MONTREAL -- Among his many football talents, Michael Bishop can hit a receiver on the run from half a field away.
But whether he can hold off Kerry Joseph is another matter.
The stakes in the Argos' quarterbacking picture were raised considerably last night at Percival Molson Stadium as both Bishop and Joseph performed with little rust in Toronto's pre-season opener, which ended in a 34-34 tie against the Montreal Alouettes.
Bishop hit former NFLer Bethel Johnson with a 77-yard strike on the Argos' first play from scrimmage for an instant lead, and Joseph showed flashes of the efficiency that helped him take the CFL's most outstanding player honours last season when he was with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
"Both of them were pretty damn good," Argos head coach Rich Stubler said. "Bish was able to get the ball out there and it was an easy play for us. Joseph did a great job. He came in and put up the points, controlled the offence, did exactly what he was asked to do."
Bishop started, and after finding Johnson for the touchdown while the butter on the popcorn still was warm, continued to move at break-neck speed. On the Argos' next possession, Bishop ran for 18 yards, completed passes of 36 yards and 17 yards to Arland Bruce and Obed Cetoute and then plunged in from one yard to give the Argos a 14-0 lead before the game was four minutes old.
Bishop, who re-entered the game briefly in the fourth quarter when Reggie McNeal aggravated a pulled hamstring, finished with 140 yards passing on four completions in six attempts.
IT IS WHAT IT IS
"If (the Argos' coaching staff) think it is a statement, that may be what it is," said Bishop, who started 12 games last season. "Whatever happens, happens. We're fighting for the position right now and you want to go out and play your best. For the first performance, I feel like I did pretty good."
Where Bishop was a bit more about the pomp in the first quarter, Joseph, with the Argos down 24-17, might have been a tad more methodical when he got into the game for the third. Joseph marched the Argos down the field in his first crack as the team's quarterback, ending in a 44-yard field goal by Robert Eeuwes. A three-yard run by Andre Durie and a 14-yard pass to Bruce resulted in touchdowns to put the Argos ahead 34-24 heading into the fourth quarter.
"You just want to get into a rhythm of things after six months of laying off, and it was good," Joseph said. "We have a lot of talent on the field. I was able to spread the ball around."
Joseph connected on five of his nine attempts, good for 63 yards. Another important newcomer, kicker/punter Mike Vanderjagt -- who connected on a 15-yard field goal -- said he felt comfortable after playing in his first CFL game since the 1997 Grey Cup.
Jamal Robertson rushed five times for 29 yards, while Durie had five carries for 26 yards.
Stubler, who indicated he will make cuts tomorrow, looked past the 34 points his team gave up, pointing out that his regular starters were not on the field for many of them.
"I thought our first group performed very well," Stubler said. "We did not give them a lot of plays.
"We need to solidify who we are going to be playing (with each other once the roster is set) and have them play together."
WORKING IT OUT
The Argos did not see the full extent of the Alouettes' lineup as quarterback Anthony Calvillo and receiver Ben Cahoon, among other valuable Montreal veterans, did not dress. With many of last year's starters resuming their usual roles, the Argos got some early kinks out of the way. Head coach Rich Stubler could not have been happy that Seante Williams and Chris Hardy were called for roughing the passer on separate plays late in the game. After the call against Hardy, Damon Duval hit a 40-yard field goal with 56 seconds remaining to tie the game 34-34.
PLAY OF THE GAME
This one came as many of the sold-out crowd of 20,202 at the Percival Molson Stadium hadn't yet put their butts in their seats. Argos quarterback Michael Bishop hit a blazing Bethel Johnson for a 77-yard touchdown at the 23-second mark.
Already without Calvillo, the Alouettes lost backup Marcus Brady, a former Argo, in the pre-game warmup to a minor back injury. Montreal head coach Marc Trestman had tabbed Brady to start. Brad Banks got the start and was impressive in his quarter-plus night of work.
"We are another year older they say, but I like to think we have another year of experience. I'm excited about what we're doing and I like the make-up of our team."
-- Argos coach Stubler, after the walkthrough on Wednesday.