The weight of the world is finally off the shoulders of head coach Bart Andrus and the Toronto Argonauts.
Justin Medlock’s 28-yard field goal earned Toronto an exciting 25-22 overtime win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday night and snapped an ugly club-record 10-game home losing streak.
“We all stood up and ceremoniously took not a monkey but a gorilla off our back,” said Andrus, who earned his first home victory after four straight losses. “The guys have persevered, they’ve endured, they’ve come along from week to week, they’ve practised hard throughout.
“It was something that had to go beyond the four quarters but they were able to accomplish the goal and finally put to bed all these demons.”
Toronto (3-7) snapped a five-game losing streak overall before an energetic Rogers Centre gathering of 26,421 – a stark contrast to the crowds of roughly 11,000 fans the Toronto Blue Jays played before earlier in the week.
Medlock’s boot came after Hamilton’s Nick Setta missed on a 49-yard try on the Ticats’ second overtime possession. Both kickers had 27-yard field goals on their clubs’ opening drives.
Medlock was keen for the overtime opportunity after missing from 48 yards early in the fourth for a single that cut Hamilton’s lead to 12-11. And although the 28-yard attempt was well within his range, Medlock wasn’t taking the kick for granted.
“No, because if you don’t hit it well you might miss it,” he said. “You still have to hit the ball well and I felt like I hit a good ball.
“I was actually really upset (about earlier miss) for a second but I knew I would get another shot. I didn’t care if the next kick was going to be 60 or 62 yards, I was going to hit it.”
Hamilton forced overtime on Kevin Glenn’s 18-yard TD run on third-and-six with 25 seconds remaining as Setta’s convert made it 19-19. Glenn’s score capped a 10-play, 71-yard drive that came after Toronto went ahead 19-12 on Jamal Robertson’s one-yard TD run – his second of the game – at 11:49, then Cody Pickett’s pass to Tyler Scott for the two-point convert.
Arland Bruce III’s five-yard TD catch late in the first half put Hamilton ahead 12-10 but Setta’s convert attempt was blocked by Toronto’s Zeke Moreno. That would come back to haunt the Ticats’ who could’ve won the game with Setta’s conversion following Glenn’s TD.
“The missed convert was huge,” said Hamilton coach Marcel Bellefeuille. “Make it and we would’ve won the game.
“But you have to give them credit for making that two-point convert. We had every opportunity to win the game but we made mistakes.”
The home victory was the Argos’ first since Aug 1, 2008 against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the first for Andrus in five games at Rogers Centre. Toronto split the home-and-home series with Hamilton after losing 34-15 at Ivor Wynne Stadium on Monday and leads the head-to-head series 2-1 with a game remaining.
After recording five turnovers in Monday’s loss, Toronto had none in the rematch and actually was helped immensely by Hamilton miscues. The Argos’ opening TD – a 34-yard run by Robertson in the second quarter – came after the Ticats turned the ball when a wide-open Lawrence Gordon dropped Setta’s pass on a fake punt.
Glenn’s TD made it look like Toronto would have to endure yet another disheartening loss thanks to a last-minute defensive collapse. Earlier this season both B.C. and Calgary staged last-minute rallies to earn wins over the Argos.
“It (Glenn’s score) was disheartening because it’s a replay of a couple of games we’ve had,” Andrus said. “The whole time in your head you’re saying, ‘Let’s make a play, let’s make a play,’ and you don’t.
“It goes to overtime and ironically we make a play defensively, which says a lot about perseverance for our players. Again, we’re finding our way and hopefully we’ll remember how we did that.”
Hamilton (5-5) suffered its ninth loss in its last 11 appearances at Rogers Centre.
Bruce’s TD was his first against his former teammates. Bruce – the Argos’ leading receiver the past three seasons – was dealt to Hamilton in late July after getting into public spat with Andrus and had a game-high 10 catches but for just 45 yards.
Bruce, who was fined by the CFL for a bizarre end-zone celebration honouring former pop star Michael Jackson in Toronto’s season-opening win in Hamilton, had a milder one this time. After scoring, he stood on one leg and stretched out his other leg and both arms, still clutching the ball in one hand. He then jogged to the bench, thumping his chest as he played to the Hamilton fans seated in the lower bowl.
Bruce, who refused to speak to reporters afterwards, was also involved in a strange play in the second half when he caught a short pass, then tried to lateral to running back DeAndra Cobb. But Cobb was tied up and the ball bounced past him, finally recovered by the Ticats for an 18-yard loss.
Toronto’s win was its first in six games since dealing Bruce while Hamilton dropped to 3-3 since acquiring him.
Bruce’s TD highlighted a somewhat entertaining first half where both offences moved the ball. But that wasn’t the case in the second half, which was dominated by strong defence from both teams.
Pickett, making his fourth straight start, finished 20-of-31 passing for 254 yards to register his first career win as a CFL starter. He also did a decent job of throwing the ball downfield and distributed it well, using seven different receivers and has thrown just one interception since replacing veteran Kerry Joseph under centre.
“I’m just trying to manage the game the best I can,” Pickett said. “We were able to do that tonight and not turn the ball over and we’ll take it.”
Robertson also had a solid game. He ran for 117 yards on 18 carries and the two TDs and also added three catches for 18 yards. Newcomer Jason Carter, making his first start for Toronto, had four catches for a game-high 94 yards.
Glenn finished the game 29-of-44 passing for 233 yards and the TD. Cobb had 10 carries for 93 yards and added six catches for 39 yards.
Medlock had a field goal, convert and single in regulation while Setta booted two field goals in regulation.