Both the REDBLACKS and Argos are in desperate need of a win, with Toronto losers of three straight and Ottawa winless since Week 8. The teams are chasing the Montreal Alouettes for second place in the East.
The Als sit four points ahead of the REDBLACKS and eight points ahead of Toronto, although both clubs still have head-to-head meetings with Montreal on their schedule.
“[The Argos] are a capable football team, they play a lot of close games,” REDBLACKS head coach Rick Campbell told OttawaREDBLACKS.com. “They’re somewhat like us in that they’ve played some close games they haven’t been on the right side of. It’s not a cliché that anybody can beat anybody – they’re proof of it over the last couple of weeks.”
The REDBLACKS are looking to turn their fortunes around by handing the reins to the offence to Jonathon Jennings. A seasoned quarterback who is slated to make his 45th career start on Saturday, Jennings showed positive flashes in the team’s Week 11 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Jennings completed 61.5 per cent of his passes and threw for 208 yards. His numbers were largely boosted by a 75-yard catch-and-run to Dominique Rhymes.
“One of the things about this professional game is you’re going to have pressure as a quarterback to win,” Jennings said. “The biggest thing is I’ve been here and done it. I’ve been in this league for four years and a starter in each season. I’ve understood what that pressure feels like and I get what comes with being a starter.”
Ottawa is also hoping to start performing in front of the home crowd. The REDBLACKS are one of only two teams in the league with a worse record at home than on the road. Moreover, Jennings has thrown a mere 24 passes in Ottawa this season, the majority of which came in a loss to the Calgary Stampeders.
Meanwhile, the Argos are searching for their first road victory of the year and any sort of momentum, really.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson has been putting up more than respectable numbers in recent games. In three of Toronto’s last four games, Bethel-Thompson has put up more than 300 passing yards, including a 464-yard performance against Montreal in Touchdown Atlantic. The pivot hasn’t tossed an interception during the four-game stretch.
Having Derel Walker in top form has certainly helped Bethel-Thompson pad his stats. Walker’s career in Toronto started off slowly (seven receptions through his first three games), but he looked to have turned the corner in the Labour Day Classic. The 28-year-old wideout caught nine passes – including a 96-yard catch-and-run – and scored two touchdowns, earning Shaw Top Performer of the Week honours.
The Toronto defence also showed signs of coming into their own on Labour Day. They held the Ticats to 11 first-half points, forced six turnovers and sacked Dane Evans seven times.
“I thought they started the game pretty hot,” Argos head coach Corey Chamblin told Argonauts.ca of his defence’s performance last week. “[Hamilton] adjusted to the man coverage and we didn’t play as tight a man coverage in the second half. Overall, regardless of the numbers, I thought we were aggressive.
Ottawa scores the second-fewest points on average in the league this season, so if the Argos can turn in another commanding defensive outing, they’ll be well on their way to earning their second win of the season.
“It’s a short week, so it’s more of a mental week – getting ourselves mentally prepared,” Herdman-Reed said. “I see a lot of guys who are locked in and focused on their jobs. Big plays are starting to happen, balls are falling in our favour. We’re going to continue to carry that forward into this week against Ottawa.”
REDBLACK starting tailback John Crockett finds himself back on the injured list. Crockett established himself as the team’s go-to back, but sat out Week 10 after being banged up against the Edmonton Eskimos. He returned for Week 11, getting hurt early in the second quarter.
Mossis Madu will get the start at running back for Ottawa. The fifth-year player is looking to replicate the form that saw him earn 140 total yards in a season-opening win over Calgary.
BY THE NUMBERS
178 – Consecutive pass attempts from McLeod Bethel-Thompson with no interceptions.
4-2 – Jonathon Jennings’ career record against the Argonauts.
5,015 – Career receiving yards for Derel Walker. He eclipsed the 5,000-yard mark last week.
12 – Straight games without a rushing touchdown for Toronto, a new league record.
– With files from Argonauts.ca and OttawaREDBLACKS.com.
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