Furious fourth quarter comeback earns Toronto Argonauts last second win over Ottawa REDBLACKS

TORONTO — Trailing by 24 points in the third quarter at home on Thursday night, the Toronto Argonauts were well on their way to their sixth loss in seven games to kick off 2018. But an exhilarating second half comeback led by quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, starting his first CFL game, may have saved the defending Grey Cup champions’ season.

After a tumultuous first half, Bethel-Thompson led the Argos back from a 38-14 deficit with the go-ahead touchdown with one second left the Argos to a 42-41 win over Ottawa to set a wild pace for Week 8 of the CFL season. The 28-year-old quarterback threw for four touchdowns and 302 yards, capping off the improbable victory with a fearless final-minute drive finished off by Armanti Edwards’ 23 yard catch..

Harris and the REDBLACKS got to work early in the first quarter with a 48-yard pass to Diontae Spencer on the REDBLACKS’ opening drive. That put Ottawa deep into Toronto territory, which led to Brad Sinopoli‘s 17-yard touchdown catch to open the scoring less than three minutes into the contest.

The Argos defence gave the home side their first spark of the game by sacking Harris deep in Ottawa’s end to give McLeod Bethel-Thompson prime field position midway through the first quarter. But Ottawa didn’t make it easy for the 28-year-old Argos pivot starting his first CFL game.

Derico Murray ended the drive on its first play with a crushing interception, but the Argos defence responded by forcing turnover of their own when Justin Tuggle snagged a Greg Ellingson fumble to send Harris off the field.

When the Argos offence couldn’t capitalize, their defence and special teams lifted the home team and their fans. The Argos pinned Harris and the offence deep in their own territory, then Martese. Jackson returned a punt 46 yards to set up a goal line series for the Argos.

Coming off the bench, backup quarterback James Franklin was able to ram the ball into the end zone with his feet to trim Ottawa’s lead to 8-7 near the end of the first quarter.

The REDBLACKS rebounded in the second quarter with help from a costly pass interference penalty by the Argos in their own end zone, allowing Dominique Davis to deliver a one-yard touchdown run to put Ottawa back in control.

With Harris and his offence finding their rhythm, the Argos defence was able to halt an effective drive midway through the second quarter, only to have Jackson fumble the ensuing REDBLACKS’ punt. The loose ball was gobbled up by Anthony Cioffi in the end zone to ring up Ottawa’s lead to 14 points.

Another Argos turnover allowed Ottawa to pad their lead before halftime. Running back James Wilder Jr. fumbled the ball on his own nine yard line, giving Harris prime position to put the game out of reach. He needed just one play to find Spencer for a 17-yard touchdown to put the Argos in a 21-point hole at the break.

Bethel-Thompson led a resurgent Argos offence into the second half. In eight plays, he led the Argos to an eight-play, 60-yard drive after kickoff ending with a five-yard, S.J. Green touchdown catch to narrow the deficit to 28-14.

Toronto QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson Photo: Adam Gagnon, CFL.ca

Unfortunately for the Argos, the momentum paused. Harris led the REDBLACKS to a field goal, then Spencer returned a punt 87 yards to the end zone give Ottawa a 24-point lead.

Needing a jolt, Green got Toronto back on track with his hands and feet. He caught three straight receptions for 16, 48 and 14 yards from Bethel-Thompson to set up another Franklin rushing touchdown, cutting the deficit to 38-20. Followed up by a Abdul Kanneh interception on Harris, the Argos forced themselves back in the game for the final quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, Bethel-Thompson finished a superb drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Green to bring the Argos within 12 points.

Ottawa wideout R.J. Harris took back some momentum with a 40-yard catch on the ensuing drive, leading to a REDBLACKS field goal which the Argos matched five minutes later with six minutes remaining.

Following a two-and-out for the REDBLACKS, the Argos’ comeback bid launched into full throttle. Jackson returned the ensuing punt 70 yards, then Bethel-Thompson and Wilder Jr. connected on a 20 yard catch and run into the end zone to cut the lead to 41-36 at the three minute warning.

After the Argos defence forced a punt, the Argos proceeded down the field on a spirited drive in the final minute, including a conversion on third-down at the REDBLACKS’ 35 yard line. The offence inched forward, lifted by a suddenly boisterous crowd at BMO Field. Finally, in a play that changed the Argos season, Bethel-Thompson scrambled out of the pocket and found Edwards for the game winning touchdown with one second remaining on the clock to steal the improbable win.

The REDBLACKS are set to face Johnny Manziel and the Montreal Alouettes in Week 9, while the Argos get a two-week break to rest and prepare for the B.C. Lions, who will visit BMO Field on Aug. 18.

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