Command and Control
Photo: Courtesy Toronto Argonauts
The Argos were in complete control against the Alouettes. It began and ended on the line of scrimmage. Montreal was never really in it.
The Argos out-sacked les Alouettes 2-0 and won the turnover battle 4-0. The defence held Montreal to just 24 yards rushing! Even though Cody Fajardo protected the ball well, if you stop the Alouettes from running, they have no game. Meanwhile, the Argos offensive line was its usual stellar self and powered Ouellette and company to 135 yards rushing.
The enormous Boris Bede defied the odds and maybe even gravity when he ran down the speedy and diminutive Chandler Worthy. It's not the first time this season that Bede has had to get on his horse and make an important tackle. He doesn't fit the typical kicker physique, but neither did Hank Ilesic and Zenon Andrusyshyn. They were chiselled. Bede might be faster than all of them though, including Mike Vanderjagt. One thing is for certain, they all are/were colourful personalities.
Tommy Nield looked great filling in for the injured Cam Phillips. Four Canadian receivers caught Kelly passes in a rare game that Andrew Harris did not get a reception.
I can understand the Argos trying to draw the opposition offside on third and 3 with a hard count, resulting in a time count violation and a 5 yard penalty. At the 25-yard-line, a penalty of that magnitude won't materially affect the odds of the FG. However, when the ball is scrimmaged outside the 35 yard line, a five yard loss in field position can make a big difference. First, it makes the field goal harder and secondly it may allow a missed attempt to be returned rather than land in the stands. This happened Saturday when Bede ended up attempting a 48-yard field goal instead of one from 43 yards away. He missed and it was returned out of the end zone. A missed FG from the original line of scrimmage would have landed beyond the end zone and would not have permitted a return, ending up as a rouge instead.
Now that the Argos have distanced themselves from the rest of the East Division their goals will change from trying to win every game, to finishing first but managing the health of their starting lineup and not becoming complacent. Tougher than it sounds, but still a nice problem to have. Finishing first early comes with its own challenges, including the risk of peaking too early. The last CFL team that finished 16-2 was Edmonton in 1989. They were upset in the Western Final by the 9-9 Saskatchewan Roughriders, a team that also upset the 12-6 Ti-Cats in a classic Grey Cup.
Around the League
A look at the passing efficiency ratings for quarterbacks who have made more than three starts shows that Zach Collaros (120), leads the pack followed by Chad Kelly (114) , Tre Ford (110) and Vernon Adams (105). Ford would have a better than .500 win/loss record if his Elks' defence could do a better job holding big leads.
The Hamilton and Ottawa game had an entertaining finish but was for the most part two bad teams playing bad football. Ottawa literally gave the game away by committing four turnovers and missing two of three field goals, while Hamilton was perfect on those metrics. Ottawa beat themselves again.
The Calgary vs Edmonton game was probably the most entertaining game of the week given the walk off field goal by the Elks and the royal wave provided by their 36-year-old rookie kicker Dean Faithfull. If you haven't seen the video of his hilarious wave you can find it here.
He makes a great story. Elks head coach Chris Jones delivered the best comment of the week when he cautioned his team in how they carried him aloft, lest a 36-year-old rookie kicker need be placed on the six game injured list. Unfortunately, Jones' coaching staff weren't as clever at game and personnel management, taking several unnecessary penalties and looking generally disorganized. It's been a common theme with the Elks this year. Mercifully, their defence finally had a good second half and got a few stops to enable them to beat the Stamps.
There were a couple of missed calls in this game involving tackles of Tre Ford. One involving Micah Awe's wayward forearm, which probably deserved an ejection. Another had a Stampeder picking Ford up and throwing him to the turf. The Elks featured three former Toronto linemen: defensive tackles Kony Ealy and Sam Acheampong, and offensive lineman Martez Ivey. They combined for four tackles in this game. Elks RB Kevin Brown ran for 143 yards and a sensational 9.5 average yards per carry.
The Winnipeg blowout of Saskatchewan is a reminder that the Bombers are still a force to be reckoned with when Zach Collaros and their offensive line are on their game.
Last week, I wrote about the listing York Lions and the venerable but winless U of T Varsity Blues. After week three of the schedule, sadly both teams remain O'fer. Varsity were manhandled by their long time nemesis from Kingston, the Queen's Golden Gaels 42-9, while York took another pounding at the hands of McMaster losing 71-0. Let's hope help arrives before these teams pass a tipping point. Their Boards of Governors need to have a meeting about increasing their program's budgets. It's ugly and shows no sign of getting better. I haven't seen scores as lopsided as these since I played minor football in middle school. I don't know how reputable universities can leave their coaches and players out to dry for an extended period like they are doing. Nobody expects them to win every game but the students have every right to expect that they will be competitively supported so it doesn't go on year after year. This is not happening and makes a mockery of their mantras about combining academic and athletic excellence. Who is going to be the catalyst to restore these once proud programs back to respectability before another calculating university administrator starves them into self-fulfilling cancellation and reallocates their modest budgets?
U of T gave up on historic Varsity Stadium. Calling the new stands that replaced it, Varsity Stadium, is like calling Ted Reeve Arena Maple Leaf Gardens. University football is one of the very few opportunities for students to share a common experience on campus. U of T is a huge school, and it's noted for undergraduates feeling isolated in a big city, Believe it or not there was a time when the Blues outdrew the CFL. With the demolition of the real Varsity Stadium the university will need to use BMO if they ever want to host another meaningful Blue and Red game.