Argos host RedBlacks in must-win affair

Nov 5, 2014 - 4:28 PM Toronto, ON ( - Hanging on by the skin of their teeth, the Toronto Argonauts find themselves in dire straits as they try to work their way into the Grey Cup Playoffs.

In this the final week of the regular season, the Argos are set to host the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks in a must-win game.

Not only is this a huge game for Toronto at Rogers Centre on Friday night, the team also needs to get some help from Montreal when the Alouettes meet up with Hamilton on Saturday. As the team sitting in third place in the East Division standings currently, Toronto is two points behind Hamilton for the final playoff spot and would find itself sitting at home if the Tiger-Cats upend Montreal.

Unfortunately, the Argos put themselves in this position by losing two of the last three outings after putting together a three-game win streak. Last Sunday, Toronto could have clogged up the postseason scenarios as it met with Montreal on the road, but the Argos came up short in a 17-14 final.

But perhaps more devastating than the three-point setback was the loss of quarterback Ricky Ray to a head injury. One of the league's all-time greatest signal callers managed to convert 26-of-35 passes for 209 yards, but was sacked three times and suffered a concussion which has him now listed as doubtful for this regular-season finale.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the only quarterbacks on the active roster for the Argos other than Ray were Trevor Harris and Mitchell Gale. While the latter was the one who tossed a one-yard TD to Mike Bradwell late in the first half last time out, all indications have Harris as the potential starter at this point. Harris completed only one of his four attempts against Montreal for eight yards.

Hailing from Edinboro University in Pennsylvania where he was a two-time finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, which recognizes the most valuable player at the Division II level, Harris has been on the Toronto roster for three years and has completed 33-of-58 passes for 424 yards.

While Toronto still holds out hope that there will be life after Week 20, the same cannot be said for the expansion RedBlacks who have been pummeled week after week. Against visiting Hamilton on Halloween, Ottawa appeared to be ready to break what had become a three-game losing streak, but even an 8-0 edge in the first quarter was lost to a Tiger-Cats squad that was in desperate need of a win in order to maintain hope for the postseason.

Quarterback Henry Burris converted 15-of-26 passes for 222 yards and a score, but he also tossed a couple of interceptions and was sacked four times before being pulled out in favor of Danny O'Brien. Unfortunately for the RedBlacks, O'Brien didn't fare much better as he hit 6-of-10 attempts for 83 yards and was also intercepted twice.

Making a more significant impact for the hosts was running back Jeremiah Johnson who finished with a game-high 131 yards and two majors on 17 attempts. So dominant in the running game was Johnson, he topped all of Hamilton as the Tiger-Cats amassed just 107 yards on 15 attempts.

Turnovers have plagued the RedBlacks the entire season, and now with one game to play they find themselves last in the league in turnover margin at minus-15. One would think Ottawa would easily end up with the worst mark in the league in that regard, but right behind the squad is Toronto at minus-13. A gambling group that is almost always playing from behind, the RedBlacks have turned the ball over 17 times on downs, by far the most of any club, while Toronto's downfall is having too many lost fumbles (25).

In terms of the all-time series between teams representing these two cities, Toronto is ahead by a count of 132-105-5 in regular-season battles that have taken place since 1907. However, of the two games won by Ottawa this season, one of those came in Week 4 action versus Toronto in a narrow 18-17 final.

In that game, the RedBlacks produced a solid 313 yards of total offense, but failed to make it into the end zone as Burris completed 17-of-30 passes for 216 yards and was sacked five times. Instead, the hero of the day for the hosts was kicker Brett Maher who knocked through six field goals, the last of which coming with less than 30 seconds to play in regulation.

Over on the other side, Ray had his struggles as he completed 21-of-27 attempts for 298 yards and a score, but was sacked three times and tossed a pair of interceptions. The Argos certainly didn't do themselves any favors as they committed 12 penalties for a loss of 132 yards.

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