Five Yards off the Ball: Battle of the QEW
Argos look to hand Ticats first loss at Tim Hortons Field
Toronto – Short and sweet, this is what the CFL is all about; two great teams battling on a holiday Monday. The rivalry adds another chapter this Monday as the 3-1 Argos travel to Hamilton to take on the 2-2 Ticats.
1. Argos’ Offence vs. Tiger-Cat Fans
A big reason why the Hamilton Ticats are undefeated at their new home, Tim Horton’s Field, is because of their fan base. Saying that playing in Hamilton is a hostile environment would be a massive understatement and truly unfair to their fans. The Argonauts were Hamilton’s first opponent at Tim Horton’s Field in 2014 when the stadium opened up, a game the Argos lost 13-12. If the Argonauts are going to have a different outcome this time around, they will need their offence to strike quickly and often to take the brash Hamilton fans out of the game. The Ticat fans could make it very difficult for Toronto to communicate on the field with one another and to hear the calls from the sidelines. Hamilton has one of the hardest stadiums in which to win, but it can also be one of the most fun venues to play in. The Argos should look to gain an early advantage to try and quiet the crowd at Tim Horton’s Field.
2. Marcus Brady vs. Orlondo Steinauer
Former teammates with the Argonauts in 2002 and 2003, Argonauts offensive coordinator Marcus Brady and Ticats defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer will once again be facing off against one another on Monday night. Both men have held the position they are currently in since the 2013 season, going against each other six times during the regular season in that span. The Argos have won three of those games with the Ticats winning the other three, with the biggest point differential being a 14-point win by Hamilton in 2013. Both Brady and Steinauer are very familiar with each other and will need to come up with some new looks and designs to confuse the other. At this stage in the game there isn’t much either one of these men haven’t seen, so avoiding predictability and trends could be the key to executing on a regular basis Monday.
3. Ticats’ Receiving Core vs. Argos’ Secondary
There is no question that the CFL is a passing league and in every game, how one team’s wide receivers perform versus their opponents secondary always plays a huge part in the game’s outcome. Of course, this game on Monday is no different. Hamilton possesses one of the most diverse groups of wideouts in the CFL. They have a great blend of size and speed with the likes of Andy Fantuz, Bakari Grant, Terrence Toliver and the always-dangerous Brandon Banks. The unit gets even stronger with the likelihood of Luke Tasker’s return from an injury. On the other side, the Argos have a very young, but talented, secondary that currently has four rookies starting and second-year man Vincent Agnew at safety. Toronto will not roll over for anyone though, which has been evident in the past few weeks. They were able to limit former All-Star Travis Lulay to just 165 yards passing and picked him off once. The Argos have done a good job shutting down top wide receivers as well, with rookie cornerback A.J. Jefferson limiting Emmanuel Arceneaux to one catch for 13 yards last week. This matchup is strength versus strength and whichever unit plays more consistently will likely help their team come out on top.
4. Argos’ Cover Units vs. Brandon Banks
The aforementioned Brandon Banks is arguably the most dangerous man in the CFL when the ball is in his hands. If it wasn’t for an illegal block, he would have been a Grey Cup hero last season for returning a punt for the go-ahead touchdown. The Argonauts will have their hands full on Monday trying to contain Banks or trying to kick it away from him. Argos punter Ronnie Pfeffer has done an outstanding job since taking over for the injured Swayze Waters, but this will be his biggest test yet. Being able to punt the ball deep when called upon won’t be enough. He’ll need to be on point getting the ball towards the sidelines or potentially kicking it out of bounds on purpose, just to avoid Banks. The Argos have some very good gunners like Greg Jones, Brendan Gillanders, Shane Herbet who have limited big returns this season, but just like Pfeffer, they’ll need to be on their A-game so that Banks doesn’t blow the game wide open with a return.
5. Trevor Harris vs. Zach Collaros
I could have written an entire story on this matchup alone, the thing basically would have written itself. It is almost like something out of a movie, two quarterbacks trained under the same mentor face off against one another for the first time in a big rivalry game. Well, fortunately for us, this is reality, and on Monday night, former teammates, and still good friends, quarterbacks Trevor Harris and Zach Collaros will lead their respective teams versus one another. Collaros, who originally came to the CFL as a member of the Argonauts in 2012, started eight games for the Argos in 2013, helping them finish in first place in the East division. His performance helped him land a lucrative contract after the 2013 season with the Hamilton Ticats. Trevor Harris, who was actually ahead of Collaros on the depth chart with the Argos in 2012, sat behind future Hall of Fame quarterback Ricky Ray and Collaros for the last three seasons. Harris is making the most of his time a starter in place of the injured Ray, completing 74.8% of his passes and leading the CFL with 11 touchdown passes. Both men learned the CFL game from Ray as well as Argos head coach Scott Milanovich. Though their CFL history is eerily similar, both men have very different playing styles with Collaros being more of a scrambler and improv type of quarterback, whereas Harris is a traditional drop-back passer with a strong arm. Both these quarterbacks have a knack for making plays and keeping their team alive throughout the game, which only adds to the intrigue to this matchup as you can’t count either of them out. Whatever the outcome of the game is, rest assured there will be a lot of drama and big plays happening throughout the game, and it is very likely these two men will be at the centre of most of it.
Written By: Aaron McMillan
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