MONTREAL -- Almost all of his teammates were gone, but Mike O'Shea, in full uniform, leaned on his locker yesterday, trying to come to grips with fact he and the Argonauts will not compete for the Grey Cup next month.
"It's very hard to figure out where it all started to unravel," the veteran linebacker, wet in the eyes, said. "If I could pinpoint it, I would make every effort ... Coach (Don) Matthews comes in and there is that reassurance you are going to win the Grey Cup.
"We're not going to, and it's not even November yet. It's a strange feeling. Not something I am used to, not something I like."
The fate of the Argos in 2008 became official at the Rogers Centre late yesterday afternoon, but their seventh consecutive loss didn't unfold as many thought it might.
Toronto gave the Montreal Alouettes, already the regular season East Division champions, a good run in a 43-34 loss, but penalties tripped up the home side.
Thirteen times the Argos were whistled for transgressions, resulting in 131 yards against and six Montreal first downs.
The Argos defence, for which Matthews has not had the Midas touch, couldn't stop Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo from another solid performance.
Calvillo threw for four touchdowns, putting him at 42 for the season, and 336 yards. The fact that Kerry Joseph became the first Argos quarterback since 2005 to throw for 400 yards -- he hit 400 spot on before a crowd of 30,262, and his three touchdowns passes account for one-third of his total this season -- meant little.
"I would trade the stats for a win in a heartbeat," Joseph said. "We have been scratching and fighting for a win and to drop seven straight has been tough on everybody. I don't even know the last time I had seven straight losses. It's tough. You come into the season to get into the post-season."
Arland Bruce caught a 12-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to reach 1,000 receiving yards for the season. Andre Talbot caught a 19-yard touchdown pass on the Argos' first drive after Will Poole picked off Calvillo and, in the fourth quarter, quarterback-turned-receiver Reggie McNeal caught a 91-yard pass for a TD and the Argos' longest reception this year.
The game was close, but with less than five minutes left, Brian Bratton scampered past Kenny Heatly for a 36-yard touchdown to finally kill the Argos' playoff hopes.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers clinched second in the East and the final playoff spot with the Argos' loss.
"My true disappointment is we had 13 penalties that probably cost us the game," Matthews said.