WINNIPEG — A big first half was all Jarious Jackson and the Toronto Argonauts needed, as they silenced a boisterous crowd at Canad Inns Stadium with a 29-10 win over the Blue Bombers on Saturday night.
Jackson passed for 155 yards and one touchdown on 17 completions, and proved that he still had plenty of life left in his 35-year-old legs, running for 51 yards and a touchdown as well.
While Jackson’s performance made Argos fans forget all about Ricky Ray’s injured knee – at least for one night – the Bombers faithful saw their starting pivot endure another rough night under centre, one that saw him forced out of the game late in the second half.
Buck Pierce left the game after taking a hard hit by Toronto linebacker Brandon Isaac, and while he did return for a series nearing the end of the second quarter, he was nowhere to be seen when the third frame got underway.
With the playoffs inching closer with every play, Jackson was counted on to give the Argos a similar, if not identical, performance that they are accustomed to receiving with Ray in the backfield.
On his first drive from scrimmage, Jackson seemed poised and in total control, leading the Boatmen downfield with a combination of his arm strength and speed on the ground.
After marching inside the Winnipeg 10 yard line thanks to a 22-yard pass to Andre Durie as well as an 11-yard run of his own, Jackson opened the scoring with a one-yard touchdown plunge to cap off a drive that ultimately lasted half of the first quarter.
The drive was elongated by three penalties to the Bombers, two of which were credited to linebacker Brandon Stewart.
The Blue Bombers, meanwhile, stepped onto the field for their first offensive possession hoping to rediscover the same magic that helped them to an inspiring 34-12 win over the Ticats one week ago.
However Pierce, who was making his second start since returning from injury, was intercepted on his first pass of the game by Marcus Ball, who returned it 27 yards to the endzone to give the Double Blue a two-touchdown lead.
After another unsuccessful drive by the Bombers following the interception, Jackson went to work yet again in what was his first start since 2010.
This time, Jackson would run into some trouble, seemingly fumbling the ball with it being recovered and returned for a touchdown by Winnipeg defensive end Kenny Mainor.
But Jackson appeared to have been in forward motion with his pass, prompting Argos Head Coach Scott Milanovich to throw the challenge flag.
After a thorough review, the play was deemed to be an incomplete pass, allowing the Argos to continue along with their possession.
Three plays later, Jackson silenced an already stunned crowd at Canad Inns Stadium, finding receiver Dontrelle Inman in the corner of the endzone for a touchdown.
The reception was Inman’s fourth major of the season, giving the Argos a 21-point first-quarter lead.
With the final seconds of the first quarter winding down, things went from bad to worse for the Bombers, as it was then that Pierce was hit hard by Isaac, forcing the oft-injured pivot out of the game.
Backup Joey Elliott was inserted under centre in relief.
Yet, try as they might to reverse the unfortunate trend, the bad luck continued for the Blue and Gold.
On Elliott’s second pass of the drive, he threw a completion to receiver Chris Matthews who saw the ball ripped from his grasp and recovered by Isaac.
The play was initially ruled a completed pass with Matthews down-by-contact, however, Milanovich threw his challenge flag yet again, prompting another review from the CFL Command Centre.
After a short review, it was deemed that Matthews had indeed fumbled the ball, giving the Argos possession at their 36 yard line.
But the Bombers defence would hold tight, forcing Toronto to its first two-and-out of the game.
With Pierce back on the sidelines, Head Coach Tim Burke opted to keep Elliott under centre for their ensuing drive.
Yet, regardless of who was throwing passes for the Bombers, it seemed as though the ball simply refused to bounce in their favour.
|Argos Get Defensive|
The Toronto Argonauts received a remarkable effort from their defence on Saturday, as the unit forced seven turnovers against Bombers. The unit registered four interceptions and forced three fumbles.
On their first play following a punt by Waters, centre Justin Sorensen sent an errant snap away from Elliott, with Isaac continuing to wreak havoc on the defensive side of the ball as he recovered the loose ball.
Fortunately for the Blue Bombers, the Argos were unable to add to their lead, with Jackson managing just one first down on a 15-yard scramble.
On the ensuing punt by Waters, the Bombers received a jolt of energy, thanks to a 39-yard punt return by Demond Washington.
With momentum heavily against them, Pierce, who was back at QB for the Blue and Gold, heaved a deep 57-yard bomb to Clarence Denmark who was brought down inside Toronto’s 20 yard line.
However, Pierce was unable to find the endzone, as they were forced to settle for a 20-yard field goal by Justin Palardy.
With the Argo offence having seemingly been brought back down to earth, Winnipeg’s was looking as if they were just beginning to find their legs.
On their first possession following the three-minute warning, Pierce orchestrated an impressive 11-play, 60-yard drive that was capped off by a 20-yard strike to Terrence Edwards in the endzone, bringing the Blue and Gold within 11 of Toronto’s lead.
But the Argos were given another opportunity to add to their lead, as Jackson put together a quick six-play drive that was punctuated by a 46-yard field goal by Waters, making the score 24-10 with no time remaining in the half.
The second half got underway in a disastrous fashion for the Bombers. With Pierce already out for the Bombers, Washington fumbled Waters’ offering, handing the Argonauts excellent field position to start the third quarter.
While Jackson and the offence were unable to find the endzone, they did increase their lead to 17 thanks to a 23-yard field goal by Waters.
Toronto’s offence continue to pound away at the Bombers defensive line, utilizing running back Chad Kackert on five of 10 plays during their second drive of the third quarter. However, Kackert’s downhill running wasn’t enough to get the Argos into the endzone, forcing them to settle for another field goal attempt by Waters.
While Waters would miss his 46-yard attempt, the Argos cover unit did a good job of containing the always dangerous Jovon Johnson, forcing the cornerback out at his own two-yard line.
Facing a long field, the Bombers offence was once again unable to generate any traction with the ball, forcing Mike Renaud to take the field for his fourth punt of the game.
It was then that Argonauts’ WR/KR Chad Owens made history, becoming the first person in professional football to amass at least 3,000 Combined Yards in three different seasons.
Building upon his past two all-star campaigns, the Flyin’ Hawaiian has been able to assemble back-to-back-to-back 3,000-yard seasons and is now on pace for an unprecedented total of more than 4,000 Combined Yards in 2012. He entered tonight’s game needing just 85 combined yards to hit 3,000 on the year.
While there was little scoring in the second half, with the Argos scoring just five leading up to three-minute warning, the two teams were seemingly knocking on the door of the endzone, but were just unable to cross the threshold, as the defences came up big in several instances.
Leading charge on the defensive side of the ball for the Argos in the second half were Pacino Horne and Patrick Watkins, who each registered interceptions when the Bombers appeared to be making their charge into the endzone.
With the win, the Argos snapped a two-game losing streak and took advantage of Montreal’s loss to the Tiger-Cats on Friday night, getting to within two points of their lead on the East Division.
Next Week for Toronto: The Argos return home to face the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Thanksgiving Monday. BUY TICKETS.
Next Week for Winnipeg: Winnipeg heads to Montreal to take on the Alouettes for a Thanksgiving showdown. BUY TICKETS.