Argos must build on Labour Day win

The lighthearted demeanour of Argos Chris Van Zeyl, Joe Eppele and Jeff Keeping seems to belie the...

The lighthearted demeanour of Argos Chris Van Zeyl, Joe Eppele and Jeff Keeping seems to belie the magnitude of today's game. (Veronica Henri/QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:24 PM ET

TORONTO - At no point were team spirits as high than in the aftermath of Toronto’s win in Montreal, a night that coincided with Scott Milanovich’s return, a victory that pushed the Argos’ record to 3-2.

In a season that has now reached the mid-way mark, Milanovich is quick to point out that at no point has he felt a confidence level as pronounced as he did following his team’s win over the Als.

Perhaps it’s the nature of an inconsistent team, arguably it’s the byproduct of a competitive league where any opponent can beat any foe on most nights.

The fact remains the Argos have yet to develop that necessary swagger teams often embrace when a sustained level of success is about to begin, when a team begins to separate itself from rivals, when an identity begins to be forged.

As compelling and as potentially significant as Toronto’s Labour Day win was, it will be quickly dismissed if the Argos aren’t able to defend their home turf in Saturday’s rematch against a Hamilton opponent whose backs are clearly up against football’s proverbial wall.

Following the matinee kickoff, the Argos won’t be back home until Oct. 8, a stretch that sees the Argos play away games against B.C., Montreal and Winnipeg.

Since that July 21 evening in Montreal, a game that literally came down to the final play, the Argos have alternated, losing one week, winning the next, losing and now coming off a win.

Whether it’s a question of resiliency, confidence, inconsistency, whatever intangible gets thrown or is apt to be used, the Argos simply need to get on a roll before they head on the road.

In the process, they may even draw a bigger crowd next time the Argos play at home.

“We need to get playing where we feel like our backs are against the wall,’’ said Milanovich on Friday, “even after we win. We’re still working on that.”

There’s no disputing the fact that the Ticats’ plight will go from dire to the extreme depths of desperation if they can’t topple the Argos on Saturday turn the tricks from a Labour Day loss that saw Hamilton fritter away yet another fourth-quarter lead.

Given the short week, it’s very unlikely major changes will be initiated, schematically that is.

Level of urgency

For obvious reasons, the Ticats need to tighten things defensively, an issue that has plagued the team all season, must finish off drives on offence and show a level of urgency that can be best described as sporadic.

Injuries will come into play, as they always do, but Saturday is game of will and mental toughness, areas no stat can document.

It’s also a game for Ricky Ray to lead an offence that has struggled badly in losing back-to-back home games to B.C. and Edmonton, two losses where turnovers simply destroyed any attempt of a win.

Milanovich pulls no punches when he says Ray tried to do too much when the Eskimos came to town, his former team that began the year by spoiling Ray’s return to Alberta.

“He felt a little pressure to be more aggressive than he needed,’’ said Milanovich.

Whether it’s Ray, Chad Kackert or whomever, all Milanovich demands is that each player remains committed to doing his job.

On Labour Day, for example, Ray took shots down field when they existed, but he didn’t force matters, checking down, completing passes and moving the chains.

Ray has no clue what the Ticats will throw at the Argos on Saturday, but the keys in protecting the football and not turning the football over become even more magnified when a wounded team such as Hamilton is expected to bring its very best.

“You just never know what they’re going to throw at you,’’ said Ray. “They may come out and do stuff we haven’t seen. They may change it up.”

Offensively, the Argos aren’t going to change their approach, an offence that was forced to adjust on the fly on the game’s fourth play in the Hammer when Andre Durie left the game with a quad injury. He won’t play in the return game.

Interestingly, Milanovich said on Friday that it may take until this time next season for Ray to completely feel comfortable with the offence.

“But we’re not holding anything back,’’ said Milanovich. “We’ve seen the progression (in Ray). It’s tough to ask a guy to be perfect all the time, even though we do.”

 

KEN-YON RAMBO RARIN' TO GO

Ken-Yon Rambo is feeling good at a time when many questioned just how good this one-time star receiver would emerge from the garbage bin.

Dismissed by Calgary when the Stamps felt Rambo’s injured Achilles would prevent him from reaching his past heights, Rambo will appear in his second straight game for the Argos in a span of five days.

“It felt great being in that game,’’ said Rambo of his Labour Day debut in Hamilton. “It just feels good to be able to run around with the guys. “For me, it was like getting my feet wet.”

For the second straight game, the Argos have decided not to dress Jason Barnes, who has technically been added to the injured list.

Andre Durie, who tweaked a quad on Toronto’s opening possession, will also be out, forcing the Argos to start Mike Bradwell at Durie’s inside slot.

As far as his debut, Rambo admits he did okay.

“I had one drop, which was my fault,’’ he added. “What’s important now is to get in sync with the offence and with Ricky (Ray). That’ll all come together with more repetition.”

The Argos like to move their receivers around.

Given the width of the CFL field, players are asked to line up on the field side or boundary side.

Reads may vary and certain positions are easier to master.

“He’s coming along pretty quickly,’’ head coach Scott Milanovich said of Rambo. “He’s a smart guy and he’s picked up the offence very, very quickly.

“The position he plays is one of the easier positions, but we’ll still move him around. I think he’s getting his legs back.

“He seems to be sharp out of his breaks. For him, it’s just a matter of keeping the Achilles healthy.”

As for Durie, Milanovich knows he needs his starting Canadian slot to be close to 100% healthy or risk further damage.

“With his speed and the way he plays, we need him to be very close to 100%,’’ said the coach. “Or, you’re liable to let him hurt it again. We’re going to be patient with him. Obviously we’re hoping he can play next week (in B.C.).”

The Argos have activated Danny Desriveaux, whom Milanovich knows well from their days in Montreal, and offensive lineman Joel Reinders, who recently joined the team after he was released by the NFL’s New York Giants.

The 46-man roster also includes defensive back T.J. Williams

 


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