Toronto Argonauts beat Tiger-Cats to stay undefeated

HAMILTON — Chad Kelly and the Toronto Argonauts seem to always find another gear in the fourth quarter.

The Argos went into Tim Hortons Field on Friday to beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 31-15 and move to 5-0 for the first time since 1960. It was the second consecutive game that Toronto’s pivot scored a touchdown late against a surging opponent to put the game away, after doing the same a week ago against the Alouettes in Montreal.

Kelly connected for touchdowns with wide receivers Kurleigh Gittens Jr. and DaVaris Daniels as the Argos cruised to a 20-3 first-half lead. Double Blue’s pivot then added another major on the ground late in the fourth quarter, right after the Ticats had pulled within one possession, to seal the road victory.

The quarterback had his second straight 300-yard game with a 20-of-27 for 306 yards performance.

Running back AJ Ouellette had 84 yards on 10 carries and backup Cameron Dukes added another major on a quarterback sneak early in the first quarter. Toronto now has 12 rushing touchdowns in 2023, three more than the team had the entire 2022 season.

Ticats’ quarterback Taylor Powell started his first game for the Black and Gold and added a rushing score late in the fourth quarter. The pivot finished 27-of-41 for 282 and an interception.

Toronto’s defence managed to keep running back James Butler to only 14 yards on the ground, forcing Powell to try to move the ball through the air for most of the evening.

Hamilton’s offence was able to move the ball but could not quite finish drives throughout most of the game, having to settle for three field goals by kicker Marc Liegghio as Hamilton dropped to 2-4.

Kelly and the Argos started with a highlight-reel play. Toronto’s pivot had pressure coming from all sides but was able to stand tall in the pocket and launch a deep pass to Dejon Brissett who made an acrobatic catch as he turned his body to get Double Blue into the red zone with only one play. Ouellette broke a tackle for another set of downs and Dukes finished off the drive with a quarterback sneak to the end zone to make it 7-0 early in the first quarter.

The game went into a stalemate for the rest of the quarter as both teams were unable to put themselves in scoring position.

It was only in the second quarter that the defending champions found a way to add points to the board once more. That way was to rely on the hands of Gittens Jr. multiple times. The wide receiver caught three passes on the drive, the last of them a strike from Kelly in the end zone to push the lead to 14-0 with 10:42 left in the first half.

A little over a minute later, Toronto almost added seven more points with their defence. Defensive back Jamal Peters caught a deflected ball off teammate Royce Metchie‘s hands – who himself had jumped a pass by Powell – and ran into the end zone. A block in the back penalty negated the touchdown and brought the Argos’ offence to the field. Not a problem. Kelly found Daniels over the middle and the veteran broke a couple tackles to break the plane of goal and make it 20-0, after a failed point-after attempt, in favour of the visitors.

A late first-half drive by the Ticats ended on another punt, but this time the special teams unit had a trick down their sleeves with an onside kick recovered by linebacker Nic Cross for the home team. The play lighted a fire under Hamilton’s offence who quickly marched all the way to Toronto’s 11-yard line before two incompletions forced the field goal unit to come in. Liegghio split the uprights to put Hamilton on the board, 20-3 going into halftime.

Returner Tyreik McAllister gave the Tabbies a spark with a 71-yard return to start the second half. The offence failed to capitalize on the advanced field position and had to settle for another field goal that cut the lead to 14 points early in the third quarter.

The usual suspects for the Argos were at it again on their next possession. Kelly moved the chains with a connection to receiver Cam Phillips and Ouellette added 36 more on the ground to get Toronto knocking on Hamilton’s door. Double Blue’s pivot was on his way to the promised land when former-Argo Chris Edwards tackled him short of the sticks on second down to force the first field goal attempt by the visitors. Kicker Boris Bede converted it for a 23-6 lead.

Defensive back Qwan’tez Stiggers saved a touchdown from Powell to veteran receiver ‘Duke’ Williams with a pass deflection to keep Toronto in control in the second half, as Hamilton added their third kick of the game to make it 23-9 early in the fourth.

Hamilton kept chipping away at Toronto’s lead in the second half, this time with their first major of the game. Powell guided his team into Argos’ territory and capped it off with a rushing touchdown that cut the lead to 23-15 after a failed point-after attempt.

Kelly and an Argos’ offence that had not produced much in the second half answered with their best drive of the final two quarters. Toronto’s pivot connected deep with Daniels for 35 yards before calling his own number to get another first down for Double Blue at the one-yard line. Kelly then capped it off himself for his third score of the game.

A late single by the visitors capped the score for the evening.

Powell was the fifth different starting pivot for Hamilton in a 12-game span as they continue to deal with injuries to their quarterback room.

The Ticats travel to Ottawa to face the REDBLACKS in Week 8 on Friday, July 28. The Argos meanwhile will be in Halifax to face the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Touchdown Atlantic on Saturday, July 29.

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