MONTREAL — A 38-yard field goal in the dying seconds from Boris Bede secured a dramatic 23-20 win for the Toronto Argonauts over the Montreal Alouettes on Friday evening at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium.
With the victory, the Argonauts (11-1) clinched the East Division title for the third consecutive season and completed the season sweep over the Alouettes (6-7).
“We’re going to make sure that we’re not rusty. We accomplished our second goal and now it’s time to get healthy, stay focused and keep working,” said Argonauts head coach Ryan Dinwiddie.
"We’re going to rest guys if they’re hurt or if they’re dinged. There are some guys that deserve to get rested and there’s some guys that we have to develop.”
The defensive standoff began early, with Toronto recording its first of five sacks on the night and forcing a two-and-out. Montreal was quick to record a sack of its own, forcing Toronto to concede the Argos first sack in five games.
After trading punts, Montreal opened the scoring with a 33-yard field goal from David Côté with five minutes left in the first quarter.
However, Toronto needed just two-and-a-half minutes to respond, scoring a touchdown on the next drive. After working the ball down to the two-yard-line, A.J. Ouellette capped off a 60-yard drive with a run up the middle.
The second quarter saw more of the same as both teams struggled to put together a meaningful drive trading seven consecutive punts. In fact, it would take 14:30 for either team to have a scoring drive as Bede scored the first points of the second quarter, hitting a 47-yard field goal just before halftime.
The second half was much different, beginning with two consecutive scoring drives. After Toronto had to settle for a 16-yard field goal after being unable to convert in the red zone, it was Montreal’s turn to reply with a touchdown.
Caleb Evans capped off a seven-play, 72-yard drive with a quarterback sneak from the one-yard-line, bringing the score to within three.
Montreal would then immediately force a two-and-out from Toronto and score another field goal to tie the game at 13. A 37-yard punt return from Chandler Worthy put Montreal in excellent field position, resulting in a 16-yard kick from Côté.
“We didn’t make a complete overhaul of adjustments. We had a lot of plays going into this game and we just dialed up some different ones,” said Alouettes head coach Jason Maas. “We just made some better decisions and throws and guys made some very good catches. We were also in second-and-long a lot in the first half and not so much in the second half."
The difference was immediately noticeable as quarterback Cody Fajardo immediately found more success at picking apart the Toronto secondary. After mustering just 63 yards and throwing 12 of 17 in the first half, the veteran completed 18 of his 22 pass attempts for 211 yards in the second half.
After forcing another punt, Montreal scored for the third consecutive drive, this time finding the end zone through the air. Fajardo caught Tyson Philpot on a slant route from 14 yards out, taking a 20-13 lead at the start of the fourth quarter.
With just over five minutes left, the Argonauts finally kicked into gear. Starting at their own one-yard line, the league’s top-ranked team marched all the way to the red zone.
After failing to score and turning the ball over on downs, Toronto would be given a second opportunity and wasted no time finding the end zone, needing just two plays to cover 61 yards. Chad Kelly picked out Damonte Coxie for a 41-yard touchdown pass, tying the game at 20 apiece.
“That’s the thing about the CFL, 60 minutes feels like 120, there’s never enough time,” said Dinwiddie. “We had to work for this one. When we were down I said, ‘guys we’re going to go win it at the end, just trust and keep working.’"
With Toronto taking the lead with less than a minute after Bede’s kick, Montreal had the opportunity to send the game to overtime with a 45-yard field goal of its own, but the kick was blocked.
Both teams are back in action on Sept. 23 when the Alouettes travel to Calgary to play the Stampeders, while the Argonauts host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2023.
Elias Grigoriadis, The Canadian Press