Fraser Caldwell | Ticats.ca Staff
HAMILTON, Ont. -- Friday’s season opener was a game of glimpses for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Glimpses of talent that simply could not be sustained for long enough to win. In a 43-16 loss, the bad more often than not outweighed the good.
Coach Cortez was uncompromising in his assessment of the defeat, acknowledging that inconsistency reigned supreme for the Black and Gold.
“It’s about one thing: winning,” argued the Ticat bench boss. “And we made too many mistakes to win. We had crucial errors, we twice lined up offside on defence in short yardage situations. We had a penalty call back a long touchdown. We didn’t do a very good job at times catching the ball, on plays where if we catch the ball we stay on the field. At times we returned well, and at times we covered well.”
» By The Numbers: Chevon Walker (Week 1)
Rushing: 7 ATT, 132 YDS, 1 TD, LG 89
Receiving: 3 REC, 32 YDS
However, one area in which the home side excelled consistently – particularly in the opening half – was in the running game, where first-year rusher Chevon Walker shone. The rookie amassed 132 yards on the ground over four quarters, and 115 in the first two alone. He also contributed the Ticats’ only major score of the contest, coming as it did on a gigantic 89-yard dash which exhibited Walker’s blinding open field speed in devastating fashion.
Cortez stopped to praise his young runner in the wake of the Friday night loss, and pointed out that his player beat one of the CFL’s quickest defenders in order to find the end zone.
“He had a nice long run,” said the coach of Walker’s high quality touchdown. “He’s obviously very fast, because Tristan Jackson is a very fast player.”
On the topic of his flashy debut, Walker thanked his teammates on the offensive line for the blocking effort that allowed him to rumble forward so successfully. He expressed his pleasure with the touchdown play that established his speed for all to see, and reinforced for himself that he could score points on the professional level.
“I felt great man,” said the rookie running back. “We came out hard in the first half and did a great job blocking, and I give my thanks to the offensive line. They got it done for me. You focus on the turn, and once you make that turn it’s easy. You can just run it up. It’s a big feeling when you realize that you’re one of the fastest guys on the field. It’s important to have that speed.”
Despite his impressive opening showing, Walker emphasized that there remains much room for him to grow as a rusher.
“I still have a long way to go, I’ve got to learn,” said the first-year Ticat. “It’s all a learning process, and the more you can learn, the better you are on the field.”
Another first-year member of the Black and Gold featured prominently on Friday night, as Australian punter Josh Bartel demonstrated the versatility that was once demanded of him on an entirely different football field.
A troubled snap in the early fourth quarter brought the ball bobbling behind Bartel, with Roughriders barrelling down on the broken play. Showing a presence of mind that belied his inexperience, the first-year Ticat managed to scoop up the ball and release a punt that salvaged some measure of field position for his squad.