in first-and-15 or second-and-20 situations. Hamilton rushed for just 50 yards last week.
“We’ve got to utilize him early and often,” Burris said of Gable. “We’re definitely at our best when he’s running the ball and mixing it up and getting him out of the backfield as a receiver as well.”
The Lions will reportedly be without one of their top defensive players, linebacker Solomon Elimimian (42 tackles), who injured his thigh in the last game.
Burris is well aware this is Hamilton’s chance to quiet the critics who claim they can’t beat the league’s best teams.
“Here we are, we get another chance,” he said. “We can get back into first place [in the East Division with a win and a Toronto loss on Sunday], so I think playing for first place in a big game is nothing to criticize. … If we want to beat a great team, here we go and here’s our chance. We’ve seen what they bring to the table.
“Here’s our chance to make amends for what happened in Vancouver. It’s going to be tough. But here’s a great opportunity for us to make the next step.”
The Tiger-Cats will be wearing red-and-white retro jerseys with black and white stripes on the shoulders this weekend to pay tribute to the Hamilton Flying Wildcats, the 1943 Grey Cup champions.