The last time James Franklin started at quarterback for the Toronto Argonauts, he left the Canada Day matchup with the Saskatchewan Roughriders with an injury.
He picked up where he left off against Saskatchewan on Saturday night, nearly three months later, but failed to improve the Argos fortunes as Toronto fell 41-16 to the Riders at BMO Field, their seventh consecutive loss to Saskatchewan.
It was the Oklahoma native’s first start since July 1, replacing McLeod Bethel-Thompson who had started under centre in the Argos’ last 10 games. Franklin went 21-30 for 208 yards, one touchdown pass, a rushing touchdown, and two interceptions. He was also sacked six times.
“From an offensive standpoint, that was obviously a bit demoralizing,” said the quarterback of the pressure he faced.
Things started well for Franklin, who marched the Argos down the field on a seven-play, 69 yard drive in just 3:15, including a 42-yard pass to Derel Walker, to tie the game at three with a field goal after the Riders scored on the opening drive.
“It felt pretty good,” said Franklin of his first start in nearly three months. “There’s always things you can do better, there’s always things you do good. I felt pretty good and I learned a lot today.”
After that first drive, the offence started sputtering, only managing three first downs in the rest of the half.
Franklin consistently held onto the ball too long as his offensive line collapsed around him, making it nearly impossible for the Argos to make a play.
“It looked like his first start,” said coach Corey Chamblin post-game. “Tough day at the office for him. There were times when you saw flashes of him using his legs and him dumping the ball off but overall it wasn’t successful.”
Despite a fairly strong first 20 minutes from the Argos defence, a 28-yard touchdown pass from Cody Fajardo to Kyran Moore followed by a 39-yard field goal by Brett Lauther gave Saskatchewan a 10-point lead at half.
Things went from bad to worse to start the second half, as a Chris Rainey fumble gave the Riders the ball at the Toronto 27, which Fajardo promptly turned into seven points and a 20-3 lead just minutes into the third quarter.
“Early it looked like there was a chance, that we could battle, try to find a win,” Chamblin said. “Toward the end, there was one of two little things that they took advantage of that we couldn’t.
“Started with some good stuff but we just didn’t finish well at all.”
The offence did finally click in the fourth quarter when Franklin marched the team 92-yards for a touchdown, with S.J. Green reeling in a 15-yard pass.
Another strong drive resulted in the Argos QB running the ball in from the one-yard line for his first rushing touchdown of the season.
“Unfortunately, it was the end of the game, it would have been nice to have that in the beginning,” said Franklin of the late rally. “Those are the things we’re trying to learn from and not just get frustrated from but kind of say ‘you know what getting frustrated is not going to change it’ so let’s take that into next week.”
However, it was too little too late as the Riders kept finding the endzone themselves, including taking advantage of a Franklin interception inside the Argo 15 with just over five minutes to go.
After a tough loss like this, the Argos will try to “put it to bed and move forward,” said coach Chamblin. “We continue to be more detailed and get ready to go on the road.”
The Riders clinched a playoff spot with the win and will host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers next week, while the Argos will head to the west coast for a battle of basement dwellers with the B.C. Lions.