Toronto – They were tougher, stronger, and faster. Those words characterize the effort put forth by the Toronto Argonauts in beating the Hamilton Ti-Cats 33 – 21 in front of 17, 214 fans at BMO Field.
Midway through the second quarter if you got nervous and felt that what happened last week was happening again you probably weren’t alone. Toronto started the game very well. The offense behind Dan LeFevour making his first start after two year injury plagued seasons was efficient with a good mixture of run and pass plays. The big play, a 15 yard touchdown pass to Tori Gurley on their opening drive gave the Double Blue an early 7 – 0 lead. With Toronto leading 13 -0 Hamilton began to get in rhythm and as quickly as it took to go grab a beer the Argos were down 20 – 13. But unlike last week the Argos were able to stop the ball of snow from turning into an avalanche. A late drive just before the half led to a 16 yard field goal by Lirim Hajrullahu and allowed Toronto to go in to the half down, but with some momentum.
The second half was a completely different story. Toronto dominated from beginning to end. They outscored Hamilton 17 – 1. An opening drive capped off by a 36 yard touchdown run by Brandon Whitaker, his first of 2, gave Toronto the lead and they wouldn’t surrender it the rest of the game.
“I’m proud the way they played competed and prepared.” Toronto head coach Scott Milanovich on his team’s effort.
Football can be a funny game. Yes the offense scored 33 points with gutsy efforts and highlight reel catches from the likes of Tori Gurley and Kevin Elliott. And of course Dan LeFevour deserves to be talked about. His ability to regroup the offense and more importantly himself after throwing 2 interceptions on 2 consecutive throws was huge.
The special teams unit did their part too. Brandon Banks was held in check as Hajrullahu did a great job of angling his kicks with great hang time allowing his unit to get in position. The big special teams play came in the form of a Justin Hickmans punt block early in the third quarter which led to Whitakers second touchdown of the game. That made it a two possession game and gave the Argos the cushion they needed.
But what was most noticeable in this game was Toronto’s overall improved physicality by their defense. They tackled well; yards after the catch were limited. They also did a great job of winning the 50-50 balls. That was most evident in the Argos secondary. Admittedly it’s been a sore point for the team all season but on this day they battled and did well to not only intercept the ball twice but play slap ball out of Hamilton receivers’ hands as well.
It was an Argonaut defense that was different from what we’ve seen all year. The Rich Stubler bend don’t break philosophy seemed to have taken a break for itself in this game. And that meant that Zach Collaros was under pressure for most of the afternoon. He was only sacked once but was constantly pressured unlike last week and was forced to scramble out of the pocket and rush his throws. The team was all over the ball and were able to force a fumble and two interceptions, one in their own end-zone by T.J. Heath that capped the game for all intense and purposes.
“They hit him tonight, made him feel uncomfortable” Milanovich on pressuring the Hamilton quarterback.
The now 5 – 6 Argonauts can enjoy this victory tonight but will need to quickly switch their focus on to Winnipeg. The Blue Bombers have won 6 straight games and will host the Argos this Saturday at Investors Group Field. That game will be the first of a three game road trip for Toronto who after Winnipeg travel to Ottawa for a Friday night game in our Nation’s Capital then cap off the trip October 2nd in Monteal.
By: Anthony Ciardulli
Follow Anthony on twitter @comicanthony