Title Wave: Argos wash away Blue Bombers dynasty hopes

REGINA — All week long, the Toronto Argonauts heard about a team trying to make history.

On Sunday at the 109th Grey Cup, they decided to take control of that narrative and stunned the two-time defending champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers 24-23.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson made 15 of 28 passes for 203 yards before suffering a fourth-quarter hand injury. He was replaced by backup QB Chad Kelly who made 4-6 passes for 43 yards. Argos’ defensive lineman Robbie Smith made a game-saving field goal block to secure a dramatic win, giving the Boatmen their 18th Grey Cup.

Zach Collaros was 14-23 for 183 yards, a touchdown and an interception, as the Bombers’ bid to become the CFL’s first three-peat champion in 42 years fell short.

Janarion Grant set a Grey Cup record with his 102-yard fourth-quarter punt return touchdown.

The Argos triumphed in front of a raucous, Winnipeg-friendly crowd at Mosaic Stadium, which saw the Twisted Tea Halftime Show that featured Jordan Davis, Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line and Canada’s own Josh Ross keep fans entertained for the entirety of their Sunday night.

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It was Bethel-Thompson and the Argos that opened the scoring. Stuck at Winnipeg’s 39-yard line, the Argos got a 46-yard field goal from Boris Bede at 4:44 to open the game’s scoring.

Winnipeg’s defence put its stamp on the game next, when Jackson Jeffcoat sacked Bethel-Thompson and linebacker Jesse Briggs recovered at the Bombers’ 49-yard line. The play snuffed out a drive that featured a Harris run that saw him hurdle the Bombers’ defence to get extra yards; a play that Harris let his former teammates on the Blue and Gold sideline hear about.

The Bombers came through the first quarter with their offence struggling. Collaros and his offensive teammates generated just one first down for 29 net yards of offence.

The Argos opened the second quarter with a promising drive that came to an end with a Bede 36-yard field goal attempt that sailed to his right and yielded a single. That pushed the score to 4-0 at 2:56.

Collaros’ first Collaros-like play of the game came on the drive that followed Bede’s miss. He worked from the pocket and connected with Dalton Schoen on a 39-yard play that got the Bombers to the Argos’ 31-yard line. Dakota Prukop came in to relieve Collaros on short yardage and eventually powered his way into the end zone, capping an eight-play, 70-yard drive. Marc Liegghio‘s convert went through at 7:31, putting the Bombers in front 7-4.

The Argos evened up the game on the ensuing drive. While they didn’t find the end zone, Bede got a second attempt from 36 yards and put it through the uprights to tie the game 7-7 at 11:13.

Collaros and the Bombers tried to close the half out with a bang. After failing to connect with Schoen on a play where he was thinking end zone, Collaros tested his ankle with a rush out of the pocket that set up Liegghio’s first field goal of the night. Liegghio’s 45-yarder made it 10-7 with 21 seconds left in the half.

The Argos were able to get Bede out for a 52-yard field goal attempt with four seconds left, but the kicker saw his second attempt of the night miss the mark. The Bombers took their three-point edge into the half.

Toronto tried to leave its offensive struggles in the first half. Bethel-Thompson led a four-play, 34-yard drive that finally got the team into the end zone, with running back A.J. Ouellette breaking through at 3:09 of the third quarter. Bede’s convert put the Argos up 14-10.

Collaros responded with a lengthy 13-play 7:12 drive that tested him as his team gradually made its way up the field. He showed elusiveness getting out of the pocket to complete a pass to Drew Wolitarsky. He took a sack from Shawn Oakman (that came back on an offside call) that saw him take weight on his right leg. On second-and-seven, he found Schoen again to get to Toronto’s 22-yard line. Once again, Prukop finished off the drive from a yard out. Liegghio’s convert put the Bombers up 17-14 at 11:31.

If the Argos sought to make a statement to open the third, the Bombers used the first play of the fourth quarter to make theirs.

Grant took John Haggerty‘s 51-yard punt back 102 yards for a key return touchdown to help open up a 23-14 Bombers’ lead. Grant’s return touchdown — his second of the post-season — set a Grey Cup record. Liegghio was unable to connect on the convert.

Toronto looked to respond but once again was stranded on Winnipeg’s side of the field. Bede made his third field goal of the night at 2:20 — another 36-yard shot — to get his team back within six, at 23-17.

If the increasingly loud fans decked out in blue behind the Bombers’ bench had started the celebration, they were slowed when Prukop was intercepted by Shaq Richardson, setting the Argos up on their own 20-yard line. With Bethel-Thompson holding his wrist on the Argos’ sideline, the team turned to backup Chad Kelly.

Argos’ returner Javon Leake appeared to have a touchdown run in him himself, but was thwarted at Winnipeg’s 31-yard line by special teamer Shayne Gauthier. Kelly returned to lead the offence and had an impressive run from the pocket that got a penalty-addled drive back on track at Winnipeg’s 16-yard line. Ouellette took a handoff from the five-yard line and ran in for his second touchdown of the night, tying the game. Bede’s convert put the Argos back in front 24-23 with 3:24 left in the game.

Collaros took the field at his own 36, looking for a way to get his team back in front. His first pass of the drive was reeled in by Muamba, who’d narrowly missed out on a first-half pick. Kelly and the Argos went back on the field at the Bombers’ 43-yard line looking for the win.

Bede returned to the field to line up a 43-yarder and had it blocked by Nick Hallett, allowing the Bombers to get the ball back on their own 29 with under two minutes to play. On second-and-five, Argos’ d-lineman Robbie Smith snuck around the edge and sacked Collaros, forcing the Bombers into a must-have third down. Brought down again, an Argos’ facemask call gave Collaros life.

At his own 41-yard line, Collaros found Greg Ellingson for the first down he was looking for, moving the Bomers to the Toronto 45-yard line. A Chris Edwards knockdown sent the Bombers back into third down, forcing the team to turn to Liegghio for a 47-yard attempt that was blocked by Smith, making up for his earlier penalty.

The Argos closed out the final seconds of the game celebrating in victory formation, while their sideline celebrated their historic win in front of a stunned Mosaic Stadium crowd.

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