Argonauts beat Montreal Alouettes to move to 4-0 for first time in 40 years

MONTREAL — For the first time in 40 years, the Toronto Argonauts are a big 4-0.

Toronto was able to win a close 35-27 back-and-forth affair against the Montreal Alouettes at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium on Friday to get their first 4-0 start since 1983.

Pivot Chad Kelly had four majors, three through the air and one on the ground, and threw one interception in the winning effort.

Wide receiver Damonte Coxie had a one-handed touchdown catch and David Ungerer III caught two majors from Kelly, including a late go-ahead score.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo threw three touchdown passes, all of them to receiver Tyler Snead, and two picks as Montreal repeatedly battled back against the Argos in the second half.

Kicker David Côté made both of his field goals and converted all of his extra-point attempts.

The Argos wasted no time getting on the board after an opening two-and-out by the Alouettes. Kelly got things started by moving the chains using his feet before connecting with Damonte Coxie for 15 yards to Montreal’s 44 yard line. Veteran Andrew Harris added another first down and Toronto’s pivot threw a dart to Daniels just outside the end zone to make it first-and goal. The major came in a familiar way for the Double Blue: on the ground, as Kelly called his own number to make it 7-0. It was his fourth rushing touchdown of 2023.

Kelly was trying to make something happen on a scramble a couple of possessions later, but ended up throwing a pass across his body that defensive back Marc-Antoine Dequoy picked up to give the Als some momentum late in the first quarter. Fajardo then added a first down with his legs, but Montreal had to settle for a field goal after a couple of incompletions as Côté made it 7-3.

Through the Lens: Argos at Als

The Als got a chance to take their first lead of the game as they drove to Toronto’s 50-yard line down by four points a couple of drives later. Linebacker Wynton McManis had other plans though, jumping a pass by Fajardo and giving the visitors the ball across middle early in the second quarter.

The Argos were not able to capitalize and had to kick the ball back to Montreal that started a sequence of punts by both teams that lasted through most of the quarter. The Als broke the stalemate with under a minute to go with their second scoring drive of the evening.

Fajardo connected with receiver Austin Mack and running back William Stanback on the drive to move the ball to Toronto’s 11-yard line. A sack on first down by No. 41 pushed the Als back, but Fajardo found Snead over the middle on second down to take the first lead of the night for the home team heading into halftime.

The second half began with a massive offensive play by the Argos immediately followed by an equally big defensive play by the Als. Kelly found Kurleigh Gittens Jr. deep all the way to Montreal’s 20, but defensive back Kabion Ento punched it as the receiver was going to the ground to force a fumble and give the ball back to the home team.

After review, it was ruled that Gittens Jr. was down by contact at the 34-yard line, giving new life to the visitors that turned their second chance into a game-tying field goal by kicker Boris Bede, 10-10.

Mack caught a tip-toeing sideline 17-yard pass to open a scoring march for the Als. A roughing-the-passer penalty added another 15 and backup running back Jeshrun Antwi added 12 of his own to put Montreal in field goal range for Côté to make it 13-10.

The Argos’ running game showed up again midway through the third quarter. Ouellette exploded for 42 yards and Harris added seven more. Kelly then found Ungerer in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown, 17-13.

After a quick punt by Montreal, the Argos marched once more into Als’ territory. This time the visitors had to settle for a punt though, as Bede stretched the lead to 20-13.

Fajardo and the Als answered with a scoring campaign of their own. Montreal’s pivot connected with wide receiver Kaion Julien-Grant a couple of times to move into scoring position. Faced with third-and-goal from the five, the veteran quarterback escaped what looked like a surefire sack with a spin move to find Snead for their second touchdown connection of the evening and tie it at 20 halfway through the fourth quarter.

Kelly connected deep with Daniels and got the Argos on the move once more. Toronto’s pivot then threw a 50-50 ball to Coxie and he made it 100 per cent his with a one-handed grab to give Toronto a 27-20 lead.

Montreal battled back once more and put together yet another game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter. Returner Chandler Worthy gave his team great field position and the offence moved the ball with quarterback runs into Toronto’s territory. Fajardo then connected for the third time with Snead to tie it one more time with under four minutes to go.

The back-and-forth continued and Toronto pushed ahead once more. This time it was Kelly connecting deep with Ungerer with under two minutes to go to move to 34-27 and put Fajardo and the Als on the ropes.

A late-effort third-and-17 for the Als on the ensuing drive fell short of the sticks and Boris Bede added a single on a wide-left attempt as Toronto moved to one game behind their modern record best start 5-0 set in 1960.

There was still time for a late interception by Fajardo to seal the final score.

The Argos are back in action on July 21 when they face the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton for Week 7 action, while the Als have a week off before hosting the Calgary Stampeders on Sunday, July 30, in Week 8.

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