Benched as the starter because he couldn't get the Toronto Argonauts over the hump, quarterback Jimmy Kemp came off the bench to get the job done last night.
Kemp, replacing starter Kerwin Bell in the fourth quarter, threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Tyrone Brown that gave Toronto a crucial 33-31 victory over the Calgary Stampeders before a scant SkyDome crowd of 15,387.
Toronto, 4-9-0, needed to win to keep its faint Canadian Football League playoff hopes alive. The Argos moved to four points behind the third-place Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 6-5-0-0, in the East Division and four points behind Calgary, 5-8-0-1, and the Edmonton Eskimos, 5-7-0-1, who are tied for second in the West Division. Toronto would cross over to the West playoffs if it finished the season with a better record than the third-place finisher in the West.
Kemp gave the Argos' faithful plenty to cheer about, capping a smart seven-play, 60-yard drive with the touchdown toss to Brown that put Toronto ahead 33-24. Calgary had narrowed the score to 26-24 by outscoring Toronto 21-3 in the second half.
The key moment in the winning drive came with Toronto sitting third-and-six at the Calgary 19 yard line. The Argos booted a field goal, for a 29-24 lead, but the Stampeders were offside. Toronto took the penalty, with Kemp getting the pivotal first down on a quarterback sneak.
Kemp's touchdown pass proved to be the winning margin as Calgary capped a wild fourth quarter by making the score 33-31 on Ben Sankey's 19-yard touchdown pass to Marc Boerigter with 1 minute 59 seconds remaining in the game. But Toronto ran out the clock for its second victory over Calgary and fourth this year against a West Division team.
Kemp's heroics came 48 hours after being sacked as the starter by Argos coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons. Although Kemp had led Toronto to all of its previous wins -- Kemp was 3-6 as the starter -- Clemons switched quarterbacks because he felt Kemp wasn't finishing off enough drives.
"It's not something you would prefer to do [be the backup] but you do what you're asked to do," said Kemp, who completed three of four passes for 35 yards and rushed twice for five yards. "I'm proud to be on this team and do what I can to help the team win."
Clemons said he put Kemp into the game because Kemp is more mobile than Bell, which helps create more running room. With Toronto nursing a 26-24 lead, Clemons was hoping his offence would control the ball with Michael Jenkins, who ran for 111 yards in the game, and protect the lead.
"Jimmy opens the running lanes," Clemons said. "All we needed to do was maintain control of the ball to keep our defence off the field and give them rest as well as continue to score points of some kind."
Clemons said he had no second thoughts about trying the third-down gamble.
"I think it's important to show the guys we're going to be aggressive and try to win and not try not to lose," he said. "We kept putting a lot of pressure on our defence, so I thought it was important for our offence to rise up, get the yard and move the chains and go in and score the touchdown."
Kemp's performance wasted a fine rally by the Stampeders, who trailed Toronto 23-3 at halftime, mainly because of two Sankey miscues. Wayne Shaw returned an interception 69 yards for a Toronto touchdown in the first quarter before linebacker Elfrid Payton took a Sankey fumble 86 yards for a major in the second.
But Calgary coach Wally Buono said the offside penalty decided the game.
"To jump offside on third-and-six makes you kind of sick," he said. "We not only gave them 14 points on offence, then we give them an easy touchdown on defence.
"That's pathetic football."
Calgary linebacker Alondra Johnson took the loss especially hard.
"If we can't beat Toronto, who the hell are we going to beat?" he said. Nigel Williams had Toronto's other touchdown. Dan Giancola booted four converts, a field goal and a single, while punter Noel Prefontaine added a single.
Boerigter had two touchdowns for Calgary, with Joe Fleming (53-yard interception) and Travis Moore adding the others. Mark McLoughlin had four converts and a field goal.
Before the game, the Argos paid tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks in the United States with a moment of silence. Diane Clemons, the wife of Toronto head coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons, performed the U.S. anthem.