A trio of close, tough-to-stomach losses has the Ticats sitting with just one win through five games for a second straight season. Three of Hamilton’s four losses have come by a combined total of eight points.
“I’m about the same upset after every loss,” head coach and general manager Kent Austin said. “I can’t stand to lose nor can anybody else in that locker room or anybody else on this staff. Losing is not fun - it’s not easy.”
In Week 2 Hamilton dropped a 28-24 decision to the Eskimos. The Tiger-Cats had a chance to win on the final play of the game when Dan LeFevour came up about a yard short of the goal line on a quarterback draw.
Out in Calgary for Week 4 the Ticats dropped a three-point affair. Hamilton suffered a 10-7 defeat and the game could’ve possibly gone to overtime if Luke Tasker didn’t have the ball slip while trying to hold for a Justin Medlock field goal that might have tied the game.
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Back at home against Winnipeg in Week 6 the Black and Gold scored 23-straight second half points to overcome a 20-3 deficit and lead 26-20 with less than two minutes to go. But Drew Willy directed an 11-play, 94-yard drive and capped it with the winning touchdown pass on the last play of the game to, once again, leave the Ticats wondering what could have been.
“We look at them how they are, they’re losses. As a team I feel like we don’t talk about woulda, coulda shoulda,” linebacker Simoni Lawrence said. “We know we’re plays away from winning games. As easy as we’re 1-4, we could be 4-1, but we’re not, and we understand that.”
Austin feels one of the issues with his team at the moment is penalties, and too many of them. Hamilton has been penalized 74 times in five games, tied for the highest amount in the entire league.
“We’re not a good enough football team to overcome penalties - we’re not,” Austin said. “I told the guys we play with great effort, we’re very resilient, we play hard, we play for 60 minutes, but we can’t take penalties.”
“We have a great coaching staff and I feel like we’re letting them down because we’re a disciplined football team. Our practices are clean and organized, but then we go out there and commit penalties,” Lawrence said of the Ticats early season penchant for drawing flags.
“We understand we can’t take penalties because you can’t win games with penalties, whether they’re big or small.”
Lawrence added field position changes on penalties as well and it’s an area of focus for the team moving forward. Minimizing flags will go a long way towards the Ticats possibly turning some of those close loses into a wins. However, despite the slow start Hamilton sits just one game out of first place in the East Division.
“Our team knows that it’s wide open.” Lawrence said. “We understand where we are in the East, but as competitors we don’t just look at the East. We want to win all of our games no matter who we’re playing West or East.”
Hamilton has more than held their own against the top teams in the CFL this season. The Ticats played tightly contested games with all three of the league’s top teams, record-wise, heading into Week 7.
“We’re a good enough team to beat all of the teams in the CFL if we play our best and are mistake free,” Lawrence said.
There is still plenty of confidence on the team from the Steel City. Meanwhile Austin and his staff are sticking to their process. It worked for the Ticats last year when they went on an 11-5 run to win the East Division Championship and play in the Grey Cup. Not many people would’ve predicted a surge like that in 2013 after a 1-4 start.
“It’s our job to get prepared and play, and to play every game to win. We’re going to come back next week and we’re going to play to win. We’re getting paid to produce, that’s our job,” Austin said.
“Our expectations haven’t changed.”