Canadian Football League

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Argos still on top of Canadian Football League east

John Avery and Sean Millington softened up the Ottawa Renegades before Arland Bruce III delivered the knockout blow.
Ottawa Renegades quarterback Kerry Joseph is tackled by Toronto Argonauts Antonious Bonner during the first half. Bruce caught two touchdown passes from Damon Allen, including a 15-yard toss late in the fourth quarter, as the Toronto Argonauts beat Ottawa 29-18 on Wednesday night, handing the struggling Renegades their sixth straight loss. Allen brought the Rogers Centre gathering of 24,886 to its feet at 9:08 of the fourth when he found Bruce on a 15-yard TD strike. That put Toronto ahead 29-18 and came after Allen's six-yard scoring toss to Tony Miles was nullified by a penalty.
It was Bruce's sparkling one-handed 12-yard grab that put Toronto at the Ottawa six-yard line. Bruce finished with five catches for 90 yards and also had a 31-yard completion to Michael Palmer in the first half.
"The coaches emphasize making big plays when we need them and I feel I'm the man to do the job," said Bruce. "Be it with one hand or two, I just want to make the play."
Allen finished 17-of-25 passing for 222 yards with the two TDs and an interception.
"They're pretty good," Argos coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons said of Allen and Bruce. "The thing about Arland is he's a complete receiver who can do it all.
"Being able to bring the ball in on the fingertips (on the one-handed grab), then take the shot he did afterwards was phenomenal."
Ottawa made it interesting when Kerry Joseph found a streaking Jason Armstead for a 75-yard touchdown pass at 4:31 to cut Toronto's lead to 22-18.
Toronto (8-5) moved four points ahead of Montreal (6-6) atop the East Division. The Argos played their second game in five days while Ottawa was playing for the third time in 13 days.
Ottawa (5-9) remains third in the East but its playoff hopes are fading. The Renegades must post a better record than the fourth-place finisher in the West - Saskatchewan and Calgary are tied for third with 7-6 records - to earn their first post-season berth. If the West club has the better mark, it will become the third seed in the East.
"For us, it was a playoff game," said Ottawa coach Joe Paopao. "That's the best we've played.
"There was better intensity, stronger football. But now, we're down to do or die."
A big part of Toronto's win was its ability to run the ball. With the five-foot-10, 192-pound Avery lining up behind the six-foot-three, 237-pound Millington, the Argos were able to beat Ottawa at it's own game.
Ottawa came as the CFL's second-ranked rushing team (134 yards per game) while Toronto was eighth (70 yards). But Toronto finished with 130 rushing yards, compared to 83 for the Renegades.
Avery ran for a game-high 68 yards on 13 carries while Millington, whose nickname is Diesel, had 55 yards rushing on seven carries and a TD.
"I think it (ball control) was the difference in the game," Avery said. "I don't mind running on diesel fuel.
"That guy is a beast. Not only is he big but he's smart."
Added Millington: "It's that weird balance. We've always thrown the ball here but now we've got the option not to throw the ball. By doing so, it makes throwing that much more effective."
But Clemons cautioned against people branding the Argos a running team.
"We desire to be a balanced attack because we believe it makes us a better football team, a more proficient football team," he said. "But the real key is we want to win games.
"If we win and we're unbalanced I'm happier than I am if we lose and we're balanced."
A key point in the game came at 7:05 of the third when Greg Moss returned an apparent Avery fumble 67 yards for the TD that would've made it 17-17. But the officials gathered and correctly ruled Avery was down on the play, a decision further supported by television replays, much to the dismay of the Renegades bench.
Toronto drove to the Ottawa eight-yard line before Noel Prefontaine's pass on a fake field goal to Jeff Keeping was incomplete. But the Argos got two points when the Renegades conceded the safety moments later for a 19-11 lead.
"I thought it was a bad call," said Joseph. "It didn't matter if he was down or not, there wasn't a whistle and the play continued, then they had a meeting.
"That call really cost us."
Paopao wasn't quite so sure.
"It's second-guessing to say the call made the difference," he said. "It went the way it did and there was still a lot of time left."
Joseph finished 18-of-27 passing for 220 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions.
The Renegades have struggled in Toronto, dropping to 0-5 here since their inception in 2002. The last Ottawa road win against the Argos was Sept. 18, 1994.
Since the Rogers Centre opened in 1989, Toronto is 15-2-0 versus Ottawa.
Yo Murphy scored Ottawa's other touchdown. Matt Kellett added the converts and a field goal while Pat Fleming kicked a single.
Prefontaine booted three converts and two field goals.
Notes - The Argos raised eyebrows in the third when they ran five straight times on a drive. There are times when Toronto's pass-happy offence doesn't run five times in a quarter, let alone one drive . . . Ottawa's Korey Banks came into the game leading the CFL in interceptions with eight . . . Toronto veteran offensive lineman Jude St. John appeared in his 170th career regular-season CFL contest.


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