It may be an entirely new team but the outcome was all too familiar. For the eighth season in a row the Ticats dropped their season and home opener, this time getting eviscerated 43-16 by the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
It was a back and forth contest with the team’s trading scores for much of the first half. The Riders opened the scoring on an efficient nine-play, 86-yard drive that ended with Saskatchewan quarterback Darian Durant hitting Weston Dressler for a 9-yard touchdown pass. The Ticats answered with two Luca Congi field goals before Durant drove the Riders down the field to take a 14-6 lead on a touchdown pass to Chris Getzlaf. On the very next offensive play, Ticat running back Chevon Walker, who got the start over veteran Avon Cobourne, took the ball 89 yards for a touchdown to cut the Rider lead to one. Walker finished the game with 132 rushing yards on seven carries and an additional 36 yards on three catches.
Then the turning point of the ball game came when Ticat quarterback Henry Burris hit receiver Chris Williams, who finished the game with 109 yards on nine catches, in stride for what would have been a 97-yard touchdown and a 20-14 Tiger-Cat lead. But the play was called back because offensive lineman Peter Dyakowksi was called for a penalty. Instead, the drive stalled and Hamilton was forced to concede a safety. A missed field goal by Chris Milo cost the Riders a chance to extend their lead before halftime, but they still ended the first 30 minutes up 16-13.
The second half was all Saskatchewan. Durant put together a three-play drive that ended with a second touchdown pass to Weston Dressler to open the half. The Ticats answered with a field goal on their next drive, which would be their final points of the night. The Riders put together two more touchdown drives, one on a pass to Dressler, his third touchdown of the night, and the final one on a run by Kory Sheets. When all was said and done, the Riders throttled the Ticats 43-16. Durant finished with 390 yards on 25-of-34 passing and four touchdowns, while Dressler finished with 180 yards on 13 catches and three touchdowns.
The Ticats made numerous changes in the off-season, but Friday night’s game looked like the same Tiger-Cats people have watched over the past three seasons. Things don’t get any easier for Hamilton as a date with the defending Grey Cup champions, the BC Lions, looms next week. Hamilton has won their last three in British Columbia, but the Lions, who won their first game 33-16 over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, look to be just as good as they were at the end of last season when they lost just one of their last 15 games, including playoffs, en route to a Grey Cup championship. Hamilton will have to be much better than they were against Saskatchewan if they hope to avoid starting 0-2 for the third season in a row.