Mathews looks to move on from rough debut to lead Ticats against Stamps

Hamilton Tiger-Cats rookie quarterback Jeff Mathews faces a daunting task in his first CFL start. Mathews leads the Ticats against the Calgary Stampeders on Friday as the top two CFL teams battle it out on in the second re-match of last year’s Grey Cup final. Despite his lack of CFL experience, Mathews said he’s prepared to face the defending Grey Cup champions.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats rookie quarterback Jeff Mathews faces a daunting task in his first CFL start.

Mathews leads the Ticats against the Calgary Stampeders on Friday as the top two CFL teams battle it out on in the second re-match of last year’s Grey Cup final.

Despite his lack of CFL experience, Mathews said he’s prepared to face the defending Grey Cup champions.

“I’m excited, I’m ready to go,” said Mathews, 24, who played under Ticat head coach Kent Austin for three years while they were both at Cornell and understands Austin’s offensive systems as well as anyone.

Mathews came in for Zach Collaros in the second quarter against Edmonton two weeks ago after Collaros, the league’s leading passer to that point, suffered a season-ending knee injury.

It was a disastrous performance for the rookie. Mathews threw three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns and one in the end zone) to hand Edmonton the come-from-behind 25-18 win.

Despite Mathews’ struggles, he has Austin’s confidence to be handed the start.

“He’s got all the qualities that we believe in, in that position,” said Austin, himself a former quarterback. “He’s smart. He’s accurate and he’s tough.”

Austin wouldn’t bite when asked if he’s tweaked the game plan with a new kid at the helm.

“We have a game plan that we believe fits the skill sets of everybody on the offence,” he said, before adding: “Jeff’s capable of running our offence in its entirety.”

Mathews agreed the game plan is similar to what’s been used all season.

“There’s some things that I do, maybe, a little differently than Zach,” he said. “It’s a little bit towards me but for the most part it’s what we do as a team. So we’re not changing too much.”

Calgary (10-3) and Hamilton (8-4) lead their respective divisions. Calgary beat Hamilton 24-23 in Week 1 on a walk-off field goal. That game was a re-match of the 2014 Grey Cup, also narrowly won by Calgary.

They have the top two offences in terms of points scored per game (Hamilton 27.8, Calgary 24.8).

But now only Calgary has one of the league’s top quarterbacks. Bo Levi Mitchell is second in the CFL (behind Ottawa’s Henry Burris) with 3,578 passing yards and third in the league with 19 TDs. All eyes will be on Mathews and whether or not he’s been able to take advantage of a bye week to recover from those disastrous three quarters two weeks ago and show that he is a master of Austin’s systems.

The numbers don’t bode well. The Ticats are only 1-6 when Collaros either doesn’t start or can’t finish. Plus, Calgary has won its last seven meetings against Hamilton (and 11 of 12), though this will be the Stamps first time at the new Tim Hortons Field.

Calgary has the league’s third and fourth-leading pass rushers with Charleston Hughes (nine sacks) and Freddie Bishop (eights sacks), though they will be missing linebacker Juwan Simpson and defensive back Joe Burnett who have been put on the six-game injured list.

“You’ve got to play really well to beat (Calgary),” said Austin.

“If you’re not on top of your game against Calgary, you won’t win the football game.”

Mathews spent last season jumping around the NFL before signing with Hamilton in the off-season. He had a great pre-season, throwing two TD passes and leading Hamilton to 20 points in the first half during a win against Ottawa.

To this point in the season, he has scored five touchdowns as the short-yardage quarterback. Austin isn’t worried about Mathews’ mistake-riddled game against Edmonton.

“Jeff knows what he did. I didn’t have to belabour it. He won’t make those mistakes again.”

Receiver Bakari Grant is back from injury, giving the Ticats’ offence one more weapon to go with its impressive stable of receivers. And the Ticats have re-signed running back Michael Ford this week (he was initially released in August after playing three games) whom Austin referred to as “an excellent pass protector.”

Just Posted

Sunny weather improves farmers’ prospects

A harvester kicking up dust. It’s a picture that will bring a… Continue reading

Rural transit pilot project being considered

Penhold, Innisfail and Red Deer County councils to decide whether to go ahead with project

Red Deer fire station up for sale

Home sweet home at Fire Station 4

Most surveyed Innisfail residents give urban chickens the thumbs up

Town of Innisfail will discuss whether to allow backyard chickens on Monday

‘Mom I’m in trouble:’ Canadian, Brit face 10 years in jail for alleged graffiti

GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. — The mother of a Canadian who was arrested… Continue reading

Coyote on the prowl near Penhold

This coyote was out on the prowl in a field just west… Continue reading

Sky’s the limit as Calgary opens testing area for drones and new technologies

CALGARY — The sky’s the limit as the city of Calgary opens… Continue reading

Hi Mickey, ‘Bye Mickey: 6 Disney parks on 2 coasts in 1 day

ORLANDO, Fla. — Heather and Clark Ensminger breathed sighs of relief when… Continue reading

Court weighs ‘Apprentice’ hopeful’s suit versus Trump

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump’s lawyers hope to persuade an appeals… Continue reading

StarKist admits fixing tuna prices, faces $100 million fine

SAN FRANCISCO — StarKist Co. agreed to plead guilty to a felony… Continue reading

Annual pace of inflation slows to 2.2 per cent in September: Statistics Canada

OTTAWA — The annual pace of inflation slowed more than expected in… Continue reading

Jury finds Calgary couple guilty in 2013 death of toddler son

CALGARY — A jury has convicted a Calgary couple in the death… Continue reading

Most Read