In an all-around ugly season, the Argos saved perhaps their worst performance for last. Despite resting several starters with the playoffs looming, the Montreal Alouettes took command early and romped to a 42-17 win in Saturday’s season finale at Rogers Centre.
The Alouettes, with backup quarterback Anthony McPherson starting in place of the league’s top passer, Anthony Calvillo, scored on their first three possessions and took a 26-4 lead to halftime. McPherson was near flawless all afternoon, completing 16-of-20 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns before giving way to third-stringer Chris Leak to start the fourth quarter. McPherson also ran for 55 yards.
For the Argos, it was only a fitting end to a season of frustration. Even so, head coach Bart Andrus had positive things to say about his squad after the game.
“I told them how much they persevered throughout this year,” Andrus said of his post-game speech. “The way they came to work, their professionalism — this is a good group of people.
“When you have a group that works as has as they work, it’s just a matter of time before positive things begin to happen.”
Of course, time will tell if Andrus is around to witness a possible turnaround. He declined to comment after the game regarding his future and the future of the franchise as a whole. After a 3-15 campaign and with talk of the team potentially being sold, Andrus is as good a bet as anyone not to be back in 2010.
With little more to play for than pride, Andrus handed the starting quarterback duties for the finale to rookie Stephen Reaves. The southpaw struggled from the get-go in his first CFL start, overthrowing Brad Smith on Toronto’s opening possession for an interception that led to a Damon Duval field goal. In all, Reaves threw four picks and had another negated by a roughing-the-passer penalty.
“It was tough,” Reaves said afterward. “I pressed too much. I have to do a better job of taking what the defense gives me. I’d love to have a few of those back. Overall, a tough day against a tough defense.”
Reaves wasn’t the only Argo to slip up on an error-filled day. Andre Durie returned a first quarter kick 104 yards for an apparent touchdown, only to have it called back because of an unnecessary roughness call on Raymond Fontaine. Earlier in the quarter, long snapper Etienne Legare airmailed a snap to Justin Medlock, resulting in a turnover and an 18-yard McPherson touchdown pass to Kerry Walkins one play later.
Running back Jamal Robertson scored Toronto’s only touchdown on a one-yard run late in the third quarter but struggled horribly the rest of the afternoon, finishing with negative six yards on five carries. The Argos finished with zero rushing yards as a team.
If it’s true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, then the Argos will have something to take from this nightmarish season. Durie, for one, suggested the team gained mental toughness that will provide an important boost in the future.
“We’re looking forward to more stability next year,” he said after the game. “Every championship team goes through losing, and we had a lot of it this year. We all stayed mentally strong though, and we’ll take that into next season for sure.”
Perhaps the biggest thing that will come from Saturday’s loss is closure. And with that, a fresh start.
“I’ll go to bat with these guys anytime,” linebacker Zeke Moreno said after the game. “I’d love to come back next year and see no new faces. We have the talent and the potential.”