Canadian Football League

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Argos secure first place in Canadian Football League East

Age failed to catch up with Damon Allen in Montreal last week, and it was lagging badly again yesterday until the 42-year-old quarterback was tackled and twisted by a Winnipeg defensive lineman.
Everything seemed to catch up after that: the ice packs, the television cameras and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, almost. After the Bombers' Tom Canada knocked Allen out of the game late in the third quarter, rolling over the quarterback's ankle, Winnipeg closed to within four points of Toronto.
But by the time an in-stadium-camera followed Allen's limping exit to the locker room in the fourth quarter, Allen could take consolation from the scoreboard. Toronto would beat the Bombers 34-27, securing a place atop the East Division standings just four days after another important win against the Montreal Alouettes.
Environment Canada listed the temperature as 32C at kickoff yesterday, but that was at Toronto's Pearson Airport, not inside the concrete valley that is Rogers Centre. The air down on the field was heavier than an offensive lineman's lunch, and the condition should have ground Toronto's weary linemen down by halftime.
Winnipeg was expected to take care of the rest. The Bombers arrived in Toronto with the benefit of nine days' rest after edging Montreal 51-46 on July 22. Quarterback Kevin Glenn was back under centre, running back Charles Roberts was back in form and the Blue Bombers seemed back in business after an 0-4 start to the season.
But the Argos struck first after Keith Stokes fumbled inside Winnipeg's 45-yard line early in the opening quarter. Allen dropped back in the pocket, waited until he could smell the breath of a charging defensive lineman and fired over the middle to receiver Andre Talbot.
The pass, which went through four defenders, would have been intercepted had it been thrown by a hard-luck pivot like Hamilton's Danny McManus. But it was Allen's pass, and Allen could do nothing wrong. The 20-yard score gave Toronto a 7-0 lead, not to mention a needed boost of adrenaline.
Winnipeg fought back, but not successfully. A 61-yard completion to Kamau Peterson was wasted when the offence broke down inside the red zone. Kicker Troy Westwood hit a pair of field goals in the first half.
Allen hit twice, too. He hit receivers Robert Baker and Talbot for 81 yards combined on a drive that was capped with a three-yard touchdown plunge by running back John Avery.
Winnipeg struck back on the next series -- a drive aided by a phantom catch and 45 yards in Toronto penalties -- to cut Toronto's lead to 14-13.
But the focus was all on Allen at the break. He completed 16 of 18 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown after two quarters, following a remarkable trend set against the Alouettes last Thursday.
He finished 23-of-34 for 320 yards and four touchdown passes in Montreal, helping Toronto to a share of first place in the East Division. And it was all on the eve of his 42nd birthday.
"Just really talk about my play," Allen told a group of reporters huddled around his stall after that game. "When I look at all the other great players like Gretzky, you guys don't say their age. You just say Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux. For me, I don't know why I'm always reminded. I know I'm 42 and I know I have a grandson, but it really just takes away from my play."


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