Ottawa – The Toronto Argonauts came off their final bye week of the season with a very convincing 35 to 26 victory in Ottawa over the host REDBLACKS. The victory snapped Toronto’s 3 game losing streak and placed the Boatmen in a 2nd place tie with Ottawa and an overall record of 7 and 5 in the CFL East Division.
First off let me just say the atmosphere at TD Place is electric. There has been much talk about the home field advantage Hamilton has gained since their move to Tim Hortons Field but believe me Ottawa is just the same. The fans are alive and the atmosphere is tangible. 24,000 screaming fans in a CFL friendly stadium can only make Argo fans pine for 2016 and the move to BMO Field. That being said the whole cutting of a log after a touchdown is gimmicky and has little to no impact. I’ve been to Ottawa many times and never seem to run into any loggers. Only those dressed up like them at the game. But I digress.
In a game that Argo Head Coach Scott Milanovich called, “the most important game of the year” the Argos came out and played with both the focus and desperation necessary for the unfriendly confines of TD Place.
Before the game discussion centered around how Toronto would shut down Ottawas high powered offense? Why was Vidal Hazeltion benched for Diontae Spencer? And how can the Argos have 2 kickers with the last name Palardy and not be related? By the time the final whistle blew none of those question mattered.
In what may have been a fore shadow to a future playoff game this contest was a chippy one to say the least. The game was filled with after the whistle penalties that even saw WR Kevin Elliott get 2 unnecessary roughness calls on the same play. Can’t say I’ve ever seen that before. But make no mistake about it these two teams don’t like each other and if the Battle of Ontario referred only to Argonaut, Ti-Cats, it may be time to include Ottawa in the mix.
The old cliché in football is that if you can win 2 of the 3 aspects of the game you undoubtedly will end up with the victory. In the first half the Argos won all 3. The Double Blue scored on their opening drive that was capped with an 8 yard TD reception from Trevor Harris to Kevin Elliott. It was a significant drive given the Argos tendency to struggle early in the game.
After a quick 2 and out by the REDBLACKS Toronto doubled its’ lead when SB Chad Owens returned a punt for 74 yards for a TD. It may have been the quietest TD Place Stadium has been all season.
That early momentum would carry for the entire opening half. Even when a pass, deflected off the hand of SB Diontae Spencer, was intercepted by LB Damaso Munoz cutting the Argo lead to 14 to 10, the Double Blue quickly rebounded with 10 points of their own, including another Harris to Elliott TD.
It was an impressive half for QB Trevor Harris despite his pick six who completed passes to seven different receivers.
Defensively the Double Blue were rock solid. They held the red hot Henry Burris to only 102 passing yards and a 39 yard Chris Milo field goal.
Early on in the third quarter it was beginning to look like a tale of two halves. Ottawa marched down field to begin the half and after a 12 yard TD reception by Greg Ellingson it was 24 to 17 and while the Argos looked to be in complete control they were only up 7.
Torontos’ offense had gotten stale as well. No longer was the team aggressive and looking to make plays down the field. Instead the team fell back to their dump and run passing game. More importantly first half targets like Chad Owens and Anthony Coombs had disappeared. It was by far the worst quarter of play for the Argonauts who went scoreless in the third and were hanging on to a 4 point lead.
Fortunately for the Argos, like the have in all their previous victories, the team played an excellent 4th quarter.
The teams traded touchdowns. Torontos TD coming on a 1 yard QB sneak by Adrian McPherson but the big play came before that when Trevor Harris completed a timing play for 38 yards down the side line to WR Tori Gurley. It was the only long distance passing attempt of the half and it’s completion changed the game. Though the REDBLACKS did come back with a score of their own a timely 41 yard kick off return from Diontae Spencer and a 50 yard field goal by newly signed Kicker Justin Palardy with 3:30 left to play made it 35 to 26. Following that two late QB sacks and an interception by LB Gregory Jones put the game on its proverbial ice. Victory formation. Win in the books.
Notable mention on the defensive side of the ball has to go to for Manitoba Bison Thomas Miles who made his first start of the season at Weak Side Linebacker. The for 4th round selection of the 2014 CFL Draft recorded a team high 7 tackles and 1 pass deflection. With injuries to Cory Greenwood and Brandon Isaac, Miles took the old, “Next Man Up” line and ran with it.
The Argonauts looked very comfortable at TD Place Stadium and that’s a good thing because their next game will be right back there as the new Battle of Ontario goes to round 3 on Tuesday October 6. By now we all know the back story of that game and frankly who cares. My advice to team would be clear and concise. JUST WIN BABY!
Writen by: Anthony Ciardulli
Follow me on Twitter @ComicAnthony