TORONTO — Although there is seething aggression and boundless energy bubbling from every double blue jersey on Toronto’s defence, co-ordinator Chris Jones knows his charges, near the top of most major categories, still lack something they cannot glean on the practice field. He called it consistency last week after a practice.
“We have to find a way to play consistent four quarters … for once,” the coach said.
Defensive tackle Kevin Huntley called it mental toughness.
The evidence agreed with Huntley on Monday night. Despite hammering the B.C. Lions offence for much of four quarters inside Rogers Centre, the Argos defensive energy became reckless for just long enough, manifesting in a needless offside from linebacker Marcus Ball, to allow the Grey Cup champions another desperate thrust into Toronto’s end zone from a yard out to secure 18-9 victory in grinding, painful defensive battle.
Before that, an obvious communication breakdown between defensive backs Evan McCollough and Jalil Carter led to the 58-yard pass play between bruised quarterback Travis Lulay and receiver Ernest Jackson.
The loss breaks Toronto’s two-game winning streak, and was its first loss at home in 2012. Toronto head coach Scott Milanovich regarded his team’s first meeting with B.C. as the Argos biggest measurement of the season, saying every mistake would be magnified, particularly turnovers.
B.C., the coach said Sunday in his pre-game press conference, would exploit every opportunity, and the Argonauts were burned immediately.
Two of quarterback Ricky Ray’s first three passes in the first quarter fell into hands of Lions, first linebacker James Yurichuk then linebacker Adam Bighill, to set up a touchdown pass to receiver Akeem Foster then a 24-yard-old field goal from kicker Paul McCallum to give B.C. a 10-0 lead after six minutes.
Ray, who finished with 215 passing yards and three interceptions, had to rely on a short passing game for most of the first half, since he could see little beyond the white and orange mass moving crowding around him. Sacks from Lions defensive lineman Eric Taylor and Jabar Westerman helped limit the Argos to 93 total yards in the first half.
But the Argos defence flexed just as strong, big hits at a crowded, double blue defensive line of scrimmage from McCollough, cornerback Patrick Watkins and Ronald Flemons meant quarterback Lulay threw only 91 yards in the first half. He finished with 194 yards. Running back Andrew Harris finished with just 57 rushing yards.