The questions about who will be the Argos' starting quarterback can be put to rest, even if head coach Rich Stubler is loathe to acknowledge as much.
Kerry Joseph was not lights out for the Argos last night in a 28-21 pre-season loss against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but he had a much better evening at the office than his counterpart, incumbent Michael Bishop.
Stubler sang the same tune he carried through camp, saying after the game he still felt like he had two starters. But where Joseph, the CFL's reigning most outstanding player, completed eight of 18 passes for 147 yards and ran for a touchdown, Bishop performed as though he was on the football field for the first time.
Bishop, who took over in the second half after Joseph played the first, threw three interceptions and completed three of 12 attempts for a grand total of 21 yards.
It's hard to envision anyone but Joseph taking the first snap next Friday when the Argos open the regular season in Winnipeg against the Blue Bombers. He was cool in the pocket and managed to get the Argos out of trouble at times when field position was not good.
"I never make excuses for anybody," Stubler said of Bishop. "I have to watch film a little bit more to find out what it was that ailed him, but I know he pressed a bit to get the ball down the field."
Bishop was long gone by the time reporters entered the Argos' locker room. Joseph was asked whether he finds it odd that he has not been tabbed as the No. 1 quarterback by Stubler.
"Hey, I'm just glad to be here," Joseph said. "I feel comfortable. As a team we want to accomplish one thing and I just want to worry about that. I made some plays and missed some also. It's a work in progress."
And, if possible, let's forget about the quarterbacking theme for a second. Former NFL speedster Bethel Johnson continued to shine. With Toronto down 18-14 early in the fourth quarter after two Nick Setta field goals put the visitors ahead, Johnson took a 41-yard Setta punt and blazed 76 yards for a touchdown. On the game's first play from scrimmage, Johnson weaved 46 yards through the Ticats defence after hauling in a pass from Joseph.
Stubler is thrilled with the smart tandem he has at running back with Dominique Dorsey and Jamal Robertson as each gives opposing defences different looks. Dorsey is an electrifying player who can find the holes and dart through them with ease, while Robertson relies more on an ability to punch through blocks.
But special teams concerns Stubler, though he did single out rookie Jean-Nicholas Carriere for his strong play.
"Special teams were horrendous," Stubler said. "The kickoff teams have not been good. Some of the young guys stepped up and some didn't. Some won't be going down the road."
An interested observer last night was receiver David Boston, who has been placed on the suspended list by the Argos after he arrived at camp with a foot injury. Boston is itching to get back on the field, and indicated it could be sooner than many expected.
"I'm going to start practising whenever the next practice is and whenever they let me play, I am ready to roll," the former NFLer said. "This is where I want to play."
More cuts are coming as the Argos have to be down to their 46-man roster by tomorrow night.
LAST NIGHT AT ROGERS CENTRE
The Argos had not lost a game of any kind -- pre-season, regular season or playoff -- to Hamilton on home turf since July 20, 2001. That nine-game streak ended last night. Quinton Porter ran in from nine yards for a touchdown with just over a minute left, not long after Nick Setta hit a 30-yard field goal to tie the game 21-21.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Bethel Johnson picked up where he left off a week ago, weaving through the Hamilton defence to gain 46 yards on the first pass of the game from quarterback Kerry Joseph. A couple of plays later, Dominique Dorsey ran in for a touchdown.
The crowd of 21,422 let out a collective gasp when Joseph was rocked by Ticats all-star linebacker Zeke Moreno after scrambling to get out of trouble in the first quarter. But Joseph's durability allowed him to bounce back up like nothing had happened.
"I think Kerry (Joseph) being here will help push (Michael) Bishop to another level as a professional. They will both do that for each other. We will probably see both of those guys (during the season)."
-- Argos receiver Andre Talbot on the competition between quarterbacks Joseph and Michael Bishop.