OTTAWA — It wasn’t perfect by any means, but the Toronto Argonauts did enough to hold off the Ottawa Redblacks and earn a 24-19 win Saturday afternoon.
In many ways, it was a tale of two halves as the Argos (7-5) dominated the first, while the Redblacks (3-9) tried to claw their way back in the second to the delight of the 21,673 Ottawa faithful before falling short. Ottawa has not won at home since Sept. 28, 2021 and are now 1-20 in their last 21 games at TD Place.
“We tried to do our darndest to lose that game,” said Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie. “It’s tough to win football games and we were on a five-day week and guys were beat up and I think that showed. But they found a way to get it done and I’m very proud of these guys.”
The victory gives the first-place Argos a four-point cushion over the second-place Montreal Alouettes (5-7). Toronto also snapped Ottawa's two-game winning streak.
Argos quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson finished the afternoon 27-of-39 passing for 365 yards to go with one touchdown and one interception. Ottawa counterpart Nick Arbuckle completed 26 of 40 passes for 290 yards and one interception.
Despite being solid for much of the game and outplaying Arbuckle in the first half, Bethel-Thompson admitted he’ll lose sleep over the interception and an overthrown ball.
“I think it was a really good offensive performance, but those two throws are going to kind of hurt my heart and (I) won’t sleep very well because of those two throws,” he said. “This team has a really big backbone and the defence is awesome and special teams played lights out and we’ll find a way to win games, which you’ve got to appreciate that.”
Ottawa defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin had two sacks to give him 12 on the season, tying Justin Capicciotti’s 2015 single-season Redblacks record.
Mauldin admitted he’s proud of the accomplishment, but football is not about celebrating individuals.
“Individuals can make plays, but if we don’t make enough of them it results on the team,” Mauldin said. “Again, we didn’t make enough plays and the team suffered for it.”
Toronto led 13-6 at the half and Boris Bede connected on a 47-yard field goal early in the third quarter to extend the lead, but the Redblacks responded courtesy of a Lewis Ward 35-yard field goal to make it 16-9.
After picking up a single, Toronto looked to take full control after Kurleigh Gittens Jr. got the Argos down to Ottawa’s 12-yard line. Gittens scored on the next play on a 12-yard reception to make it a 24-9 lead.
Ottawa responded with its first TD of the day as Arbuckle marched the ball downfield and Caleb Evans capped the drive with a two-yard run to trim the deficit to eight.
Damon Webb intercepted a Bethel-Thompson pass at midfield and Ottawa was able to turn it into a 31-yard field goal to get within five with just over seven minutes remaining.
Ottawa then drove down to Toronto's 13-yard line and gambled on third down, but fell short. The Redblacks were able to hem the Argos in deep and recovered the ball at the Toronto 35 for one final attempt to score, but failed to take advantage again.
“It’s tough to lose that way,” admitted Arbuckle, who made his first start at TD Place. “When you know you were so close to making the play offensively to win the game, but at the same time, it’s just another thing for us to learn from. We’ve still got a lot of games left this season.”
Trailing 13-0 with just under two minutes left in the first half, the Redblacks were able to get on the board as Lewis Ward connected on 48- and 47-yard field goals to make it a one-score game.
Despite the lacklustre play early, Arbuckle wouldn't dwell on it, instead opting to look ahead.
“I obviously don’t feel like I played well enough in that first half,” he said. “But it’s part of what we do. We bounce back as quarterbacks from whatever was going on and it’s on to the next play.”
The Argos took a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter, due in great part to Damonte Coxie eluding four Ottawa defenders to run the ball down to the two-yard line. That set up a two-yard rushing TD from A.J. Ouellette. Bede added a 17-yard field goal late in the second quarter to make it 13-0.
Bede opened the scoring for the Argos early in the first quarter with a 51-yarder for his 200th career field goal.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2022.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press