WOLFVILLE — The Toronto Argonauts found a way to make a big splash at Touchdown Atlantic.
In front of a sellout crowd of 10,866 at Acadia’s Raymond Field, the Argos got a miracle pick-six from linebacker Wynton McManis to upend the Saskatchewan Roughriders 30-24.
The Argos’ late dramatics upended what would have been a perfect homecoming for Truro, N.S. native and Riders’ kicker Brett Lauther, who made three of four field goals and put his team in front late in the game with a 31-yard field goal.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson made 26 of 37 passes for 276 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Cody Fajardo was 24-34 for 284 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
The Argos improved to 2-2 with their win, while the Riders now sit at 4-2.
After both teams received a warm welcome from the crowd at Raymond Field, the Riders got to work, taking the ball to the Argos’ 34-yard line. Brett Lauther stepped up for the field goal attempt but saw his 42-yarder go wide to the right. The resulting single got the Riders on the board first, 3:30 into the game.
Lauther made up for the miss at 12:35 of the first quarter, when he lined up a 36-yarder to put the Riders up 4-0.
The Argos generated their first meaningful drive of the game in the late stages of the first quarter. Highlighted by a 15-yard run by Bethel-Thompson that got Toronto to Saskatchewan’s 16-yard line, the Argos’ pivot capped the drive by finding DaVaris Daniels for a seven-yard touchdown pass, 16 seconds into the second quarter. Boris Bede‘s extra point gave the Argos a 7-4 lead.
The Riders’ response was a quick one. Jamal Morrow‘s 51-yard run got his team up to Toronto’s 17-yard line, but the drive stalled out when Fajardo was sacked by Shawn Oakman. Fajardo came out of the pile of bodies favouring his left knee, which he’s been wearing a brace on. After head coach Craig Dickenson lost a roughing the passer challenge on the play, the Riders settled for Lauther’s second field goal of the day, this one from 29 yards out to tie the game 7-7.
The Riders’ defence made its presence felt on the ensuing drive. Bethel-Thompson looked to Kurleigh Gittens Jr. on the sideline, but was intercepted by the recently signed Blace Brown, setting the Riders’ offence up at their own 41-yard line. With a chance to add to their lead, the Riders took a two-and-out on the possession.
The Argos’ defence struck back with an interception of its own. Royce Metchie pulled in his first pick of the season, corralling the ball in almost the same spot that Brown got his interception. The Argos would make good on their opportunity, though. Bethel-Thompson found a wide open Cam Phillips for a 40-yard touchdown connection, after Brandon Banks dropped a pass on the prior, similar play. Bede’s convert put the Argos up 14-7 at 12:35.
Fajardo and the Riders weren’t deterred. The quarterback led a six-play drive up the field, with Morrow pushing the ball across the goal line at the end of a 13-yard run. Lauther’s convert knotted the game at 14 at 13:59.
Bede closed out the first half with a 13-yard field goal to give the Argos a 17-14 halftime lead.
The back-and-forth scoring took a break in the second half, as each team’s defence dug in. Bede doubled his team’s lead at the 7:02 mark of the third quarter, with a 42-yard field goal and Global punter John Haggerty pushed the Argos’ lead to seven at the 3:24 mark of the fourth, on a 59-yard punt single.
With the midpoint of the fourth looming, the Riders’ offence finally sparked again. Fajardo found rookie receiver Sam Emilus for a 26-yard gain, then connected with Duke Williams for a 32-yard catch-and-run that brought the star receiver into the end zone. Lauther’s extra point tied the game 21-21 at 6:01.
With the clock ticking away, Fajardo continued to sling it. He aired out a 44-yard pass to Kian Schaffer-Baker to get to the midfield mark. A pair of dropped Rider passes sent Lauther out to make a 31-yard field goal that put the Riders up 24-21 with 4:41 to play.
The Argos had a chance to tie with 2:47 left, but Bede’s 42-yard field goal drifted to the left and got his team a point, leaving them trailing 24-22.
Bad luck was an equal opportunist, though.
With the ball at his own 40-yard line and the game almost in hand, Fajardo was intercepted by Argos’ linebacker Wynton McManis, who bolted 49 yards to the Riders’ end zone, putting his team up four. Bethel-Thompson found Brandon Banks in the end zone for a two-point convert and in the blink of an eye, the Argos had a 30-24 lead with 2:06 remaining.
The Riders got as far as their own 51-yard line before Fajardo threw a deep pass over the middle. The ball was deflected and pulled in by a grounded Shaq Richardson.
After all of those fireworks, both teams will pack up and meet again next week in Regina, where the Riders will host the Argos on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.