VANCOUVER – Coming off two wins against their provincial rivals, the Toronto Argonauts had a golden opportunity to truly assert themselves in the East with a win at BC Place on Saturday.
The win didn’t come and but at the very least the Double Blue proved that they could compete with the defending Grey Cup Champions, taking the league’s top team down to the wire and almost pull out a victory.
"We battled hard," said Argos quarterback Ricky Ray. "We made a lot of mistakes, a lot of penalties and some things we didn't do well, but it was a 60-minute game. (We) just came up short."
Ray completed 19-of-38 passes for 311 yards as the clubs combined for 701 yards through the air alone.
The Argos trailed most of the game but put forth a late rally on the strength of a Chad Owens' 52-yard touchdown reception with just over five minutes left in the game. The Argos seemed poised to steal the win when Ray led an impressive drive in the final minute but fumbled on third down in the redzone, clinching the game for the Leos.
“They covered really well and I was trying to step up in there and tried to hit a receiver over the middle but [the defender] just knocked the ball out of my hands”, Ray said of the final play. “We came up just a little bit short. We had our opportunities and with some deep balls and some shots at the end but we just weren’t able to come up with it”.
Toronto held the Lions in check most of the first half and for parts of the second, but penalties seemed to continuously get in their way as they tried to scrape and claw back in the game. B.C. got a reprieve when a 62-yard Spencer Watt pass-and-run touchdown was called back due to a holding penalty on Toronto's Maurice Mann.
The Boatmen were assessed 132 yards in penalties just a week after racking up 257 penalty yards -- the second-highest total CFL history. Owens said the Argos would have won if not for untimely miscues.
"We have to be more disciplined," said Owens. "I'm not going to sit here and talk about penalties. It is what it is. We had an opportunity at the end to win the game and I truly believed we were going to win."
A five-point deficit on the road, in a building where 2002 was the year they last recorded a win proved that competing with the best is indeed something to build on for a team that has won three of its last five contests, but it was of little consolation for the team’s first-year head coach.
"It wasn't good enough and we're not into moral victories," said Scott Milanovich. "We're sick that we didn't get this one. I’ve said it all year, these guys don’t quit and they believe"
The Argos face another litmus test next weekend when they travel to Montreal to take on the Alouettes at Percival Molson Stadium – a place where they have already recorded a victory this season.- With files from The Canadian Press