Ticats-style football gets Argos back on track

BILL LANKHOF -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

Good thing John Avery is a standup comedian when he isn't moonlighting as a Toronto running back. This Argonaut season should give him a lifetime worth of material.

Avery ran the ball 14 times in his season debut last night, collecting 74 yards in Toronto's win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The stats say his longest run was 12 yards. Not true, he said.

"I couldn't wait. I had to go to the bathroom so bad," he said of his second quarter dash along the sideline to the locker room.

It's not every player who can say his longest run of the game was to the bathroom. A guy can never get a timeout when he really needs one. "Never happened before," he said, grinning. Must've been the excitement. Or the gallon of water he drank. Either way, for Avery this was a night of sweet vindication. He kept his mouth shut when the team went out and got Ricky Williams. He has suffered through two seasons of injury. "A lot of people thought I couldn't play anymore.

"Tonight I was John Avery. You miss it so much when you're not healthy. It was hard dealing with all the criticism. All the people telling me this guy is better than me. That I can't get it done. God kept me through it."

Well, God and the sense of humor that makes him show up at last night's game in Scooby-Doo pants.

Avery's performance restored a little faith in an Argonauts team that had performed the past few weeks with a laugh track. Like last night when the Argos and Ticats took turns tripping over each others futility. First half: Argos 3, Ticats 1 and with less than a minute to play: One press box wag noted, "I know it looks close but if the Ticats can get a power play I think they can pop in a couple."

They couldn't, of course, managing just 90 net yards in the half. And, with less than a minute remaining in the half the Argos scored their first touchdown in two weeks. Good things were happening: Who would have guessed. They came into this game with huge questions hanging over them.

Truth is, it was either win last night or, with games coming against Montreal and Winnipeg, face the stark potential of heading into Labor Day with a 2-8 record. They got an early break when they got through the pregame warmup without anyone getting run over by the Tiger mascots minibike or being hit farce-first with a beer belch from a Ticats' faithful.

Filing into the dressing room everyone got the big pre-game high five from coach Pinball. Some times this is the sign of celebration. On the the Argos it's the signal players give to signify they're still alive. Or, at least, not so completely comatose as that 2-5 record might've indicated.

Truth is, if Allen didn't come through with a break-through performance, the whispers about whether he'd ever recover from his hand injury would become louder and more insistent. And, his game started with all the promise of a Hollywood wedding. Allen completed his first pass. Avery had an eight-yard run and a pass to R. Jay Soward got the Argos past centre for the first time in two games. A national holiday should've been declared. Instead they turned the ball over. They forced a Ticats' punt but ... oops, the Argos had too many men on the field. Now they can't count to 12 anymore?

On the Argos' next drive Allen was sacked, almost had a fumble and penalties put them at third and 36. Good thing they had to punt or they'd have ended up scoring on their own endzone. "Early in the game we had protection breakdowns. I told the guys give me time," Allen said. "The guys are getting open. Once we settled down we were able to run our offence."

And, it was a thing of beauty: Allen zipping balls to Arland Bruce; Avery friskier than a colt in spring. "Sitting hurt," but, Avery said he was pleased the team stuck with him through injury. "David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski are two great owners, and I don't dream about men often. But I wanted to pay them back."

Someone put the undertaker on hold. The Argos live another week.


Videos

Photos