Canadian Football League

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Argos still first in Canadian Football League East

Damon Allen and the Toronto Argonauts defence emphatically exorcised their Labour Day demons Saturday.
Allen threw two touchdown passes while Toronto's defence registered its first shutout in over 25 years in a lopsided 48-0 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats before a season-high Rogers Centre gathering of 32,274.
Toronto avenged its 33-30 loss to Hamilton on Monday with its first shutout since a 20-0 win over the Ticats on Aug. 8, 1979. Defensively, the Argos were sensational, registering five turnovers (setting up 24 points), four sacks and holding the Ticats to 115 total yards.
"It was (Argos defensive co-ordinator) Rich Stubler's first shutout and we're really happy for him," said Argos head coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons. "We don't want to celebrate in anyone's face but when you get a shutout that's a major, major achievement.
"We didn't have the turnovers to the same extent (as Monday) and we talked about red zone defence as well. I guess when they don't score any points, it's pretty good defence all around."
Toronto's defence set the tone by stopping Hamilton's third-one gamble on the game's opening possession. Then on their play, the Argos used some razzle-dazzle as Allen hit Arland Bruce III on a 37-yard TD flea flicker. Allen first handed the ball off to John Avery, who pitched it back to Allen, who then found a streaking Bruce.
"We wanted to have a fast start," Allen said. "The last time . . . with me not being as sound and playing as well allowed them to do the things they could on defence.
"This time around, I was much more prepared to play."
Allen shouldered the blame for Monday's loss after throwing two interceptions and fumbling twice, which set up 14 Hamilton points. He was so upset afterwards that he refused to talk to reporters.
Allen finished 14-of-26 passing for 247 yards with two TDs and an interception. That was to Hamilton's Jason Goss in the third at the Toronto 50-yard line and was the Ticats' only foray into Argos territory.
Two plays later, though, Smith intercepted Danny McManus and returned it 79 yards for a 31-0 Toronto lead. The TD return was Smith's fifth, tying him with Ed Berry for the most in club history.
Hamilton coach Greg Marshall took a philosophical approach in explaining the lopsided game.
"At one point I looked up at the scoreboard and realized, as bad as it was, it could've been worse," he said. "They had some chances and didn't score on us.
"They scalped us on third-one to start the game and after that we didn't get close."
Toronto certainly controlled the game, holding the ball for 37 minutes 20 seconds and amassing 415 total yards.
McManus, who completed 17 straight passes against Toronto on Monday, had no answer for a Toronto defence that had its leader, linebacker Mike O'Shea, back in the lineup. O'Shea missed the Labour Day contest with a shoulder injury.
"We had our leader out there," said linebacker Michael Fletcher, who had five tackles and an interception. "He's so smart, he's a cagey guy.
"Just having a guy like that really helps you a lot."
O'Shea showed his smarts in the second quarter when he booted a McManus fumble 20 yards downfield, then recovered it at the Hamilton 15-yard line. That set up a Prefontaine field goal that gave Toronto a 24-0 lead.
"It's called dribbling and it's a rule you learn from the start but it only works on certain plays," said O'Shea, a 13-year CFL veteran. "The fumble came outside the tackle box so you know there's not going to be a huge scramble of guys trying to dive on it.
"Had I tried to pick it up I would've been tackled right there. It's something you practise and consciously think about and it's a great part of the CFL."
McManus, who finished 8-of-21 passing for 61 yards with two interceptions, didn't mince words about his disappointment afterwards.
"It's an embarrassment, especially in this league, to go out and not even have a chance of trying for a point," McManus said. "Don't get me wrong, they have a good defence but to not get a point?
"Yo Murphy said the other night that the B.C. game was the worst butt-kicking he had ever seen. I would challenge him that this was worse."
On Thursday night, the B.C. Lions improved to 10-0 with a 61-27 victory over Murphy and the Ottawa Renegades.
The Argos (7-4) remained atop the East Division and improved to 6-0 at home versus Hamilton since 2001. The Ticats (2-9) lost for the first time in three games to remain last in the conference.
This game marked just the eighth Labour Day rematch between these two teams and first since 1991, when Toronto avenged a 48-24 Labour Day loss by trouncing Hamilton 52-25. Even then, before '91 there was a 20-year hiatus between rematches
Bruce, with two, Avery and Sean Millington had Toronto's other touchdowns. Prefontaine added five converts, two field goals and three singles. The Argos also had two safeties.
Notes - Millington's 10-yard TD run in the fourth was his first touchdown in the CFL since Nov. 1, 2002 when he scored two for the B.C. Lions versus Saskatchewan. . . . How bitter is the Toronto-Hamilton rivalry? Argos fans booed when the Ticats cheerleaders took to the field to end the first.


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