REGINA, SK. – On Saturday night, the Toronto Argonauts returned to the very same stadium where their historic Grey Cup run began last season. It was in week 18 that the Argos defeated the Roughriders 31-26 at Mosaic Stadium, clinching their spot in the 100th Grey Cup playoffs, and well, as they say, the rest is history.
The Argonauts went on to hoist the Grey Cup on their own home turf less than a month later and Saturday night’s primetime affair had all the makings of a potential 101st Grey Cup preview.
There was a renewed sense of optimism circulating throughout the Argonauts’ locker room this week. Coming off a thrilling 37-30 comeback victory over the Montreal Alouettes last Sunday, the Argos returned home to a pleasant surprise as 100th Grey Cup MVP Chad Kackert and kicker Swayze Waters announced that they would be making their return to the Argonauts’ starting lineup this weekend against Saskatchewan.
Kackert, whose participation in practice has gradually increased over the past few weeks, has missed the last six games due to a knee injury, which he suffered against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in week four. Waters, meanwhile, has been absent from the Argonauts’ starting lineup since week two after the he injured his groin during the Boatmen’s season-opening victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Reigning CFL Most Outstanding Player Chad Owens missed his second consecutive game on Saturday night as he continues to nurse bruises ribs, which he suffered against the Montreal Alouettes less than two weeks ago.
While the Argos received a much-needed boost with the return of Chad Kackert and Swayze Waters, the Roughriders faced concerns over what occurred earlier this week off the football field.
Head coach Corey Chamblin was faced with the difficult decision of whether to keep wide receiver Taj Smith and defensive back Dwight Anderson in the Roughriders’ starting lineup after the veterans were involved in an off-field incident.
The Green Riders will also be without linebacker Rey Williams for the remainder of the season after he suffered a torn ACL during the third quarter of last weekend’s Banjo Bowl matchup against Winnipeg.
After picking up a first down on the game’s opening play from scrimmage, the Argonauts failed to convert on their next second down and distance situation, forcing the Double Blue into a punting situation.
Seeing his first in-game action since week one of the regular season, Swayze Waters’ punt bounced into the end zone, resulting in a rouge, giving Toronto a modest 1-0 edge early on.
On the ensuing Roughriders offensive possession, Argos defensive back Demetrice Morley (who signed with the Double Blue on September 6), recorded his first interception as a member of the Argonauts, undercutting Darian Durant’s intended pass for slotback Chris Getzlaf.
Following a pass interference penalty on Riders defensive back Prince Miller, the Argonauts were gifted with first-and-goal at the one-yard line. On the ensuing play, Zach Collaros plunged into end zone, extending Toronto’s lead to 8-0.
However, Ricardo Colclough quickly returned the favour as he fumbled Ricky Schmitt’s 42-yard punt, providing the Roughriders with possession of the football on the Argos’ side of midfield.
Despite favourable field position, the Riders failed to capitalize on the turnover as Cory Huclack’s snap to Ricky Schmitt was sent sailing over the kicker’s head and into Roughriders territory.
The Argonauts capitalized on the miscue as Swayze Waters connected on a 48-yard field goal, his second of the season, putting Toronto ahead 11-0.
Punting from inside his own end zone, Swayze Waters unleashed a 43-yard punt, setting up the Roughriders at the Argonauts’ 42-yard line. The Green Riders finally got on the board as Chris Milo converted his 28th field goal of the season, reducing the deficit to 11-3 at the conclusion of the first quarter.
On the ensuing Argonauts offensive possession, Riders defensive back Weldon Brown intercepted Zach Collaros as he attempted to throw back across his body, a decision that rarely has a positive outcome in professional football. However, the Riders failed to capitalize on the turnover as Chris Milo, who had not missed a field goal entering Saturday night’s game, booted the football off the upright, ending his outstanding streak at 28 consecutive made attempts.
The Roughriders closed the gap late in the second quarter as Darian Durant engineered an impressive 10-play, 63-yard drive capped off by Chris Getzlaf’s 31-yard touchdown reception, cutting the deficit to 11-10.
Following an illegal substitution penalty, which pinned the Argonauts at their 14-yard line, Jason Barnes fumbled the football, setting up the Roughriders at the Argos’ 23-yard line. Chris Milo then put the Riders out in front 13-11 as he connected on a 19-yard field goal.
Looking to seize some momentum after surrendering the lead, the Argonauts handed off the football to running back Chad Kackert, who rumbled 12 yards up to the Argos’ 47-yard line prior to fumbling the football.
Kackert was tackled hard by Riders linebacker Tyron Brackenridge and was in noticeable discomfort on the Argonauts’ sideline. He did not return to the football game.
Darian Durant quickly converted the turnover into points as he spotted Rob Bagg wide open in the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown, extending the Roughriders’ lead to 20-11.
The touchdown was Bagg’s fourth of the season and his first since July 21st against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Facing a third-and-short situation, Swayze Waters unleashed a booming 60-yard punt, which rolled into the Roughriders’ end zone, resulting in a rouge, cutting the Argonauts’ deficit to 20-12.
With less than a minute remaining in the opening half, Ricardo Colclough registered his first interception as a member of the Double Blue. Looking to add to their lead, Riders’ quarterback Darian Durant stepped up into the pocket and aired out a deep pass towards the end zone. Colclough timed his jump perfectly and hauled in Durant’s intended pass, putting a halt to the Riders’ offensive drive. Rather than forcing the issue, Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich elected to take a knee, giving Saskatchewan a 20-12 lead heading into halftime.
Following a pair of two-and-outs to begin the second half, Darian Durant orchestrated a nine-play, 86-yard drive capped off by Chris Milo’s 10-yard field goal, extending the Riders’ lead to 23-12. The big play on the scoring drive came courtesy of Neal Hughes, who took Darian Durant’s short check down pass and rumbled 42 yards deep into Argonauts territory.
Hughes, who entered the game in relief of Kory Sheets after he suffered a lower-body injury early on in the first quarter, concluded the game with four receptions for 72 yards.
Pinned deep in their territory, Zach Collaros engineered an eight-play, 75-yard drive capped off by Swayze Waters’ second field goal of the game, this time from 33 yards out, cutting the deficit to 23-15 early on in the fourth quarter.
On the Argonauts’ next offensive possession, Riders’ defensive back Prince Miller appeared to have intercepted Zach Collaros’ intended pass for John Chiles. However, upon further review, the ruling on the field was overturned, giving the Argonauts another opportunity to chip away at Saskatchewan’s eight-point lead.
Facing a third-and-short situation, Zach Collaros called his own number, rushing for a first down, and prolonging the drive. Two plays later, Collaros capped an eight-play, 89-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to John Chiles, putting the Argonauts a two-point conversion shy of tying the football game.
Lining up for the two-point convert attempt, Collaros found Chiles once again in the end zone, knotting the score at 23-23 with just over 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Chiles had three receptions on the drive alone and concluded the game with eight receptions for 104 yards, and one touchdown.
On the ensuing Roughriders offensive possession, Argonauts defensive back Alonzo Lawrence picked off Darian Durant, providing the Double Blue with favourable field position deep in Saskatchewan territory.
The Argonauts silenced the Riderville faithful as Jerious Norwood put the Boatmen back out in front 30-23 with a two-yard touchdown run.
Norwood, playing in his second game since signing with the Argonauts in late August, tallied 12 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown.
The Argonauts received possession of the football with 5:08 remaining in the fourth quarter. Norwood collected rushes of 16, 9, 2, and 6 yards, respectively, as the Argonauts attempted to run down the clock. The Argos’ methodical drive, however, stalled, leaving Swayze Waters with a 32-yard field goal attempt to put the game out of reach. Waters’ kick flew just right of the upright, resulting in a rouge, giving Saskatchewan one final opportunity to tie the game.
Darian Durant engineered a quick six-play, 75-yard drive capped off by Chris Getzlaf’s 17-yard touchdown, putting Saskatchewan just a two-point conversion shy of tying the game with less than 15 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
However, on the two-point attempt, Argonauts defensive coordinator Chris Jones brought the heat and it paid off as David Lee sacked Darian Durant, preserving the 31-29 victory for the Double Blue.
Zach Collaros, who continues to fill in for injured starting quarterback Ricky Ray, completed 18 of 29 pass attempts for 225 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
Defensively, Marcus Ball and Jason Pottinger each tallied six tackles. Pottinger, who was making his first start of the season, also added a sack.
The win improves the Argonauts’ record to 7-4 and creates some breathing room atop the Eastern Division.