McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s record-setting night could not have come at a better time.
The Toronto quarterback completed 19 of 32 passes for 258 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception – surpassing Doug Flutie as number four in passing yards in franchise history – in the 37-20 Toronto Argonauts (5-5) win over the Hamilton Tiger-cats (3-8), Friday at BMO Field.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak and kept the Argos in first place on the East, one game ahead of Montreal.
It is not every day that you overcome such a marquee player in CFL lore on the history books (Ricky Ray and Damon Allen are still ahead), though one who set his mark with Toronto in just two seasons.
“Those names are unbelievable,” said the signal-caller, after the game. “They are just legends.
“It’s probably something I will look back on when my career is done, but right now I am focused on being above .500,” added the quarterback.
Markeith Ambles, DaVaris Daniels, and Kurleigh Gittens Jr. all finished the game with at least four receptions and a touchdown, continuing what seems to be a receiver-by-committee approach by the Argonauts.
Defensive back Jamal Peters had a team season-high three interceptions, including a game-icing pick-six.
It is the second consecutive week that the Argo’s secondary comes away with three steals after matching that number last week against the Calgary Stampeders.
“That’s setting the tone,” said the defensive back when asked about the ceiling for the defensive back group.
“We want to be the best players on the field,” added the 25-year-old, who was shocked to have so many turnovers. “I didn’t even have three picks in backyard football.”
Head coach Ryan Dinwiddie said last week that he understood the frustration from the fans who were booing the offence after they couldn’t get it done against the Stampeders.
This time there were no boos.
“Our fans are unique,” said the head coach on his post-game presser. “Every week they bring the juice.”
The voices coming from the stands at BMO Field were positive mostly because of a great second-half performance by the home team that got them to score a season-high 37 points.
“Those guys were dialed in,” added Dinwiddie about his team’s performance in the final two quarters. “They stuck together, it was a great character win.
“Guys made plays at the right times.”
The Ticats had starting quarterback Dane Evans back after a two-game absence with a shoulder injury, but his return was far from ideal as he was benched in the second half in favor of backup Matt Shiltz – who started the previous two games – after turning the ball over for the second time.
Head coach Orlondo Steinauer was forced to go back to his starter in the fourth quarter after Shiltz left the game with an apparent right-hand injury sustained on a sack by Argos defensive lineman Shane Ray.
Evans completed 19 of 30 passes for 244 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. He also lost a fumble on a tackle by defensive lineman Sam Acheampong in the second quarter.
Shiltz completed 13 of 15 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game.
Wide receiver Tim White finished with eight receptions for 105 yards, but dropped a wide-open touchdown in the third quarter that shifted momentum away from his team.
It seemed like it would be that kind of a night for Bethel-Thompson as he had a rough first quarter that included an interception by defensive back Rodney Randle Jr. and a great pass over the middle to Ambles called back by a holding penalty on offensive lineman Gregor MacKellar.
This was before settling in and leading the offence to three touchdowns and five scoring drives over the next three quarters.
The Argonauts went to halftime losing 16-10, but fought their way back in the second half.
Ticats kicker Seth Small made four out of his five attempts, including a 58-yard field goal that tied the franchise record and gave the visitors a six-point lead going into halftime. Boris Bede also had a good night connecting on all three of his kicks, the longest from 56 yards out.
Ray had two sacks on yet another good bend-don’t-break performance by the Argonauts defence.
The Ticats outgained the Argos in total yards by 452 to 301, but lost the turnover battle four to one.
Both teams had issues running the ball, combining for only 107 yards on the ground.
Defensive back Eric Sutton was disqualified for rough play with 12:07 left in the second quarter on a punt coverage penalty.
This was the first game of the second back-to-back between the two teams, as they each won a game in the first one.
The series returns to Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton next Monday on Labour Day, at 1 p.m.