Don Matthews' insistence that the Argonauts have improved under his watch took a big hit late Saturday night.
Playing in their penultimate game of the 2008 CFL regular season, the Argos allowed a season-high in points in a 55-32 mauling courtesy of the B.C. Lions. The Argos fell to 4-13, and have lost eight in a row -- their longest skid since falling in nine consecutive games in 1995 -- including all seven with Matthews running the show.
"It looked like three different games to me," Matthews told reporters. "The first one, we turned the ball over and they jumped on top of us.
"The second game, we battled and made it a football game. The third game was the part where we just ran out of gas and got our ass kicked."
The Lions have dominated the Argos like no other team in the past few years. Toronto has lost its past eight to B.C., with its most recent triumph in 2004.
Quarterback Kerry Joseph, who was relieved by Cody Pickett in the fourth quarter, threw for 276 yards and three touchdowns. But he was intercepted once and was sacked six times by a relentless Lions defence that got no challenge from the Argos offensive line. The Argos, as has been the case in most games this year, were hurt by errors. Toronto committed three turnovers, leading to 21 B.C. points.
Arland Bruce and P.K. Sam, with the first two touchdowns of his CFL career, recorded two majors each for the Argos. Bruce led Toronto's receivers with 102 yards, while Jamal Robertson had a team-high 81 yards on the ground.
The Lions built a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter, getting one touchdown when Cameron Wake returned a Joseph fumble 45 yards. Charles Roberts, less than five minutes later, ran in for a touchdown from seven yards. Roberts later suffered a torn Achilles and is done for the rest of the season.
Joseph found Sam from 21 yards and Bruce from 26 yards in the first half, but Toronto was losing 25-14 after 30 minutes. A safety and a seven-yard touchdown to Bruce brought the Argos within a couple of points, but when Jarious Jackson ran in from one yard for a Lions touchdown with just under five minutes to play in the third quarter, the Argos stopped being a threat.
The Argos, in their final game of the season, will get a good look at a former teammate on Thursday night when the Saskatchewan Roughriders visit. Quarterback Michael Bishop, traded in August, has been tabbed by 'Riders head coach Ken Miller to start.
If Saskatchewan wins and the Lions lose in Calgary, the Roughriders will secure second place in the West Division and will play host to the West semifinal. If the Argos win, the Lions will play host to the semifinal against Saskatchewan.
"My plans are to start Michael in Toronto and if he's able to generate offence, to go with him through the playoffs," Miller said.