TORONTO – The Toronto Argonauts know that there is work to be done following the team’s 34-27 pre-season loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Tuesday night.
After trailing for most of the game, Toronto put on an exciting fourth quarter rally but fell short of the victory. The loss ended the Argos’ nine-game winning streak in the pre-season.
While overall the team was satisfied with how they played, the Argos understand that one of the keys in reviewing a performance is watching the film post-game.
For quarterback Trevor Harris, this was his first opportunity to get a feel of starting a game for the Argos this season. He is likely to start the team’s opener as Ricky Ray heals from off-season shoulder surgery. Harris ended up playing the entire first quarter, finishing the game with five completions on eight passes for 61 yards.
Despite not seeing the field after the first 15 minutes, Harris was still observing the action from the sideline. He knows he made some mistakes and bad passes but says he will build and improve on play after watching the film.
“I think we left a lot of plays out there. As a team, we turned the ball over a little bit more than we’d like to. Penalties need to get down,” said Harris in the Varsity Stadium locker room. “I think we made some strides tonight and there were some positive things that came out of it. I thought that we fought in the end and made a nice little comeback and we didn’t die out, we really fought.”
Both Harris and head coach Scott Milanovich praised the team’s young receivers. While Chad Owens and Andre Durie, two reliable veterans, did not play in the exhibition, there will be times this season when the Argos will need to rely on some of its younger guys to step up and produce.
“They’re still in the learning curve, so they do some good things and they do some bad things,” said Milanovich. “That’s the scary part of the early season, is when are the bad things goings to turn up and hurt you in games. We just need to stay on them and continue to help them through the learning progression.”
If there was one rookie standout among the Argos receivers it was Tori Gurley. After signing with Toronto following four NFL seasons, Gurley was an integral part of the team’s comeback effort and hauled in a 72 yard score late in the final frame.
“He’s been impressive really since the day he got here. He made some mistakes tonight lining up, a little this a little that,” said Milanovich. “He fights for the ball. He’s intense. He brings an energy to our sideline. He’s done a heck of a job in the short time he’s been here.”
Adjusting to the CFL game can be difficult for some players. Gurley quickly found that the best way to learn is to experience it first-hand. He credited the coaches for recognizing the defence’s coverage that allowed him to break free but knows his catch doesn’t matter that much without a win.
“I’m tired. There’s no type of conditioning program you can do to simulate this. It’s one of those things you have to learn and execute and compete,” said Gurley in a post-game interview. “I’m very excited about it. My teammates, they’ve done a great job supporting me and showing me how to play this game. I’ve been fortunate to play in the NFL but none of that means anything when I’m out here on the field. I’m a rookie all over again. The coaches are working with me and we’re pushing each other to get this win.
“It’s an offensive league. You can really have the opportunity to make big plays. It’s hard on the defence, but as an offensive player, you still got to execute. We’ll have a lot of tape to watch, a lot of things to correct and be ready to light them up next week.”
Mitchell Gale, who is battling for a final spot on the quarterback depth chart, played the entire second half for the Boatmen. He was on the other end of Gurley’s touchdown catch and gave him most of the credit for the score.
“We got the look we wanted and gave him a chance to go get it,” said Gale. “He’s a freakshow athlete and made me look pretty good. We got a bunch of guys that if you just give them a chance, they’re going to make plays and we’re going to move the ball and score points.”
While a lot of the focus post-game was on what happened on offence, Milanovich made note not to reveal too much defensive strategy in the pre-season.
“I don’t think we showed too much, blitz wise. I thought our defence played well in the first half. For four turnovers and only giving up 13 points, I thought that was pretty darn good.”
The Argos return to training camp before traveling to Montreal for Thursday’s contest.
Short Stay for Kelly
Thursday morning, the Argos announced the release of receiver Aaron Kelly. Kelly signed on the eve of Training Camp and was competing to fill the void left in the starting unit left by John Chiles (NFL).
He spent the last two seasons in Winnipeg. In 26 regular season games, Kelly caught 103 passes for 1,360 yards and six touchdowns. The former Clemson Tiger caught a career-high 43 receptions for 549 receiving yards and three touchdowns with the Bombers last season.
The club also announced Thursday that defensive lineman Dexter Davis has retired. – With files from Argonauts.ca
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