WINNIPEG – The official opening does not take place until June 27 but the Toronto Argonauts certainly made their mark on the Blue Bombers brand new $200 million stadium as the Boatmen defeated Winnipeg 24-6 in pre-season action at Investors Group Field on Wednesday night.
It was a dress rehearsal for both club’s as they continue to prepare for the upcoming CFL regular season.
Following a poor punt from Argonauts kicker Anthony Alix, the Blue Bombers gained possession of the football at the Argonauts 37-yard line early on in the first quarter. However, despite favourable field position, Winnipeg did not convert on the golden opportunity as Justin Palardy missed a 38-yard field goal attempt.
Making his first appearance as the Argonauts’ starting safety, Matt Black intercepted Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce deep in Argonauts territory and halting an impressive offensive drive. On the ensuing play, Trevor Harris would air it out down field to Spencer Watt for a big completion. However, the Argonauts did not convert the turnover in points as Anthony Alix missed a 39-yard field goal, keeping the game scoreless midway through the first quarter.
Following just a few offensive sequences, Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke elected to replace quarterback Buck Pierce with Max Hall. On the ensuing offensive possession, Hall orchestrated a 10-play, 63-yard drive capped off by a Justin Palardy field goal, giving the Bombers a 3-0 lead after the opening quarter.
The Argonauts responded with an impressive 10-play, 78-yard drive capped off by Gerald Riggs’ 20-yard touchdown run, giving the Argos a 7-3 lead early on in the second quarter. Trevor Harris exited the game following the first quarter and finished 8-for-11 with 115 yards passing. Zach Collaros entered the game and concluded the Double Blue touchdown drive.
Argonauts running back Gerald Riggs saw his night end midway through the second quarter as he departed following a strong showing. The second-year running back registered four carries for 34 yards as well as two receptions for 13 yards and one rushing touchdown.
The Argonauts defence continued to shine as defensive lineman Jonathan Williams intercepted Bombers quarterback Max Hall, setting up the Boatmen at the Winnipeg 16-yard line. Zach Collaros would convert the turnover into points as he connected with receiver Trent Guy for a 10-yard touchdown reception, giving the Argonauts a 14-3 lead late in the second quarter.
Guy finished his Argonauts debut with four receptions for 47 yards and one touchdown reception.
Zach Collaros exited the game following the impressive touchdown drive as he showcased his tremendous mobility and strong pocket presence. Collaros finished 9-for-12 with 95 yards passing and one touchdown. The second-year pivot also added 26 yards along the ground on three carries.
Mitchell Gale entered the game in relief of Collaros to begin the second half. Gale rushed for a total of 29 yards on his first three plays from scrimmage and completed a spectacular 35-yard pass to veteran receiver Romby Bryant, setting up the Boatmen at the Winnipeg 9-yard line. Argonauts kicker Anthony Alix extended the lead to 17-3 on a 12-yard field goal.
The Boatmen pulled out some special teams trickery late in the third quarter as Anthony Alix scampered 25 yards to pick up a first down in a third down punting situation. Despite prolonging the offensive drive, the Argonauts failed to capitalize on the opportunity as Alix missed a 42-yard field goal attempt.
The Blue Bombers cut the Argonauts lead to 17-6 as Justin Palardy connected on a 37-yard field goal. Palardy finished the game 2-for-3 on field goal attempts and accounted for all six Winnipeg points.
The Argonauts quickly responded as rookie quarterback Mitchell Gale orchestrated a methodical nine-play, 75-yard drive capped off by Romby Bryant’s 5-yard touchdown reception, extending the Argos lead to 24-6.
Quarterback Mitchell Gale exited the game, making way for Josh Portis. Gale finished 5-for-9 with 67 yards passing and one touchdown. Gale also led the Argonauts in rushing with four carries for 52 yards. Veteran receiver Romby Bryant concluded the game with three receptions for 48 yards and one touchdown.
On the ensuing Bombers offensive possession, Argonauts safety Matt Black recorded his second interception of the game as he picked off quarterback Chase Clement. The Argonauts did not capitalize on the turnover as running back Quinn Porter fumbled the football on the Argos own 30-yard line.
The Blue Bombers, however, did not convert the turnover into points as they turned over the football on downs attempting to score in a third and goal situation. The defensive stand on third and goal secured the victory for the Argonauts.
Final Stat Line
The Argonauts back-up quarterback position continues to create intrigue as Trevor Harris, Zach Collaros, and Mitchell Gale all turned in strong performances in Winnipeg on Wednesday night.
Rookie Mitchell Gale showed tremendous poise and composure as he led the team in rushing with 52 yards and added a touchdown pass.
Rookie wide receiver Darvin Adams led the way in the receiving game with two receptions for 60 yards. Romby Bryant and Trent Guy each added touchdown receptions in their Argonaut debuts.
Defensively, Matt Black was spectacular in his first game as the Argonauts’ starting safety, recording two interceptions on in the game. Rookie linebacker Major Culbert made his presence felt in Winnipeg as he registered five tackles and one sack. As a whole, the Double Blue defence forced four turnovers, three of which were interceptions.
The Argonauts will make their way back home to Toronto where they will prepare to host the Montreal Alouettes on Thursday, June 20 at Varsity Stadium in the team’s final pre-season game.