As the Toronto Argonauts painful season approaches its end, their 2019 home schedule concluded with a 39-9 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks.
And it was all hands on deck under centre.
With two games remaining, the Argonauts (4-13) used three different starting quarterbacks Saturday, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Dakota Prukop and Canadian rookie Michael O’Connor.
All three found the end zone as Prukop and O’Connor notched their first career CFL touchdown passes.
“They all had a good handle on it,” said Argos head coach Corey Chamblin, in his post-game media conference. “I was pleased with how they prepared and they’ve done that all year.
“The plan was to evaluate them and overall I thought they did a good job.”
Having not played a significant down of football under centre in three years, Prukop soaked in all the good and bad feelings that come with the inexperience.
“I hadn’t been this nervous for a game in a while,” said Prukop, who was 6-for-8, with 98-yards passing and two touchdowns in Saturday’s win at BMO Field. “I had it all, but I knew I needed to relish those nervous feelings.
“I’m thankful we went out executed.”
O’Connor, who selected in the third round (20th overall) of the 2019 CFL Draft by the Double Blue, completed 5-of-9 passes for 61-yards and added a touchdown.
Post-game, the Orleans, Ont. native did not shy away from the responsibility of representing Canadian quarterbacks in the future.
“To be honest at this point in my career I’m not focused on that,” said O’Connor. “I still have a long way to go and a lot of good left. Down the road I definitely would love to be an inspiration for young quarterbacks in this country
“The future is bright but right now I just want to focus on having success in this league.”
Argos wide receiver Rodney Smith had the pleasure of catching both milestone touchdown passes, but his post-score celebrations did not make it easy for his teammates to keep a memento.
Smith hurled the first touchdown ball caught from Prukop over in the south stands and into the parking lot, the second, he had logistics and luck on his side.
The 29-year-old chucked the second pigskin caught from O’Connor into the crowd on the north side, luckily the ball was later thrown down and retrieved by the Boatmen’s equipment staff.
“Earlier in the pre-season I caught a long touchdown pass and I threw it in the parking lot,” said Smith, explaining his post-touchdown mishap after a 13-yard end zone catch. “One of the trainers and I were talking about it all year and he wanted me to do it again on my next touchdown. So I got close to the parking lot and I threw it in there for him.
“When I realized what I did I felt so bad and I told Dakota ‘I owe you another one.’ But he said he didn’t care about so it worked out.”
The Miami, Fla., native went on to detail the second blunder following a phenomenal 11-yard touchdown grab that needed to be confirmed by video review.
“I did the same on Michael’s but thankfully they got that one back. I forgot that I’m in there with young guys and I have to keep that in mind, but it made me feel good that Michael’s came back.”
Chamblin knew what was coming for his receiver post-game in the locker room.
“I could hear everyone talking about it,” said the 42-year-old. “Another receiver joked with Michael and said ‘if you threw it to me I wouldn’t have thrown the ball out.’”
“That wasn’t the smartest thing there but the good thing is those quarterbacks will stay hungry and try to get more achievements like SJ and other guys.”
S.J. Green needed just 20 yards to reach 1,000-yards receiving for the season, feat he has accomplished six times previously.
Midway thru the first quarter after an earlier 15-yard catch, Green grabbed another and surpassed the mark but a surprise was waiting for him after the first 15 minutes of the contest.
Green was surprisingly greeted by his family to not only honour his achievement Saturday, but two more he had accomplished two weeks ago against the Redblacks at home as well.
The 34-year-old became the 18th player to surpass 10,000-yards receiving and the 14th to record 700 receptions in league history.
Toronto’s season will end with an away matchup against the East Division leading Hamilton Tiger-Cats (14-3), who have already clinched a first-round bye and the right to host the CFL East final.
The positive thing about this team, is that there isn’t a Grey Cup to play for but they haven’t checked out,” said Chamblin. It’s all about building a professional resume not just for the Argos but for their professional football careers.”