Argos not pretty, but a win is a win

BILL LANKHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

HAMILTON -- As masterpieces go, it was more fridge art than Rembrandt.

Still, the Toronto Argonauts were happy to walk away from Ivor Wynne Stadium with their first win in six games yesterday even if coach Michael Clemons deemed it a bit of a muckfest.

Such as when Zeke Moreno stepped in front of Michael Bishop's pass on Toronto's first possession and ran it back for a touchdown. Bishop's much-awaited return from the injury list didn't look any better when minutes later he missed a wide-open Tony Miles near midfield by half a city block. The quarter ended with Bishop getting sacked.

Fortunately, the Argos were playing the Ticats, who might be good in a couple of years but right now would have trouble winning a Father-Son game at the team picnic.

They started rookie quarterback Timmy Chang. The Toronto defence had him on the run so much an FBI witness protection program couldn't have helped him. He lasted all of one half, completing just five passes.

The Argos defence spent more time in the Hamilton backfield than some of the Ticats' running backs. The game began with Argos' lineman Riall Johnson throwing Chang for a nine-yard loss.

"If he completes that first pass maybe things turn out differently. It takes a while to get your rhythm especially when things don't go well early," Argos coach Michael (Pinball) Clemons said.

If anyone would know about things not going well it would be Clemons. He has become an expert this year, but in this instance, he was being charitable.

So the game ended much as it began -- with Johnson forcing third-string quarterback Richie Williams. By then many of the 28,644 fans already were back in their livingrooms. By then, the fact the Ticats actually had managed to hold a lead in this game was mostly forgotten by the disgruntled Labour Day crowd that had seen their team fumble three times, their quarterback sacked six times and the hated Argos resuscitate their playoff hopes.

"Everyone figured we'd fold when we lost (five straight) but we never gave up and as comebacks go this is a wonderful start," cornerback Byron Parker said. "As a defence we wanted to get pressure (on Chang) because we thought it would mess up his reads."

Parker's interception, on a ball tipped by Kevin Eiben, went for a touchdown to open the second quarter to make it 14-8 in favour of Toronto. By the time the first half ended, Chang had been tossed for losses four times and had just 44 net yards passing. The rookie quarterback experiment was on hold.

The Ticats went to veteran Jason Maas but the Toronto defence didn't treat him with much more respect, although a late touchdown made the score more respectable than it probably deserved to be.

Bishop got it going eventually. The Ticats never did.

"It seemed like it took our guys a while to get used to having (Bishop) back. The defence really did do their job, like always. They kept us in there until Michael gained his rhythm," Clemons said.

The rhythm in the Argos clubhouse was rap. Players danced. Laughed. Forgotten was that failure to push in from the three-yard line on three attempts in the second half.

Parker preferred to recall linemen Jonathan Brown, Ronald Flemons and Adriano Belli, who controlled the line of scrimmage: "Our line was getting great pressure the whole game."

Amid the bedlam of the dressing room, veteran Mike O'Shea sat quietly, more relieved than exuberant.

FIGHT

"We certainly have had to fight for everything this year ... we've had a lot of moments that have been very frustrating," O'Shea said.

For one afternoon it was good enough. This was a game that the Argos had to win and they did. They have their starting quarterback back -- and they have their dreams back. "What happened earlier this season doesn't matter now," O'Shea said. "As players you live in the moment. And, now we have keep winning. The playoffs have come early for us."


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