Photo: Courtesy Toronto Argonauts
The Argos lost a meaningless but surprisingly entertaining game to the Larks. The game also provided a glimpse into some potential starters and showcased the excellent drafting the Argos have done in the last three years. It was also the first extended look at Chad Kelly at quarterback, who showed flashes of impressive elusiveness and playmaking ability but did not win the game.
The experimental o-line, against a mostly regular Alouette defence, did not allow a sack while rookie RB Daniel Adeboboye averaged five yards per carry on eight carries. The coaching staff must be encouraged with these performances.
While the Argos did not register a sack, rookie, Ali Fayad, brought pressure with impact. He looks like a keeper.
Great tackle by Josh Hagerty which led to a turnover although he was fortunate that Philpot dropped a pass earlier in the game when he was clearly beaten.
Kelly threw two TDs against one interception and a 95 passer rating. He has Brescasin and Brisset to thank for bringing down the TDs in tight coverage. They were highly contested balls. Kelly clearly has strong athleticism and reminded me of Vernon Adams. They have an affinity for big plays and don't shy away from trusting their receivers and putting the ball up for grabs. I was focused on Kelly's decision making and came away thinking that he needs more time to develop before he can be a successful starter. Its too bad he did not get the start against Edmonton as well. It would have given more reps to develop and be properly evaluated.
Brisset and Brescasin caught the ball very well and look like they are ready for more playing time.
Metchie led the team again with 9 tackles, and suggests he has had to do too much clean up in the secondary. That is a crazy number and trend for your safety although not worrisome in a game in which so many starters were rested on defence.
A terrific kick return TD by Haydel.
Ben Grant crushed it on the radio broadcast this week. A natural and well-informed talent, he deserves more air time!
Bede missed another convert. Cam Phillips had an inconsistent game catching the ball.
14 penalties for 130 yards may be symptomatic of an experimental lineup.
With the benefit of two weeks rest (three for some key starters), and now an embarrassment of riches from which to choose along the offensive line, the Argos will have no excuse not to win the Eastern Final. The pressure is firmly on their best players and coaches now. Its cliche but its true, their best players will need to be at their best in the Eastern Final. The coaches and management have managed an injury filled season very well. I like their chances.
The Toronto Varsity Blues made only their second playoff appearance in 25 years on Saturday only to lose to their old rival the Queen's Golden Gaels. Varsity haven't beaten the Gaels since 1975 but it’s great to see them on the ascendancy again. Their last national championship was 1993 after which they went into a long, painful decline. It was not good for amateur football in Toronto and I dare say the Argonauts. Why? Well for one reason, gone are the days when the real Varsity stadium was filled with 25,000 university students for games against its cross-town rival York Lions (aka Yeomen). Successive losing seasons in which Varsity got pummelled was synergistic with U of T administrators' apathy towards its storied football program. No other university could boast that its team had won four Grey Cups and hosted 50 in its own stadium. Apart from Grey Cups, the stadium was the site of Canadian sprinter Percy Williams setting the world record in the 100 meters in 1930, soccer matches during the 1976 Olympics and the NASL's Toronto Blizzard.
The University lacked a strong champion at the highest level allowing a hugely historic building, in Canada's sports history, to be demolished, at a time when the Argonauts probably could have used it most. It was a sad chapter in Canadian football and sports history. BMO is great but the old Varsity stadium was far more accessible than even Molson stadium is on McGill's campus in Montreal.
A resurgent Varsity Blues football team would do wonders for the profile of USports football in the GTA. I wish Varsity head coach and former CFL all-star lineman, Greg Marshall, continued success.
While the Varsity/York rivalry game has seen better days there are two others that are still going strong. The Panda game between Carleton and U of Ottawa drew a larger crowd than any Redblacks game this year. Meanwhile the Shrum Bowl between UBC and Simon Fraser also remains popular, although SFU has fallen on hard times and is losing the local recruitment game to UBC, despite SFU playing in the NCAA (Div 2). Meanwhile, Laval University often draws more than 19,000 to its home games in Quebec City.
Speaking of the NCAA, the experience of SFU has been a cautionary one. The SFU program has had high turnover at the head coach position (former Argo coach Jacques Chapdelaine stopped there for a cup of coffee). They have had several years of losing badly, are not getting the best local talent and have been bringing in more players from the US since they hired an American coach. UBC abandoned its flirtation with the NCAA a few years ago when it was clear that Division 1 was not an option. A wise decision for UBC which is ranked among the top 50 universities in the world and has a brand and reputation to lose (U of T is ranked in the world's top 20). Playing against schools that no one had ever heard of would have been a bad idea for UBC. In the world of elite academic institutions, you are known by who you associate with.
Historically speaking, the only two schools in Canada that would make a good fit to compete in the NCAA are the University of Toronto and McGill, but not in the Big Ten. The first college football games played were reportedly a series between McGill and Harvard in 1874, decades before the forward pass was introduced. The natural peer group for McGill and University of Toronto could be the Ivy League which is Div 1 FCS. They share a common history and academic brand, fancy themselves as peers and have reputations to lose. McGill is 54th in world rankings and has a long history of students coming up from the northeastern United States. Short of that it would be great to see these schools channel their venerable histories and improve their programs within USports.
Finally, the CFL announced last week that it was planning to increase the budget allowed under the operations cap. This is good news but didn't go far enough. The limit on the number of coaches permitted under the operations cap should also be lifted. It would be more flexible and allow CFL teams to create more entry level and creative positions within their programs. Let the teams decide how to use their budgets under their caps.
Imagine what the Elks could have done with the $500,000 they paid Scott Milanovich to sit at home during the pandemic only to see him leave shortly thereafter. Lifting the cap on the number of staff would provide an incentive to be more resourceful in the use of those funds, rather than just spending it on raising individual salaries alone.