Argos have the will to win

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:04 AM ET

The Argonauts have been buying time, and head coach Jim Barker knows it, but there’s an important distinction.

As the Boatmen find themselves after a pair of disastrous seasons, they’ve been jumping over the missteps and have been winning. Learning on the job in professional sports and coming out the other end with victories is about as common as Lindsay Lohan feel-good stories.

But the Argos have been both resilient and lucky, and returned to practice on Sunday with the weird knowledge that they’re tied with the Montreal Alouettes atop the CFL’s East Division with six points, as a date with the Als at Molson Stadium on Thursday night looms.

“We are a young football team that is still turning the ball over, taking inopportune penalties and things like that,” Barker said after the team’s workout at its Erindale training facility.

“But developing that will to win and that refuse-to-lose mentality, that is what we need to do right now and our guys are grasping that. The day is going to come when hopefully we won’t have to be that way, but right now we are.”

In each of their three wins, the Argos have trailed entering the fourth quarter. Character is bridging the gap until they get to a point where they can win games in hand, assuming it comes.

There won’t be a better early season test than the one they will have in Montreal. The Alouettes simply don’t lose at home, going 10-0 last season (including a playoff triumph at Olympic Stadium) and won their home opener last week against a Hamilton Tiger-Cats team that had trashed the Winnipeg Blue Bombers a week earlier.

Barker hates peering into the past and his players don’t have much interest in it either. But it’s worth mentioning that the Argos were shut out in Montreal last August in their most recent visit. Two years ago, a lopsided loss at McGill represented the guillotine for head coach Rich Stubler, who was fired within 48 hours. No matter what the Argos’ psyche might be, and right now they’re in a good frame of mind, the Alouettes have the potential to upset the cart.

“They have a good team and like always, good teams find a way to win,” Argos tackle Adriano Belli said. “They have (quarterback Anthony) Calvillo and he can pull (stuff) out of his (hat), the way a veteran quarterback should.

“(The Als’ success at home) gives us more incentive to go in there and ruin the party. I can’t wait to see the new stadium. There’s nothing better when there are people in the stands and you shut them up by throwing their quarterback to the dirt.”

Barker doesn’t care that the Alouettes are invincible on their own turf. He’s too concerned with his own team, and the fact that the Argos have not played a solid 60-minute football game in the first four weeks. The hope has to be that this sort of thing doesn’t catch up to them before they can start putting complete games together.

“We have turned it over nine times in the past two games and this week (against B.C.) we had (75) yards in penalties, and we still won,” Barker said. “Normally you have to lose games to learn lessons. But trust me, it was drummed into our team that the way we are playing is not good enough right now, and we need to improve. We have struggled and scratched and clawed.”

Until now, that has been good enough. But against the Alouettes, with Calvillo trading throws with the still-green Cleo Lemon, it certainly will not be.


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