James Wilder Jr. bulldozes Eskimos for 256 total yards in Argonauts’ upset win
It was a game that was nearly lost by the Argonauts, a game that had it all and was capped off by a dramatic and controversial ending.
James Wilder Jr. rushed for 190 yards — an unheard of number with the passhappy Argos of recent years — Martese Jackson went end zone to end zone on a missed field goal and Toronto native Matt Black, who was actually cut by the Argos earlier in the season, put the icing on the cake with a sack and forced fumble with 91 seconds remaining as the visiting Edmonton Eskimos were threatening to tie it up.
All in all, it was a great day for football at BMO Field, and a very good 34-26 win for the Argos, who now improve to 5-7.
The start wasn’t exactly ideal, especially for an Argos team coming off a bye week. But when there’s a breakdown in protection and a veteran quarterback fails to secure the football, turnovers are inevitable. This one happened to arrive on the second play from scrimmage.
And suddenly, the Argos were trailing 7-0.
The end was just as unexpected, a late-game sequence featuring a challenge flag that went Toronto’s way, the Black sack and Cody Fajardo at quarterback, and not Ricky Ray.
It marked the first time this season the Argos have beaten a Western opponent and one of the few times when they dominated the line of scrimmage. But it also came on an afternoon
when the Argos lost the turnover battle, took 10 penalties and lost time of possession.
“We found a way to do it,’’ said Argos head coach Marc Trestman, who pulled all the right strings. “It wasn’t easy. We turned the ball over, we gave up an explosive play on offence in the fourth quarter (leading to an Edmonton score) and yet we were able to find a way to win a game and that’s the important thing. “We had the grit to do it.” There was an element of good fortune to it, as well. Edmonton (7-5 with its fifth loss in a row) dropped what appeared to be a pick-six, its special teams couldn’t convert when drives weren’t finished and a challenge flag was about to be thrown by Trestman during the game until
someone pointed out how only 10 seconds remained before a TV timeout.
As it was, Trestman held on to the flag and used it in the frenetic final moments for a pass interference call in the end zone that drew a flag, but was overturned once video review took effect.
“We’ve got to do a better job in the fourth quarter,’’ said Trestman when asked what he learned about this group. “We gave them a chance to get back in the game.
“The other side, the positive side, we certainly found a way to win on that last drive, so to speak. We were able to hang on to the football and not give them another shot down the field.”
Wilder Jr., starting in place of Brandon Whitaker, produced
256 yards rushing and receiving, including a 76-yard touchdown run on the second play after the Eskimos had tied it 14-14.
Jackson then returned a Hugh O’Neill missed field goal for a touchdown, a sideline run of 125 yards in the third quarter to extend the
Boatmen’s lead to 24-15.
But it wasn’t until the Argos were ahead 34-15 that the Edmonton offence finally showed signs of life, Mike Reilly hitting Travon Van for an eight-yard TD strike, with the two-pointer to Derel Walker cutting the Toronto lead to 11 with 8:05 to play.
All of a sudden, it became a two-score game, the 13,182 fans at BMO Field no longer assured of an Argos win.
The game then had its moment of suspense when a tipped ball was picked off by the Eskimos, giving Edmonton excellent field position at Toronto’s 33 yard line, the second turnover by the Argos.
Johnny Sears Jr., who was beaten in man coverage earlier in the game by Brandon Zylstra, picked off Reilly, but it was overturned on an Argos’ penalty, giving Edmonton an extra set of downs. An Argos offside call then placed the ball on Toronto’s four yard line.
Two plays later, Reilly threw a great corner route D’haquille Williams, who caught it just inside the touch line. But Trestman threw a challenge flag, arguing Williams interfered with defensive back Alden Darby. The TD was overturned, Toronto’s defence stood tall and Edmonton settled for a field goal.
Following a two-and-out by the Argos, the Eskimos had the ball back with 2:12 remaining. Reilly, with no pressure, went deep on the first play, connecting with Bryant Mitchell, who got behind Sears Jr. before Mitchell was tackled by Black at Toronto’s 13.
Again, the Argos defence stiffened and forced a third and goal at the 10, Black saving the game with his sack.
The Argos then went with a curve by having Fajardo at quarterback, the big, mobile pivot using his legs to move the chains and effectively seal the win.
Argonauts’ Martese Jackson scoots out of his own end zone en route to a 125-yard touchdown return of a missed Eskimos field goal yesterday at BMO Field. It was one of the highlights of a surprise 34-26 victory by the Double Blue.