EDMONTON — Cleo Lemon had his best game as an Argonaut on Friday night, and in doing so, cemented further his status on the field and in the locker room.
There’s no position more crucial in professional football than that of quarterback, and it’s incumbent on the guy taking snaps to mould the team into his own.
Lemon took a large step toward that with his performance against the Edmonton Eskimos, a game the Argos won at Commonwealth Stadium by one point when Lemon marched them nearly the entire length of the football field, culminating in a one-yard touchdown rush by Cory Boyd in the final minute.
That gave the Argos their fourth victory in six games to end the first third of the 2010 regular season at 4-2, and hands up, all none of you, who saw that coming.
“You prepare hard and get ready to play, but getting the game action is the key,” Lemon said. “For us to have six games under our belt, we’re moving in the right direction and it is a team effort. You are seeing us grow as an offence.
“It is good to have some individual success, but it is all about winning.”
True, Lemon lit up an Eskimos team that is struggling and witnessed the firing of general manager Danny Maciocia. But the Argos said they would respond after the Montreal Alouettes put them over their knees for a harsh spanking a week earlier, and saw the one-win Eskimos as a test. The defence faltered in the third quarter, but even after Lemon threw an interception that led to a third consecutive Eskimos touchdown, there was no rattling of composure.
This is how the steady Lemon wins over his teammates. He demonstrated a steely approach after a bit of a hue and cry that maybe backup Dalton Bell should get a chance to start.
“Cleo was great,” Argos head coach Jim Barker said. “He was in control, in command, had pressure and he found guys down the field.
“Everything that happens, the game is going to slow down for him. It just takes time, like anything else.”
Lemon has been getting protection from the offensive line, but on Friday, made smart decisions with more regularity. More than once, Lemon held on to the football long enough for receivers to get open. That aided in a season-high 23 completions and 292 yards in the air.
Running back Cory Boyd said he wouldn’t mind getting the ball more, and Lemon obliged, handing off to his star rusher 25 times on Boyd’s 25th birthday.
“Sometimes I kind of catch myself because I am a fan after handing it off and watching him run instead of carrying out my fakes,” Lemon said. “Just to see him break tackles, it is tremendous.”
Boyd, who the Argos slapped on their negotiation list not long after he turned pro a few years ago, has been taking the accolades with a shrug.
“I just run,” Boyd said. “I don’t pay attention if I drag (defensive) guys along. The offensive line sees it and it gets them up.”
As much as Boyd has carried the Argos through a half-dozen games, it’s clear that Lemon is becoming the guy who the rest will follow.
“He is learning on the run, quite frankly, and that’s what everybody loves about Cleo: He knows this is a learning experience and he accepts that,” offensive lineman Rob Murphy said. “You look in Cleo’s eyes, and you know we are going to get down the field one way or another.”