At least the Toronto Argonauts get to try it again in five days.
Tuesday night’s date with the Montreal Alouettes didn’t go so well as the Argo offence sputtered en route to a 20-9 defeat. The two teams meet again Sunday in Montreal.
“That’s the thing about football, every loss feels like the end of the world,” said Toronto coach Scott Milanovich. “Until you wake up the next morning and you look at it on film and you realize what you could have done better. And you realize what you have.
“I think we’re fortunate that we play them again in five days.”
There is plenty to work on.
Zach Collaros, making his second start at quarterback for the injured Ricky Ray, completed 21 of 32 passes for 256 yards and a touchdown but was intercepted and gave up a fumble that turned into a Montreal touchdown.
Toronto managed just one point from its first two drives, despite getting to Montreal’s 23- and 13-yard line thanks to Noel Prefontaine’s missed 30-yard field goal and a flubbed snap on a 20-year field goal attempt.
The home team trailed 17-8 at the half before a crowd of 18,863 boosted by thousands of noisy University of Toronto students, most of whom picked up their thundersticks and went elsewhere in search of entertainment at halftime.
The Argos, shut out in the second half in a 35-14 loss to Calgary last time out, put just one point on the board in the second half this time.
“We left a lot of plays out there, a lot of completions,” said Collaros.
Poor execution and turnovers — four in all — cost the Argos. And Toronto rushed for just 58 yards — on 16 carries.
“You have to give them credit,” Milanovich said of the Als. “But we’ve got to find a way to run the ball better, there’s no doubt about it.”
Jason Barnes dropped a touchdown pass in the first quarter. Fortunately John Chiles made his catch one play later for a 8-0 Toronto lead.
The Argonauts had to briefly resort to third-string quarterback Trevor Harris after Collaros hurt his shoulder when flipped to the turf by Alouettes linebacker Chip Cox via an illegal horse-collar tackle in the second quarter. Collaros later returned to the game.
An Argo illegal contact penalty on Jalil Carter aided an Als drive in the second. Montreal quarterback Tanner Marsh promptly made Toronto pay, stepping up to evade the rush and threading the needle between two Argo defenders to find Arland Bruce for a 28-yard TD that gave Montreal a 10-8 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Chad Owens missed the ball and was dumped at the Toronto six-yard line.
Owens had a rough night, needing treatment twice after hurting his neck and taking a shot to the ribs.
Asked which hurt the most, the Flying Hawaiian paused between munches on a slice of pizza to say: “The loss hurts the most.”
A mistake-riddled first half ended soon after Collaros was hit from behind when blitzing Alouette linebacker Marc-Olivier Brouillette went unblocked. Collaros fumbled the ball on impact and Shea Emery ran the ball back 37 yards for the TD and a 17-8 lead. To rub salt in the would, the Argos were called for a horse-collar tackle.
Toronto, meanwhile, failed to take advantage of Montreal errors. An ill-advised throw early in the third turned into an Argo interception as Marsh tried to force a pass to Jerome Messam between two defenders. Matt Black hauled the ball in instead.
Collaros promptly returned the favour when he lofted a pass to Barnes that was intercepted by Billy Parker.
Two drives later, Collaros had the Argo offence moving down the field. He completed six straight passes and even made a block, of the enthusiastic if not textbook variety, that paved the way for a back-and-forth 27-yard romp by Chiles.
But after his seventh straight completion of the drive, Dontrelle Inman was hit by Billy Parker, coughing up the ball for Byron Parker to recover. The officials initially rewarded the ball to Toronto but the ruling was overturned on a challenge.
That killed off an 83-yard drive that started at the Argo 14. Marsh then hit Duron Carter for 47 yards on the final play of the third quarter. Messam rumbled for 29 yards and, three plays later, the Als kicked a field goal for a 20-8 lead 1:50 into the quarter.
An illegal block on the ensuing kickoff penned the Argos back at 13 at their 13-yard line. Toronto then went two and out.
“We just didn’t play well enough offensively to win,” said Milanovich, who refused to blame his quarterback.
Milanovich said he thought his defence did enough for the team to win. Still there were too many missed tackles.
Asked if Collaros will start in Montreal, the coach replied: “I’m feeling that way right now. I still have to see the tape but I think Zach’s got a good future and we stand behind him.”
Toronto was penalized 11 times for 76 yards. Montreal wasn’t any better, called eight times for 84 yards.
“Hats off to them,” Collaros said of the Als. “They played a good game. They played better than us, made more plays than us.”