The official/unofficial second half of the season for the Double Blue has arrived. It’s a Labour Day matchup against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field. The Argos have had their difficulties this year playing at home but are undefeated on the road with a 3 and 0 record. Unfortunately Tim Hortons Field has not been a welcoming destination for Toronto as the team has yet to win a game there in 4 attempts.
Much talk around Labour Day Games has much to with geography. Discussion centers around the rivalries that exist between the 2 team and the angst that exist between their two fan bases. But on this day, more importantly, this is a must win game period. Both teams come in with a 4 and 5 record 3 points behind the first place REDBLACKS in the East Division. A sweep for either team which would include not only a win today but another “W” in the rematch game next week at BMO Field would put the losing team in a precarious situation to say the least. With an improved Lions and Blue Bombers team out West it is realistic that a playoff crossover is likely this year. So 3rd place in the East will do nothing but get you a seat on the couch watching playoff football.
Here are my 3 keys to the game to help the Argonauts avoid that ugly scenario.
1. Get off to a Good Start.
Last season the Argos played 3 times in Hamilton and were blown out twice. While I’m sometimes critical of Toronto’s play calling being overly conservative at times the Argos need to start the game methodically running their plays and keeping a Hamilton offense looking to make a big play off the field. Toronto has one of the deepest Receiver groups in the league and Ray is great at spreading the ball around. Keeping the Hamilton D on the field with a good mix of run and pass plays should keep Toronto in the game early on.
2. Attack Zach.
While I support a conservative offense I think the Rich Stubler bend but don’t break defensive philosophy should be thrown out the window. Collaros has looked excellent in back to back games against B.C. and Calgary after missing a year with a torn ACL. If anyone is pumped for this game it’s probably him. Get him out of the pocket, get him running around and maybe he’ll force a throw in an attempt to make a big play in front of his home town fans. The Argonauts have Ken Bishop returning today after a stint on the 1-game injured list and should provide a solid boost to the team interior defense. Sophomore Daryl Waud also looks to make his first start of the season.
3. Diontae Spencer vs Brandon Banks.
Yes the don’t play against each other but in my view they’re the same guys. I’ve been championing Spencer all season long as a playmaker who needs more and more touches. Bottom line he can alter a game at any time and would have done so last week with a 40 yard punt return late in the 4th quarter against the Lions. Unfortunately an ill-advised flag on DB Joe Rankin nullified the return. As for Banks he’s obviously a threat every time he touches the ball and the Argonauts special teams unit will have to hold their ground to make sure Speedy B doesn’t break one and take the game over all by himself.
I recently asked DB A.J. Jefferson who the biggest trash talker is in the league and whether the trash talk goes up a notch during big games like today. Here’s what he had to say.
“Honestly the trash talk in the league is pretty tame. A lot of guys are new to their teams and don’t always know a lot about the guy they might be facing on the other side. But other than myself the biggest trash talker I’ve heard so far is a guy I practise against. Number 21 Vidal Hazelton.”
Hopefully the talk is followed with a win.
Look for the Argonauts to go with their white helmets today. The significance? Well they haven’t lost all season on the road so why change the look. Also that would mean that so far this season they have yet to wear their traditional blue helmet on the road.
A Tip of the Hat.
I don’t often compliment the Ti-Cats but adding a CIS game and free concert prior to the kick-off of today’s game is a fantastic way to celebrate football on Labour Day. Hopefully the Varsity Blues can put up a good test against McMaster.
Kickoff: Monday 6:30 pm Tim Hortons Field.
TV: TSN 1, 3,4,5
Radio: TSN 1050
By: Anthony Ciardulli
Follow Anthony on twitter @comicanthony.