In my pre-game post, I said it was pretty hard to imagine the Riders losing this game. That’s not to say I expected a blow-out. Coming off an emotional two-game sweep of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Labour Day home-and-home, and with a key match-up against division rival B.C. at Mosaic Stadium on Sept. 24, it was not inconceivable that the Riders might come out a little flat.
As for the Argos, on defense they boast perhaps the top front seven in the league. With kicker Noel Prefontaine and returner Chad Owens, they’re pretty solid on special teams too. Offense is definitely their weak spot. When healthy, running back Cory Boyd is one of the best in the league, but quarterbacking has long been an issue with the Boatmen. But last October, if you recall, they waltzed into Mosaic a week after losing to the Riders 27-16 in Toronto and beat the Riders 24-19. And QB Steven Jyles, who replaced former pivot Cleo Lemon after the Argos Labour Day loss to the Lions, figured to be sharper with another game under his belt.
For the upteenth time this season, the Riders were slow out of the gate. On Toronto’s first offensive series, the punt return team was caught flat-footed on a well-executed fake that saw Prefontaine complete a 39 yard pass to linebacker (!) Jeremy Unertl. That set up the first of four first-half field goals for the Double Blue. It could’ve been much worse. Toronto owned a 20 to 10 minute advantage in time of possession, and moved the ball well on the ground, with Jyles and Boyd using an option hand-off effectively — Boyd sometimes crashing inside, Jyles sometimes escaping contain and scrambling for good yardage. The Argos also had an edge on special teams, and enjoyed good field postion throughout the half. But while the Rider D did plenty of bending, it didn’t break.
On the Riders first play from scrimmage QB Darian Durant hooked up with receiver Andy Fantuz. It would be Fantuz’s only catch of the day, as he was forced to leave with a high ankle sprain, and spent the rest of the game watching from the sidelines. It wasn’t until late in the half that the Riders finally broke through. They did it in bang-bang fashion, with Durant hitting Chris Getzlaf (pictured) with consecutive strikes of 28 and 27 yards — the second resulting in Getzlaf’s fifth TD in three games. The Argos added a late field goal, and led 12-7 at the half.
Building on the momentum of their late first half drive, the Riders scored their second TD early in the third quarter on a five yard sweep by Weston Dressler. It was set up by another Durant-Getzlaf pitch and catch — this one going for 64 yards. Toronto answered with a TD of their own when Jyles hit Andre Durie on a well-thrown 32 yard pass just inside the flag.
From that point, the Riders enjoyed the better of the play. On defence, they forced three turnovers — an interception by James Patrick, a fumble recovery by DT Dario Romero, and a late pick that Chris McKenzie returned 33 yards for a TD (his second in two games) to put the Riders up by ten. Offensively, the team didn’t capitalize on the turnovers as efficiently as they could have, settling for three field goals by Chris Milo (one an 11-yard chip shot). But they did move the ball more effectively than in the first half. Getzlaf led all receivers with 7 catches for 170 yards.
In a post-game TSN interview, Durant said “It wasn’t pretty but we got the win and that’s all that matters”. That’s true, but next up for the Riders are the red-hot B.C. Lions who toppled the hot-and-cold Stampeders tonight in Calgary 32-19. The Riders have the Lions at home twice in the next month, so with a sweep could make up ground in the playoff race. But it won’t be an easy task. Stephen LaRose will be at the game and will be filing pre-and post-game reports.