September 4, 2012
Argos' Owens explodes for 402 yardsSets franchise record, third most all-purpose yards in CFL history
By STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency
HAMILTON - The visiting locker room at what's left of Ivor Wynne Stadium is, how you say nicely, a dump. But Chad Owens, standing with shirt off post game, flashing his chest decorated with tattoos, didn't care to be anyplace else.
It was luxury enough for the smallest of all Argos. On Labour Day Monday, the last of them at this decrepit but charming football home, Owens was able to stand in the sauna-like humidity and not sweat a drop. It was that cool a day for him. That wondrous of a classic win in a game that is often called classic but rarely turns out that way for the Double Blue.
Tiny Chad Owens came up huge on Labour Day, playing an enormous role in the uncharacteristic Argo come-from-behind victory, and afterward he wanted to take all of it in, his performance, the scene, the history.
"I get goosebumps just standing here," he said, and it wasn't from the bugs.
"Although this place is what it is (a dump), it's got so much history. And for this to be the last one. And for this to happen. I know the fans are hurt by this.
"But this is what you look forward to as players. This is the rivalry game. To come out on top on the last game on Labour Day, this was big for us.
"This is only my third year in the CFL and I know a lot happened before I got here. I just want to take this in."
He didn't know the number yet, although he will hear the number today and tomorrow and for a while yet. The number: 402. But for some professional football players, that's a season worth of yardage.
That was Owens' Monday.
Four hundred and two yards. More than any Argo before him. The kind of number you manage once in a giant career, once if you have Owens' magic.
The third most explosive game in the history of the league.
Eleven catches for 176 yards and a touchdown.
Five punt returns for 90 yards.
Six kick returns for 136 yards.
There were Argo teams in recent years that didn't have 402 yards in a game. One short-armed receiver managed all of that in a classic afternoon of football.
The Argos trailed 22-11 after three quarters, their only touchdown coming from a Ricky Ray strike to Owens on their first possession of the game.
In the fourth quarter, Toronto outscored Hamilton 22-8. This was the CFL and the NBA all dressed up in one football game.
The first three quarters meant little.
The last few minutes meant everything.
And on a ball Ray threw downfield, Owens stuck out one arm -- "the pass was behind me" -- and made a head-shaking catch, not the kind of catch you'd expect from a returner who is working on ball protection and catching the football.
"If those two plays (the other being the interception for a touchdown by Ahmad Carroll) don't happen, we don't win the football game. We needed that one-handed to get into field-goal range (for winning kick). He drops that ball, who knows what happens," said Ray, the quarterback who went to the fourth quarter before looking like the Ray of old.
The win for the eager Argos, in this historic season of the 100th Grey Cup, was important for all it meant. The Argos are 5-4 in the East. The Ticats are 3-6. The two meet again next week. The Blue Bombers are a corpse. This unlikely Grey Cup talk remains unlikely but possible.
And there is nothing better to sell in Toronto than hope.
So there is hope for the Argos to put distance between them and the Ticats on Saturday and hope that a playoff spot remains theirs.
And so much of it revolved around Chad Owens, the football equivalent of a box of crackerjacks. You know what's inside the box. You just don't know what prize you'll end up with each time. The Argos have put up with his drops and his fumbles because if you believe, and head coach Scott Milanovich does, you get the ultimate prize on Labour Day.
You hit the jackpot.
"Toronto is allowing me to do my thing," said Owens. "I'm blessed and thankful for the opportunity. We got a win today and that was huge."
And he was huge.
The biggest little man on Labour Day has left the legendary pout, Rocket Ismail, one yard behind him.
History, he called it.
He wanted to take it all in.