Argos hang on to edge Als

Chad Owens tumbles into the end zone for one of his two first-half TDs in Friday's 23-20 win over...

Chad Owens tumbles into the end zone for one of his two first-half TDs in Friday's 23-20 win over the Alouettes in Montreal. (Ben Pelosse/QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:29 PM ET

MONTREAL - Only with the benefit of perspective and time can one begin to put into context what the Argonauts accomplished here on Friday night.

A win, naturally, is always the desired outcome, no matter how it is achieved, no matter the margin, no matter what deficiencies surface.

But there was something uniquely special associated with Toronto’s 23-20 nailbiter over the host Alouettes, a game that was explosive at the start — the pigskin flying through the air with players making one big play after another — only to morph into a defensive chess match, a battle of wits that ultimately was decided by guile and guts.

In all three Argos wins five games into the season, each has gone down to the wire, in two cases literally on the final play.

Against Calgary, it was a Noel Prefontaine field goal with no time on the clock that would serve as a the game-winner.

Against the Als here on Friday night, the Argos watched as Sean Whyte’s potential game-tying field goal on the final play of the game from 54 yards out came up short.

Despite the second-half struggles by his offence, despite the first-half difficulties by his defence, Argos head coach Scott Milanovich knew the magnitude of this win and of this night, his first back in Montreal where he once guided Anthony Calvillo as Marc Trestman’s right-hand man.

“It was time for us to put a good win together,’’ began Milanovich, whose team is now 3-2 and in first place in the East pending the outcome of Hamilton’s visit to Saskatchewan on Saturday.

On Thursday, when Milanovich and his staff met with the players, the rookie head coach sensed an edge he had yet to feel, a mindset he had a feeling would bode well.

“Our guys had an edge tonight (Friday),’’ he said. “We felt it in the meeting room. These guys wanted it. We hadn’t played well on the road and I just knew they’d hung tough for 60 minutes and really play hard.”

Good teams find a way, even when they can’t summon their best.

The Argos were far from good, but they were good enough when they had to be good.

In the case of the offence, it would be the first half when quarterback Ricky Ray was unstoppable, the only glitch being a holding call that negated a touchdown pass.

In the first half, Chad Owens produced two receiving touchdowns in helping the Argos score 20 points.

In the second half, the Als played more zone and weren’t as vulnerable down the field, or in yielding passes to Owens that he would turn up-field.

Pass protection would become an issue for the Boatmen, an inability to run the football and an injury to starting left tackle Wayne Smith.

What saved the Argos was the booming foot of rookie Swayze Waters, who came through with three field goals on the night, including two from 50 yards.

Ultimately, his second 50-yarder would be the difference.

“We need to find a way to put a full game together,’’ said Milanovich.

Given the newness of this Argos group, it’s asking a lot for all three phases to play at a high level for an entire game.

Instead, what the Argos have done is play well enough when it’s absolutely required, which is fine when a team is 3-2 and shows glimpses of becoming the finished product.

When a punt cover was needed, the Argos came through, though it’s obvious that more work is needed.

Jason Pottinger isn’t the answer, but his presence is being felt and there’s a chance the McMaster University product may be ready to return for Toronto’s home game against the B.C. Lions on Aug. 6.

Defensively, the Argos overcame bodies going down to some questionable plays by the Als and an injury to corner Pat Watkins, who had a great end-zone pick, late in the night that forced free safety Jordan Younger to slide over to corner and Matt Black to take Younger’s spot.

Even as Calvillo’s quick release would prevent the Argos from recording a sack, they finally did late in the game on a play that was as big as any of Owens’ touchdowns or his near-touchdown on a return that featured a high tackle by Kyries Hebert.

More than anything, the Argos did not commit a single turnover, which is key when playing on the road, especially in this CFL season when only two teams have been successful on the road.

On Friday, Toronto became the third team to win on the road this season — Saskatchewan and Edmonton being the others.

“When you don’t turn the ball over, you give yourself a chance and that’s all you can ask,’’ said Ray.


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