CFL Preview - Hamilton (0-0) at Toronto (0-0)
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
DATE & TIME: Friday, June 28, 7:00 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: Winners of the 100th Grey Cup, the Toronto Argonauts get to work
on winning a second straight championship as they kick off their 2013 campaign
against the visiting Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Rogers Centre.
Toronto, which sputtered a bit in the second half of the 2012 campaign, losing
three straight and five of six during one stretch, thrilled the hometown fans
in late November when it delivered a 35-22 win over Calgary in the title tilt.
The championship was the first for the Argos since 2004 when they topped
British Columbia, 27-19, in Ottawa.
The Argonauts logged a regular-season record of just 9-9 a year ago and won
back-to-back games only three times, numbers that clearly dispel the myth that
a team has to be good all year long in order to be around at the end and hoist
the Grey Cup.
Although there were several bumps in the road en route to the title, Scott
Milanovich took it all in stride as he was named the 2012 CFL Coach of the
Year in his first season at the helm with the Argos.
As for the Tiger-Cats, they won a total of six games a season ago, three of
those coming in consecutive weeks in July. Because of the dismal display, head
coach George Cortez was dismissed after just a single season with the Ticats,
a position that is currently being filled by Kent Austin, a former CFL
quarterback in his own right between 1987-1996.
Hamilton, which will be a temporary resident of Guelph Alumni Stadium for this
year while the team's new stadium is set to be completed in time for the 2014
campaign, was actually the highest-scoring team in the league a year ago with
29.9 ppg, but even so the wins were hard to come by. Victories were scarce
because the defensive pressure was lacking, as the squad surrendered a massing
32.0 ppg, most in the league as well.
Only once did the Ticats limit an opponent to single digits on the scoreboard
in 2012, holding Edmonton to a mere eight points in a 43-point blowout in the
middle of September.
A big part of the problem for Hamilton was turnovers. The team was second-to-
last in turnover margin with minus-11, having double-digit giveaways of their
own in all three phases (interceptions, fumbles and downs).
A key to reducing miscues on offense will be the decision making of
quarterback Henry Burris. A constant in the league since 1997 when he broke in
with Calgary, Burris needs just 3,399 passing yards to reach 50,000 for his
career, a number that should be easily within reach (barring injury) since he
threw for a career-high 5,367 yards a year ago.
Burris, who led the league in passing yards and passing touchdowns (43),
unfortunately also tossed a league-high 18 interceptions as well, but that
comes with the territory when you throw the ball more than 600 times.
What Burris and the Ticats need is more production from Chevon Walker, second
on the team and seventh in the league in rushing last year with 656 yards,
leading to 4 touchdowns. The good news for Walker is that he won't have to
wait his turn behind Avon Cobourne, the former West Virginia star no longer on
the roster after being released in February.
Unfortunately, a major distraction for Hamilton could be the absence of wide
receiver/returner Chris Williams who was third in the league last season in
combined yards with 2,681 and scored a staggering five touchdowns on punt
returns alone and six on returns overall to set a new CFL record.
Williams, who scored a club-record 17 majors a year ago and was named the
league's outstanding special teams player, has been suspended by the Ticats
because he did not show up for training camp. Wanting to give the NFL a shot,
Williams still has a valid contract with the Ticats for this season and may
never see the field in 2013 if the issues are not resolved.
While Hamilton has trouble getting one of its stars back in action, Toronto
made sure to avoid any confusion with their top performer as they recently
signed Chad Owens to a two-year contract extension. The CFL's reigning Most
Outstanding Player, led the league in both receiving yardage (1,328) and kick
return yards (2,418) in 2012, setting the single-season record for combined
yards in the process.
Rated as the top overall player in the league heading into the season, Owens
now has 3 straight seasons with more than 3,000 combined yards, setting the
bar quite high for himself moving forward.
Not to be overlooked on offense for the defending champs is quarterback Ricky
Ray who had some struggles early on with his new team, but came alive when it
counted most and responded with 4,069 passing yards and 20 TDs.
Another top-notch performer for the Argos is Chad Kackert who led the team in
rushing with 638 yards on 100 carries. Kackert scored five times on the
ground, but as a unit Toronto had just 11 rushing majors, second-fewest in the
league and an area that needs to be improved for sure.
During the 2012 campaign these teams matched up a total of four times, with
Hamilton capturing a 36-27 victory in the third week, but then the Argos
putting together a three-game run with a back-to-back victories in early
September, and finally a 43-40 decision at home in the final week of the
The teams are slated to compete against each other two more times during the
regular season, clashing in consecutive weeks in October.
The distraction of not having Williams will be one that the Ticats will need
to work through, but it is his explosive play-making that will keep the squad
from reaching the win column in the first game of the season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 31, Hamilton 17
06/26 10:31:22 ET
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