TORONTO — With the franchise set to celebrate their 1991 Grey Cup-winning team Wednesday, the Toronto Argonauts look to replicate the successes of their predecessors against the Ottawa REDBLACKS.
With an overall record of 4-3 and a divisional one of 2-1, the Argonauts will have a chance to separate themselves from the East Division pack this week with games against the REDBLACKS and their QEW rival, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, on Thanksgiving Monday.
The first game on their Week 10 schedule is no walk in the park as the Ottawa REDBLACKS looked immensely different under rookie quarterback, Caleb Evans. Evans, who threw for 191 yards and three touchdowns in his debut, provided a spark for the REDBLACKS’ offence against the Edmonton Elks.
Ruling all three phases of the game from deep throws to energizing punt-return touchdowns by DeVonte Dedmon, the REDBLACKS have shown signs of improvement. Signs that may be threatening to the Argonauts’ defence.
As for the Argonaut defence, the presence of defensive consultant Chris Jones has seemed to make an immediate impact.
In his first game back against the Alouettes, the Argos recorded a pair of interceptions and a pair of sacks all while holding dual-threat quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. to just 58 rushing yards on the day. In addition, the Argos were only flagged four times on defence, something Jones pointed out as an area he wanted to see improve as their lack of discipline had proved costly earlier in the season.
As for their quarterback, the Boatmen got a slate of good news heading into Wednesday’s prime-time matchup as McLeod Bethel-Thompson was listed as a full participant in practice.
The 33-year-old who had been listed as a “limited” participant earlier in the week had progressed to “full” ahead of Wednesday’s kickoff. With Nick Arbuckle still under the “limited” tag due to a hamstring injury, Bethel-Thompson, who has been called on multiple times during the Argos’ season, was confirmed the starter by Ryan Dinwiddie.
In his four appearances under centre for the Double Blue this season, Bethel-Thompson has risen to the level of his competition and surpassed expectations.
Heading into the season it was predicted that the starting quarterback job would be Arbuckle’s. With him sidelined, Bethel-Thompson has thrived in times, so much so that his 745 passing yards and five passing touchdowns and 64.8 completion percentage passes places him among the league’s top 10 passers.
Ahead of the game, Bethel-Thompson talked about what he saw from the REDBLACKS defence on film.
“I’ll tell you what, (they have) a really good defence,” said Bethel-Thompson. “They’re a complete defence, a strong front, a back end that plays pretty cohesively and then (Micah) Awe at WILL and 42 (Avery Williams) at MIKE kind of flying around, especially Awe’s pretty fast. We don’t know exactly what we’re going to see Wednesday which is concerning. We got to show up with our A game.”
As Bethel-Thompson prepares for his second consecutive start, the vision for him is larger than individual success against Ottawa.
“I think it’s bigger than me though,” said Bethel-Thompson. “It’s about getting back-to-back wins. We haven’t done that yet this year so we need to take that step forward, we need to start expecting to be good.”
Given their record and current standing in the East Division, it would be easy for the Argonauts to overlook the REDBLACKS, but Dinwiddie knows that it can be anyone’s week.
THE ARGONAUTS ARE 3-0 AT HOME SO FAR IN 2021 AND WILL BE LOOKING TO REMAIN UNDEFEATED THIS WEEK (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
“It seems like they got their mojo back a little bit,” said Dinwiddie. “So that’s what I told our guys: ‘Previous weeks don’t mean nothing.’ I think they’re going to come in with confidence and we got to make sure we start fast. We know they’re better than their record.”
In Ottawa, on the heels of capturing their second win of the season against a dynamic Edmonton Elks team, Caleb Evans and the REDBLACKS are looking to run it back and play spoiler once again.
A dazzling performance in the nation’s capital framed the REDBLACKS offence in a different light.
Highlighted by the presence of Evans and the singular attempt from wide receiver Ryan Davis, the REDBLACKS offence accumulated 228 passing yards on the night. An additional 59 rushing yards by Evans saw the REDBLACKS finish with 109 rushing yards for a season-high 337 offensive yards. Through the air, Evans found three different receivers in Davis, Kenny Stafford and Timothy Flanders for touchdowns.
On the REDBLACKS injury front, the team saw full participation from their leading wide receiver, R.J. Harris. They also received full participation from their second-highest tackler, Don Unamba who will have his hands full with the plethora of Argos’ wide receivers and running backs that can make game-altering plays.
Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday and can be watched on TSN and ESPN+ or follow along on CFL.ca’s Game Tracker.