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Veteran quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell off to solid start this season with Ticats

HAMILTON — Bo Levi Mitchell is starting to look like his old self. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback has thrown for 300 or more yards in both of his 2024 starts.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell (19) throws the ball during second half CFL football action against the Calgary Stampeders in Calgary, Friday, June 7, 2024.It hasn't translated into win yet but Mitchell is looking more like his former self early this season with the Tiger-Cats.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

HAMILTON — Bo Levi Mitchell is starting to look like his old self.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback has thrown for 300 or more yards in both of his 2024 starts. That's definitely a positive after the 34-year-old battled injuries in 2023 that limited him to just six contests in his first year with the club.

Mitchell's play, however, hasn't translated into wins for Hamilton (0-2). The Saskatchewan Roughriders outscored the Ticats 16-3 in the fourth quarter — and 26-10 in the second half — to earn a 33-30 road win Sunday night on Brett Lauther's game-ending 43-yard field goal.

"I guess," Mitchell said following Sunday's game when asked if he is regaining his form. "But at the same time, no, because we're 0-2 and I pride myself on winning.

"I mean, 300 yards doesn't matter to me, touchdowns don't matter as much . . . if we ran for 300 yards and won the game, I promise you I'd be more happy than I am right now.

"I think I'm getting there but I think I've still got a lot to improve on."

Saskatchewan's comeback win — its second straight — tarnished a solid outing by Mitchell. The six-foot-two, 199-pound Texan finished 27-of-38 passing for 380 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.

But the turnover proved costly. On Hamilton's final possession, receiver Tim White tipped a Mitchell pass that Saskatchewan's C.J. Avery got his hands on at the Ticats' 37-yard line with 35 seconds remaining.

There's a popular adage in football that often teams must learn how to win, something Mitchell firmly believes.

"Absolutely," he said. "Learn how to win, learn how to finish, learn how to be great.

"I understand we're 0-2 but we played a good team in Calgary . . . and we just played another good football team. We're going to keep getting better. We have some young guys on this team (and) I'll do my part to be an old vet and keep leading these guys and make sure we right the ship."

Mitchell also completed 27-of-38 attempts for 300 yards in Hamilton's season-opening 32-24 road loss to Calgary. It was Mitchell's first game versus the Stampeders, who he spent his first 10 CFL seasons with before having his rights dealt to the Ticats following the '22 campaign.

Over his time in Calgary, Mitchell led the franchise to a pair of Grey Cup titles (2014, '18) and was named game MVP each time. Twice he claimed the CFL's outstanding player award (2016, '18) and was a league all-star both seasons.

But an adductor ailment and surgery to repair a fractured right leg limited Mitchell to just six starts (2-4 record) last year. He completed 78-of-132 passes (59.1 per cent) for 1,031 yards with six TDs and 10 interceptions.

Veteran Matt Shiltz started Hamilton's 27-12 East Division semifinal loss to Montreal. Mitchell entered the game with just over six minutes to play and the Ticats trailing 24-12.

He completed one of four passes for six yards and was intercepted on his final throw.

In the off-season, Mitchell restructured the three-year, $1.62-million deal he originally signed in order to remain in Hamilton. When he reported to rookie camp, he wore a walking boot on the right leg that required surgery in 2023.

Hamilton head coach Scott Milanovich said the move was precautionary. When the Ticats began training-camp workouts, Mitchell suited up and was an active participant.

Mitchell has shown more than just deft passing touch this season. The 12-year veteran has been sacked just once, effectively using his legs to escape pressure within the pocket.

Mitchell was sacked against Calgary but also ran for a personal-best 36 yards on three carries.

"I think he's getting more confident," said Milanovich, who is also Hamilton's offensive co-ordinator. "I think we're getting a better feel for each other in terms of what he's good at and what we're going to be good at offensively.

"I thought he played a really good game . . . but we needed to end the game on offence."

Mitchell's time in Canada has proven to him numerous times there are always chances for comebacks.

"That's what makes the game so exciting, so amazing," he said. "There's a lot (for Ticats) to build on . . . there's plenty to learn from.

"I just love the trust from Scott to kind of come out throwing (on final drive versus Saskatchewan), to put it on us as an offence to execute like we had been all game. It's just on us to execute."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2024.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press