EDMONTON, AB. – The goal was simple: win and you’re in. For the Toronto Argonauts, their 34-22 victory over the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium did just that. The Double Blue will once again return to the post-season as they attempt to defend their 100th Grey Cup crown.
With the victory, the Argonauts etched their name in the history books as the first-ever CFL club to have successfully swept a four-game road trip. Dating back to 1958, there have been only three teams who have played four consecutive games on the road. Most recently, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers went 0-4 during their four-game road swing in 2012. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Argonauts’ perfect 4-0 record on this lengthy road trip is the fact that they achieved such a feat without the likes of Ricky Ray and reigning CFL Most Outstanding Player Chad Owens.
As a result of their most recent success away from the comfy confines of the Rogers Centre, the Double Blue have developed the mantra of being the CFL’s “Road Warriors”. Winners of six straight road games, the Argos currently sit atop the CFL with an impressive 6-1 record on the road in 2013.
The Argonauts received the game’s opening kickoff as Trent Guy returned the football up to his own 34-yard line. Zach Collaros led the offence out for its first possession of the night. However, back-to-back incomplete passes quickly forced the Double Blue into an early punting situation.
Edmonton pivot Mike Reilly marched the Eskimos’ offence out onto the football for their first drive of the evening. Reilly completed three consecutive passes, positioning the Eskimos on the Argonauts’ side of midfield. However, the promising drive stalled as John White dropped a wide-open swing pass, which would have likely resulted in another first down. The Eskimos were ultimately forced to punt, culminating in a rouge, giving Edmonton a modest 1-0 lead early on.
Following a two-interception performance last weekend against the Calgary Stampeders, cornerback Pat Watkins picked up right where he left off on Saturday night in Edmonton as he intercepted Mike Reilly on the Eskimos’ second offensive possession.
Unlike last week, however, the Argos’ offence failed to capitalize on the turnover as they were forced into another punting situation.
Following a two-and-out from the Eskimos, the Argonauts finally got on the board as Swayze Waters registered a single-point rouge of his own. Waters failed to connect on a 43-yard field goal attempt as the kick travelled wide to the left, knotting the score at 1-1.
On the ensuing Eskimos’ offensive possession, Argonauts rookie defensive back Jermaine Gabriel appeared to have registered his first career CFL interception as he picked off Mike Reilly’s arrant pass attempt.
However, a facemask penalty on linebacker Ricardo Colclough erased the interception, allowing Edmonton to retain possession of the football. Two plays later, Reilly capped the penalty-riddled drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to second-year wide receiver Shamawd Chambers, giving the Eskimos an 8-1 lead.
Chambers, a native of Markham, Ontario, collected his second touchdown reception of the season. Ironically, both of his major scores have come against the Argonauts in 2013.
During the scoring drive, Reilly endured a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit from Argos defensive lineman Cleyon Laing. The Eskimos’ pivot concluded the drive but was forced to exit the game with apparent concussion-like symptoms.
On the final play of the opening quarter following the Eskimos’ touchdown drive, Trent Guy, who continues to fill in as the Argos’ primary kick/punt return in the absence of Chad Owens, marched 65 yards deep into Eskimos territory.
However, despite favourable field position, the Argos failed to capitalize as Swayze Waters missed his second field goal of the game, this time from 41 yards out, as the score remained 8-1.
In Reilly’s absence, former Argonaut Kerry Joseph assumed the Eskimos’ quarterback duties. Joseph engineered an impressive 10-play, 85-yard drive capped off by Fred Stamps’ seven-yard touchdown reception, extending Edmonton’s lead to 15-1.
Playing in his 100th career CFL game, Stamps registered his 10th touchdown reception of 2013. The Eskies star slotback concluded the game with three receptions for 60 yards and one touchdown.
Looking to reduce the gap and seize some momentum late in the first-half, Zach Collaros methodically marched the Argonauts deep into Eskimos territory. However, the drive came to a screeching halt as Marcell Young intercepted Collaros’ intended pass for slotback Andre Durie near the end zone.
The Argonauts defence forced a two-and-out, putting Edmonton into a punting situation. Argonauts kick returner Trent Guy seemingly misplayed Grant Shaw’s punt, as the football appeared to deflect off of his fingertips and roll back into Argonauts’ territory. Instinctively, Guy chased down the ball, only to have it bounce free once again. A scramble ensued and ultimately defensive back Mike Miller secured possession of the football for the Eskimos. Initially, the play was not ruled as a fumble and included a no yards penalty on the Eskimos. Upon further review, officials confirmed that there was no conclusive evidence to overturn the ruling on the field. Therefore, the Argos retained possession of the football near midfield.
Following a two-and-out from the Argos’ offence, Kerry Joseph led the Eskimos into field goal position with less than two minutes remaining in the first-half. However, Hugh O’Neil failed to connect on his 53-yard attempt, booting the football wide past the left upright. Trent Guy returned the missed kick out of his own end zone before being tackled down by O’Neil at the 26-yard line.
Zach Collaros led the Argonauts’ offence up to the Eskimos’ 52-yard line before being forced into yet another punting situation. Following a 52-yard boot from Swayze Waters, which had Edmonton pinned at their own 5-yard line, the Eskimos elected to take a knee, preserving their 15-1 lead heading into halftime.
The Eskimos continued to pad their lead as Kerry Joseph capped a five-play, 89-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run, extending Edmonton’s lead to 22-1 early on in the third quarter. With a 38-yard reception on the touchdown drive, Eskimos slotback Fred Stamps surpassed 1,000 yards receiving for the fifth consecutive season.
Looking to respond, Argonauts kicker Swayze Waters connected on a 50-yard field goal, reducing the deficit to 22-4.
On the ensuing Eskimos’ offensive possession, Kerry Joseph ripped off an impressive 22-yard rush before sliding down near midfield. However, the Argonauts’ defence brought the heat on back-to-back plays, resulting in a pair of incomplete passes, forcing Edmonton into a punting situation.
The Argos’ offence once again failed to sustain their drive, quickly deferring possession of the football back to the Eskimos. However, Pat Watkins once again demonstrated why quarterback’s should seriously consider not throwing in his direction as he registered his second interception of the football game, providing the Double Blue with favourable field position on the Eskimos’ side of midfield. On the ensuing play, running back Chad Kackert exploded through the line of scrimmage and rumbled 48 yards into the end zone, cutting the deficit to 22-11 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Argonauts continued to chip away at the Eskimos’ lead as Zach Collaros, a.k.a. “Mr. Fourth Quarter”, orchestrated an eight-play, 74-yard drive capped off by Dontrelle Inman’s 10-yard touchdown reception.
The Argos immediately lined up for a two-point convert attempt as Collaros connected with John Chiles in the back of the end zone, reducing the gap to 22-19.
The touchdown was Inman’s fourth of the season and his second in as many games.
The Argos’ tantalizing defence once again stymied the Eskimos offensive attack, ultimately resulting in a punting situation.
Trent Guy’s explosive 41-yard return provided the Double Blue with favourable field position at Edmonton’s 48-yard line.
However, the Argonauts offence failed to capitalize as Swayze Waters’ 25-yard game-tying field goal attempt travelled wide past the left upright, resulting in a rouge, cutting the deficit to 22-20 with less than four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Pat Watkins’ tremendous night continued as defensive coordinator Chris Jones dialed up the corner blitz. Watkins delivered a devastating blow, forcing a fumble on quarterback Kerry Joseph, giving the Argonauts possession of the football inside the Eskimos’ five-yard line.
On the ensuing play, Zach Collaros scrambled outside of the pocket, ran left, but fumbled the football prior to reaching the goal line. The ball rolled into the end zone where Chad Kackert managed to secure possession and give the Argos their first lead of the football game.
Making his first start since September 14 against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Kackert concluded Saturday night’s game with 13 carries for 156 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
With less than two minutes remaining in the football game, the Eskimos received possession of the football at their 26-yard line, hoping to engineer a game-winning touchdown drive.
However, Marcus Ball sealed the deal for the Argonauts as he intercepted Kerry Joseph and ran it back 57 yards into the end zone, preserving a 34-22 victory for the Boatmen.
Zach Collaros completed 17 of 32 pass attempts for 152 yards and one touchdown while Dontrelle Inman led all Argonaut receivers with three receptions for 38 yards and one touchdown.
With the victory, the Argonauts improve to 9-4 on the season as they return home next Friday night for a tilt with their archrivals, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.