At least Lemon didn't blow it for Argos

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

HAMILTON — You could feel that Argonauts coach Jim Barker was waiting for it, just was waiting for some poor sap with a microphone to ask him about his quarterback Cleo Lemon.

Lemon had, again, underachieved, but this time the first year CFL QB limited his mistakes enough to allow his defence and running back Cory Boyd to lift the Argos to a 16-13 win over the Ticats in the Eastern Conference semi-final.

“The quarterback? The quarterback won a playoff game,” said Barker, his voice rising. “He’s one game away from winning the Grey Cup.”

(He’s actually two wins away from winning the Grey Cup).

In any event, just as Barker was set to continue, a drunken Ticats fan presented himself directly behind the Argos coach and yelled in his ear: “Ticats rule! ... next year.”

Barker turned around and glared at the lout, who then averted his eyes to the floor and added sheepishly: “Congratulations Mister.”

By the time the fan had been pushed away, Barker was asked a question about something else and his rant in defence of Lemon was over.

Lemon struggled for most of the regular season and that continued on Sunday afternoon at a hostile, but not full, Ivor Wynne Stadium.

Though he completed 22 of 29 pass attempts, and only threw two interceptions, Lemon gained a grand total of 134 total yards in the air. A stalwart performance by the Argos D, the strong play of Boyd and 93 yards in penalties given up by the Ticats allowed Toronto the win and advanced them to the Eastern final next weekend in Montreal.

One of the two interceptions Lemon threw was big. Mid-way through the third quarter, with the Argos ahead 10-6 and looking to put it away, Lemon threw a pass into the Hamilton end zone toward Spencer Watt and was intercepted by Geoff Tisdale. At the sidelines afterward, the quarterback was confronted by centre Dominic Picard and defensive back Jordan Younger. That seemed to calm him down. But the Argos game plan seemed to be designed not to give Lemon too much to do. He barely looked deep and the vast majority of his throws were of the two or three yard variety. He didn’t even attempt a long throw until less than three minutes remaining in the second quarter, when he tried to hit Chad Owens near the end zone, but over threw his receiver.

In fact, mid-way through the third quarter, when he completed a 12-yard pass to Ejiro Kuale, a pass that finally had some zip on it, the press box reacted almost with astonishment that he had actually completed a fairly long pass with some mustard on it.

A number of times the Argos had the ball in the red zone but instead of Lemon trying for a TD via the air, the visiting side stubbornly tried to run it in. An example of that was early in the fourth quarter when, after Hamilton quarterback Kevin Glenn was intercepted by Jordan Younger, Lemon twice handed Boyd the ball from inside the 10-yard line, who was unable to pick up the first down, resulting in Noel Prefontaine booting another field goal.

Lemon is frustrating to watch. He doesn’t throw particularly well, especially on the run, isn’t a great runner and often bails out when he is running the ball, which he did a couple of times in the first half on Sunday. But Barker stuck with the Arkansas State product all season, even after some bad games, and now the 31-year-old CFL rookie has another chance to reward his coach for the faith he put in him.

Still, Lemon was poised enough on Sunday not to make any major mistakes and did come up huge late in the fourth quarter when the Argos, who were up 16-13, took possession at their own three-yard line.

Lemon stepped up and marched the Argos all the way down the Hamilton 51 yard line, on nine plays — including two key passes to Jeremaine Copeland for 11 and seven yards respectfully early in the drive.

“He had a poise and confidence when he went and made those throws,” Barker said. “Cleo’s biggest attribute is his ability maintain poise and confidence when things maybe aren’t going as well.”

“I’m the leader of this team and I take the responsibility and I put all the weight on my shoulders,” said Lemon, when asked about his trials and tribulations this season. “No matter what’s said outside the locker-room, the guys have my back and I want to fight for them.”

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca


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