OTTAWA, ON – A single point was the difference at TD Place Saturday night in front of another sellout crowd as the Toronto Argonauts etched out a narrow 26-25 victory over the Ottawa REDBLACKS.
Both teams held the lead twice during the game, which featured twists and turns from the opening kickoff.
The loss is Ottawa’s first at home on the 2017 Canadian Football League season after a tie with the Calgary Stampeders on opening night, and drops their record to 0-2-1.
The Ottawa quarterback Trevor Harris had 30 completions over 43 passing attempts, for a percentage of 69.8 per cent. That was the better of the two quarterbacks, besting Toronto’s Ricky Ray by three passes.
After the Argonauts ran into penalty trouble early in the game, the REDBLACKS were able to take advantage and score the first points of the game. Trevor Harris found Mossis Madu from the six-yard line for the first touchdown of the game.
Ottawa opted for the two-point conversion and after the first missed attempted was called back on a Toronto offside, Madu made no mistake on the rush, giving the REDBLACKS the 8-0 lead. Penalties bit the Argos from the onset – they took seven penalties for 59 yards in first 10 minutes of game.
Ottawa’s defence soiled any chance at a rebound from the Argonauts. REDBLACKS defensive lineman Zach Evans dropped Ricky Ray with a sack on the Argos’ first drive after the opening Ottawa score.
Toronto ended the first half at minus-47 yards offensively, as a product of the defensive efforts on Ottawa’s end.
The second quarter featured less offence, and more big defensive stops from the REDBLACKS defensive line.
Linebacker Nick Taylor had a big night, notching four tackles in each half for a game total of eight.
Ottawa would add to their lead in the second, after a drive set up Brett Maher for a 29-yard field goal. They would concede a rouge after Lirim Hajrullahu missed a field goal making the score 12-1 going into half time.
Toronto’s one point was the least amount of points the REDBLACKS have conceded in a first half in franchise history.
The Argos finally caught a break after halftime at 10:07 of the third quarter, with Trevor Harris fumbling a snap on his own 32-yard line. Cassius Vaughn recovered, and scored, pulling Toronto within five.
SJ Green then put Toronto up for the first time, catching a long bomb from Ricky Ray and taking it to the house for a 55-yard touchdown and a 13-12 lead. They went for two on the convert, and Ray missed a pass as he looked to team up with Green on the far sideline but barely fired it out of his reach.
A Hajrullahu field goal put the Argonauts ahead by four at 16-12, before Ottawa continued the seesaw affair with a rushing touchdown from Ryan Lindley, and a 19-16 lead.
Toronto found another way back into the lead two minutes later at 9:20 of the fourth quarter. An Ottawa punt return had Harris on his 30-yard line, but threw an interception into the grasp of Jermaine Gabriel, who took the football 34 yards into good field position for Toronto.
Ray then found DeVier Posey from the Ottawa 10, giving Toronto their second lead of the ballgame.
Hajrullahu followed it up with another field goal to give Toronto the 26-19 lead.
Ottawa attempted a comeback and got into the end zone, after a pass down the middle from Harris found Greg Ellingson. Ellingson was tackled by Toronto’s Brandon Harris, but rolled over the defensive lineman and into the end zone before touching turf, giving Ottawa a touchdown.
The REDBLACKS needed an extra point to tie the game at 26, but the set for Maher was fumbled and the kicker was unable to punt for the tie.
Ottawa would rush up the field for one last chance after taking a punt with 21 seconds on the clock in the fourth quarter. They mowed their way to the 58-yard line, but the long field goal attempt from Maher narrowly missed wide right, sealing the nail-biting one point victory for the Argonauts.
A crowd of 24,347 were on the edge of their seats for the majority of the game. The packed house was the REDBLACKS’ 14th consecutive home sellout, and 27th in 30 total home dates since the team’s inception in 2014.
It’s a quick turnaround for Ottawa – the REDBLACKS return to action in six days, taking on the Edmonton Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium. Including Saturday’s loss, the team will play four games in 19 days.