OTTAWA – Jeremiah Masoli was almost speechless. He was standing in the middle of the dressing of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, his expression blank, his eyes avoiding contract, his voice barely audible, his words, the few he had, almost meaningless.
"We just do not run," the quarterback whispered. "I can not believe we have not given a better chance than that."
And when asked why and how it happened, he stood there, saying nothing. Stopped. Not offering anything. Not explaining. Much like your Sunday at the Eastern Conference finals.
Much like a team game on the part of the Ottawa Redblacks.
Just minutes before, in the final seconds of the 46-27 victory in Ottawa, the people at the TD Place operations stadium had a little fun, or a bit of bad taste: you make your choice. On the big screen score, they showed a bloody Ric Flair, looking almost dead as in one of those Halloween movies, with blood everywhere and a guillotine next to him. A week ago Flair, the legendary professional wrestler, was a cheerleader for the Ticats apparently linked to the Gray Cup.
A week later, Flair was on the screen covered in blood, well done in gray, with red stripes all over. And it seemed more than symbolic that this was all that remained of a Ticat season that ended in shock.
One win away – but it never comes close.
This was, as coaches call it, a good old kick in the ass. The Ticats have been surpassed by Redblacks, out-schemed, out-game-planned, outworked and outran and outbackback and almost all others you can invent.
For some reason, the 48-8 win a week ago over the BC The lions looked closer than this demoralizing defeat of 46 to 27, in which Trevor Harris, the former replacement student of Ricky Ray, got something that no quarterback CFL had done it before. He played for a record of six touchdowns in a playoff game. Doug Flutie never did that. Warren Moon never did that. Anthony Calvillo never did that.
Part of it was Harris was almost perfect, his receivers were as open as any receiver would ever be, his offensive line protecting the quarterback all day and the rest seemed easy and natural to the Redblacks. And far from Masoli in the Ticats' locker room, there were low murmurs of defensive players not knowing what hit them, unable to explain why: among them, they tried to find answers. Really, they did not have any.
"Give them a man of credit," said defensive giant Ted Laurent. "They had a better game plan than us. They did it. And we did not.
Ottawa got the big lunch and lots of little punches and then wide rights and lefts almost at ease. Hamilton coach Jerry Glanville played the defensive coordinator who had no clothes. He was undressed and exposed by Ottawa's offensive coordinator, Jaime Elizondo. Almost everything the Redblacks tried, worked and based on the post-game reaction in Hamilton's room, the players did not know what hit them. Only they knocked and then knocked some more.
Harris completed 29 of the 32 passes for 367 yards and of the six touchdowns thrown, five went to different receivers. Almost all 29 findings have been posted to receivers that were not adequately covered. It seemed easy and Harris looked easy.
Masoli never seemed comfortable at any time on Sunday. He played three interceptions. Its receivers did not open much. The co-favorite to win the Best Player played in place of Harris and lost for the fourth time this season against Ottawa. Against Calgary, Saskatchewan and Ottawa, the three strongest teams of the season CFL, Masoli was 0 and 8.
Just for that statistic, Bo Levi Mitchell of Calgary is expected to win the grand prize this week. Harris, whom Masoli won in the MOP poll, played for ten touchdowns and no interceptions in four wins against the Ticats. Hamilton never found a way to solve the quiet quarterback of the quiet team.
"It's disappointing," said Hamilton's June Jones coach, who has never been to a Gray Cup before. "We felt we were ready. We thought we had a chance. "Then the game started, and nothing went Hamilton's way.
Jones is contractually hired to train Tiger-Cats next season, but he does not know what the future holds for him. Cats technical assistant, Orlondo Steinauer, is considered a favorite to participate in one of the CFL coaching positions, which includes the work of Argo. The Ticats will have to make a decision whether they are willing to keep Jones and lose Steinauer or stay with Steinauer and let Jones walk.
"I did not even think about it," Jones said. They'll start thinking about it tomorrow. This was a game that the Ticats lost because their players were not good and their coach was not good enough. And in the quiet, frozen locker room, there was shock and disbelief and a sense that they needed more to pass into the Gray Cup.