Try as they might, the Argonauts defence could not keep Toronto’s playoff hopes alive as the Edmonton Eskimos beat them 22-19 at the Rogers Centre on Friday night.
Running back Arkee Whitlock led the visitors from Alberta , scoring two touchdowns in the second half and rushing for a total of 140 yards.
It was Edmonton’s first win in Toronto in four seasons and could not have come at a better time as the Eskimos battle with Hamilton and Winnipeg for the final playoff spot.
The victory also knocks Toronto out of the postseason.
Edmonton’s Ricky Ray went 17-for-24, 170 yards, adding a touchdown and an interception.
Toronto pivot Kerry Joseph threw for more yards, but was much less efficient. He completed 25 passes in 42 attempts for 289 yards with two interceptions.
His one touchdown came with two minutes left and it capped nearly two month since Toronto has last scored through the air.
After a quiet first half, Edmonton’s defence created a break when Andrew Nowacki picked up punt returner Jason Smith’s fumble. The play put the ball four yards away from the end zone.
Running back Whitlock punched the ball in for a score, followed by a Noel Prefontaine kick to give the Eskimos a 15-9 lead.
Toronto responded with its strongest drive of the night that moved the ball 61 yards down the field and culminated in a Justin Medlock field goal to keep the Argos alive at 15-12.
Whitlock struck again with a breakout 53-yard run. His second touchdown put the Eskimos out of the Toronto’s reach for good at 22-12.
With just under seven minutes left in the fourth, Edmonton’s Byron Parker picked off his former teammate Joseph. The interception was particularly special for the cornerback, who was traded to the Eskimos earlier this season.
The move came after Parker compared Toronto’s defence to Pop Warner kids’ football.
Joseph and the Argonauts finally scored a touchdown with two minutes left on the clock when Toronto’s pivot found Jeff Johnson for a two-yard reception.
Following a Medlock kick, the Boatmen were down just 22-19, with their defence in a position to stop Edmonton.
But the offence ran out of time.
The first half was defensively oriented, with more punting then passing.
Toronto came out flying, blocking a Ricky Ray pass on Edmonton’s first snap, and then getting a deflected interception on his second attempt. Linebacker Willie Pile ran it a dozen yards before being knocked out of bounds.
That interception allowed Toronto to strike first with Medlock converting a 27-yard field goal.
Edmonton took over the lead with a pass to slotback Fred Stamps, who ran 63 yards for a touchdown. After a Prefontaine kick, the Eskimos were up 7-3 five minutes into the game.
Argos quarterback Joseph moved his offence down the field with some help from two penalties by the Eskimos.
Although Toronto’s passing game was clearly struggling, Joseph got Medlock close enough to score his second field goal of the night.
Prefontaine missed a 51-yard field goal at the end of the first quarter, but got the single to make it 8-6 for the Albertans.
The second quarter was dominated by defence, with both teams combining for 12 punts by halftime. The only score of the frame came in the last second of play when Medlock booted a 27-yard field goal for the 9-6 Toronto lead.