Argos follow the leader

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:15 AM ET

WINNIPEG — The growth of Argonauts quarterback Cleo Lemon in the second game of the season from the opener was a thing to behold.

While Lemon didn’t shred the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ defence on Friday night in a 36-34 Toronto victory, passing for 192 yards, he managed the game a lot better than he did a week earlier.

Consider that the Argos had the football for almost 33 minutes against the Blue Bombers, a large improvement over their game against Calgary, when time of possession was less than 18 minutes.

Lemon simply was more comfortable, a process that head coach Jim Barker predicted would evolve.

Lemon actually moved the Argos offence down the field versus the Bombers, a concept that’s a bit alien to hardcore Argos fans. The 36 points scored by Toronto, and granted, one touchdown came off a spectacular return by Chad Owens, equalled their season high of a year ago.

The difference is that while last year it was a blip, there’s confidence in the locker room that more points will be put on the board with Lemon under centre.

And when Lemon missed just one series after taking a hard hit while scoring a touchdown in the third quarter, the respect factor among his teammates grew (just to be sure, Lemon didn’t have any concussion symptoms after the game).

“That’s the kind of leader we want and that is the kind of leader we need,” offensive lineman Taylor Robertson said.

“Come back to the huddle, take charge and lead us down the field. He is progressing every day, and you know what, Jim is right, every snap is huge.

“From last week to (Friday night), it is pretty damn good for a guy who had never even heard of the CFL until a month ago.”

Lemon was sacked just once, and got lots of protection from an offensive line.

When a quarterback has time to make decisions, it’s little wonder the offence hums.

“Absolutely, it matters to us,” Robertson said.

“Last year was bad for us, top to bottom, especially up front, whether it was schemes or how we played. Whatever it was, it was rough.

“To win this game, and I’m not saying we dominated, but to have this momentum and the positivity that will come out of it, will help us jell. We have to build on it.”

Not surprisingly, Barker was presented with one of the game balls in Winnipeg. And it was not just because of the fact Barker had his first coaching victory in seven years.

There’s a positive energy in the locker room, even after the loss last week, and to a man the players say it’s the work of Barker.

With the support of Barker, it’s not a coincidence that Lemon took such a big step forward.

“It’s all an attitude,” tackle Adriano Belli said. “Winning is contagious, but losing is contagious. Barker has come in with the attitude that if we don’t win — it’s wrong.

“He’s a motivator. He reminds me of (Don) Matthews in that sense. Teams can swing one way, and sometimes all it needs is a spark.”

A challenge for the youthful Argos before they play host to the Stampeders on Wednesday night is forgetting that the win happened.

It’s one thing to celebrate it, but it’s another to put the triumph in context. There are 16 games remaining in the regular season, after all.

“We’ll help the young guys who have never experienced a quick turnaround like this,” running back Jeff Johnson, the longest-serving CFL player on the Argos roster, said.

“But we know we can win every week. Not letting down, getting the momentum back — that’s the sign of a team that has matured.”


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