TORONTO – At the game yesterday on a beautiful sunny summer day my first thoughts as the afternoon wore on were gloomy ones. Only after sober second thought has my mind become more positive. I was frustrated the Argos started slow again, but then they built a halftime lead (the first one all year), then they got down again and had to mount their traditional 4th quarter come from behind 30-24 victory.
I had built up in my mind prior to the game that with a full week of practice, playing at home, players back from injury that the Argos would dominate from start to finish and put in a complete game. Well that’s a perfect world or Hamilton right now. The Argos are 6-2 and share first place with Hamilton. Tor0nto has not started 6-2 since 1997 when Doug Flutie was their quarterback. These are huge positives. Again keep in mind the team has only played 2 of their games at home so far. Their next 2 games are still on the road. They are playing with a road team mentality right now and that is what they need to do to be successful. The offence isn’t going to light it up very much on the road.
The Argos did not lose the turnover battle, their defence was strong and came up big when it needed to, the special teams were outstanding particularly the kicking game and coverage units. And the offence capitalized when it needed to, to pick up the win. The game wasn’t pretty from an offensive standpoint, but a win is a win and this team shows mental toughness week in and week out to come from behind.
Expectations need to be tempered. I was spoiled by their record, and knowing how well their rivals down the QEW have been doing. It is a long season and I had said at the beginning of the year that if the Argos were 5-5 after their first 10 games they would win the Grey Cup. Well they could lose their next two and still be 6-4. I was also expecting the Argos to play their October games at HOME too. It is likely some of them will be played elsewhere as the Blue Jays barring total collapse will qualify for post season play causing Rogers to displace the Argonauts and spend no effort trying to accommodate them.
Congratulations to the 15,000 fans that came out to cheer on the team. They sounded like double that in the 4th quarter cheering on their defence to close out the game. The crowd is not large but it is vocal and it is promising for what lies ahead next year in a better environment and with more interest being generated by a motivated ownership group. This is a building year for the Argos and yet they sit with a record they have not had for 18 years. 3 tough games lie ahead, in Edmonton on Friday and then back to back against Hamilton. The Argonauts will need to play complete games in all 4 quarters to win those games.
Kicker Swayze Waters played his first full game of the season and the CFL special teams player of 2014 did not disappoint. He was the player of the game. His punting average was 50.6 yards. He converted 3 touchdowns and was good on all 3 of his field goal attempts. In addition his worst punt of the day was his first one, and he sprinted down field and made a spectacular tackle on returner Chris Williams. His punting tilted field position in favour of the Argos all game long. Ottawa was starting drives deep in their own end each time. The cover teams were outstanding. Chris Williams is one of the more dangerous returners in the league and even though Swayze was punting over 50 yards, they were able to get downfield and make tackles. Williams longest return was only 9 yards.
The defence particularly the front four linemen and the linebackers played well. The defence had 3 sacks on the day, and it seemed like they had pressure on for most of the game. Ottawa earned the yardage they accumulated. The key play from the defence was a forced fumble by defensive end Tristan Okapalaugo on Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris which was recovered by linebacker Cory Greenwood. This happened late in the 4th quarter and snuffed out a would be scoring drive.
The offence made plays when it mattered. 3 receivers had touchdown passes, Kevin Elliott, Tori Gurley and Vidal Hazelton. All of the receivers caught multiple passes from Trevor Harris. Hazelton’s touchdown was the best offensive play of the day. He had to make an adjustment to make a play on the ball in the back of the end zone and then he had to make a diving catch to secure the ball. It was a big time play when the Argos needed to start the comeback and tie the game. Trevor Harris threw for 266 yards and was 21 of 31 in passing. An average game for him, but more importantly he demonstrated once again he does not get rattled when he gets behind, or when he throws a pick six as he did yesterday. He does not give up or doubt himself. He comes right back and brings his team along for the ride.
The Hamilton Tiger Cats may be playing the best football in the CFL right now, but they better keep it up. The Toronto Argonauts are building something right now and this is a team that doesn’t quit. If Hamilton is going to win a Grey Cup this year they are going to have to earn it. It’s about to get interesting in the Eastern Division.
Written By: Scott Ford