TORONTO – What a game. A come from behind 30-27 win for the Toronto Argonauts over the B.C. Lions in Vancouver! If you were like me, sitting in a dark basement at approximately 11:00 p.m. EST when the game was 21-0 in favour of B.C., you may have been thinking, “It’s time for bed.” I don’t know what you did, but I gave the Argos an opportunity. Score the next points and I will give you the rest of the game. They scored next, and I settled in for a great come from behind road win.
The Argos currently sit atop the Eastern Division with a modest 3-1 record. However, this team is for real. Quarterback Trevor Harris is for real. The new receiving core is for real. The entire defence is for real. I have seen enough after four games on the road, out west, where the Argos have traveled over 29,000 km, to suggest that this squad is poised for a successful 2015 campaign.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again: Winning football games on the road is hard; playing five consecutive games away from home is downright insane! Watching the Argonauts thus far this season – “Priceless” (thank you Mastercard). A confluence of events this year have forced the Argonauts onto the road for a schedule that should kill their season. The Argos did not get the memo. The past two seasons have prepared Toronto for the turbulent journey they are now on. In 2013, four games in a row on the road and again 2014 another 4 games on the road. The combined record of these 12 games on the road: 9-3. This bears repeating over and over again until the Toronto media reluctantly acknowledge the accomplishment and cover their city’s football team the way it has earned the right to be covered.
Off the soapbox and onto what was an entertaining road game for the Argos. Let’s start with quarterback Trevor Harris. He threw his first two interceptions of the season that were his fault, both in the first quarter, and both leading to B.C. scores. After an average game in the team’s loss in Calgary last week, it looked like Harris might be coming back down to earth. He proved that he is a professional last night and deserves to be a starting quarterback. He led his team back methodically and accurately, connecting with eight different receivers on the night. The 29-year-old Waldo, Ohio native connected on 30 of his 40 pass attempts (75%) for 340 yards and two touchdown passes, while adding another touchdown along the ground.
The rest of his teammates believe in him too because after being down 21-0 on the road, none of them gave up. The defence, which appeared to be in complete disarray early in the game, sorted out what the Lions were doing and shut them down the rest of the way, allowing only a field goal late in the fourth quarter. A lot of football teams down 21-0 on the road, playing without their hall of fame quarterback, would have shut it down and started thinking about next week. The mental toughness this road trip is providing the team in the first half of the season will pay dividends later in the year if they need to win on the road in the playoffs.
Rookie receivers Vidal Hazelton, Tori Gurley and Kevin Elliott have all proven they deserve to play in the CFL. Young Anthony Coombs played well and will gain tons of experience this year as he replaces Andre Durie who is out for the season due to a knee injury. And of course there is Chad Owens. The Flyin’ Hawaiian had another solid game making key catches and adding yards after the catch to sustain drives. Running back Brandon Whittaker was a major contributor last night, totalling 81 combined yards. He also provided excellent pass blocking for his quarterback.
The offensive line played very well. They did not allow a sack, and gave Trevor Harris time to throw and find receivers downfield. Veteran centre Jeff Keeping made his first start of the year after being injured in training camp and did not look rusty.
This Argo squad possesses an influx of depth at virtually every position. Decimated by injuries in 2014, the Argonauts have taken every precaution necessary in order to ensure that they do not suffer the same fate as a year ago.
The coaching staff, led by head coach Scott Milanovich, has been tremendous, executing sound road game plans. Once they play their home games late in the season, look for the offence to really begin to take control of games.
The defence was solid once they got out of the first quarter. Led by strong play from their linebackers Cory Greenwood, Greg Jones and Brandon Isaac who provide excellent run defence, the defensive line is able to go after the quarterback with greater abandon. Rookie defensive lineman Daryl Waud, drafted out of Western University, recorded his first quarterback sack last night, and his teammates were noticeably excited for him. The secondary, which has been hit hard by injuries, continues to impress with its depth. They were able to provide strong coverage and read B.C.’s veteran quarterback Travis Lulay for most of the night. Lulay was held to just 165 yards passing, most of that coming in the first quarter.
Next up for the Argonauts is an inter-division showdown against their provincial rivals, the Hamilton Tiger Cats!
Written By: Scott Ford