TORONTO — Rob Murphy thinks that Wally Buono is a great guy and, not long ago, gladly would have gone through a wall for the B.C. Lions boss.
But with a major milestone looming for the general manager and head coach of the Lions, Murphy, who has helped ignite a large improvement in the Argonauts’ offensive line, has zero interest in being witness to history.
Buono’s next coaching victory will give him 232 in the Canadian Football League, putting him one ahead of co-leader Don Matthews.
“I’m sure Wally will hit it, but I will do everything in my power to have it not happen (tomorrow night),” Murphy said Thursday before the Argos flew to Vancouver.
“I have great respect for Wally and the entire Lions organization. They started my CFL career so I am forever indebted for that. It’s good to go back.”
Before signing with Toronto as a free agent this past winter, Murphy patrolled the offensive line for the Lions for three years and won a Grey Cup with B.C. in 2006. He returns to the west coast as part of a rebuilding team and acknowledged his comfort level with the Argos and the O-line is where it should be. It took a while for that to happen.
Since the Argos were crushed 25-0 in Montreal by the Alouettes on Aug. 7, a brutal loss which featured seven sacks by the Als, Murphy and his four cohorts along the line have jelled, allowing just nine sacks in the past four games. It’s not a coincidence that quarterback Cody Pickett, who will make his fifth start in a row tomorrow, has had a bit more time to throw the ball than did Kerry Joseph.
“He has made great strides in terms of playing within our scheme since the Montreal game,” Argos head coach Bart Andrus said of Murphy.
“His feet are better, he is keeping better balance, he is not getting overextended, he is not giving up the edges and he is not getting beaten inside like he was. The rapport he has with Jeff Keeping at left guard has helped him tremendously.”
The 6-foot-4, 307-pound Murphy said the familiarity with those around him has been the biggest reason for the turnaround.
“We’ve gone through some bumps — and I’m not saying there won’t be more — but I think we have cleared some big hurdles in the past three or four weeks,” Murphy said. “Everyone is in the same place and when you build that continuity, it just gets better. Each week we are taking steps toward when it counts the most — the end of the year.”
The Argos have not won in B.C. since 2002, and their overall nine-game losing streak to the Lions is their longest such skid against any CFL enemy.
“This is quite a trip and our guys are up for it,” Andrus said. “The work ethic (in practice) has not changed (after beating Hamilton last week). They have a reason to be upbeat.”
Buck Pierce is expected to start at QB for the Lions as Jarious Jackson is nursing a shoulder injury.