Argos barely hold off Ticats

If there's something positive the Hamilton Tiger-Cats can take away from their game on Thursday against the Toronto Argonauts, it's they won't back down without a fight.

The Argonauts blitzed the visiting Ticats for 28 points in the first quarter, but were forced to play defence thereafter in holding on for a 38-31 victory before 30,369, the largest crowd at SkyDome since 1992.

The Argos can thank return specialist Bashir Levingston for this win. The fleet-footed receiver ran 96 yards for a touchdown on the opening kickoff and then scampered 114 yards on a missed field goal in the first quarter to set the pace of the game.

Toronto punter Chris Hardy played a huge role as well. Hardy was forced into action when Noel Prefontaine left in the second quarter with a hip injury. He booted three field goals, all in the fourth quarter, to keep the Argos in the lead.

"When it was 28-0, I thought it was in the bag," Levingston said. "But then I was looking at the scoreboard and getting a little nervous because it was too close for comfort.

"But it was great that Hardy kicked those field goals. If he didn't do that, who knows?"

Hardy remained humble after the game despite Levingston's praises.

"To get the win was the most important thing," said Hardy, who also punted eight times. "Whether it's the last kick of the game or the first extra point, you've got to treat them the same.

"Kicking is like golf, it's physics and technique."

For those CFL fans who can't get enough of this intense, long-standing rivalry, circle Nov. 5 on the calendar. That's when these two teams will battle it out in the East Division semifinal at the SkyDome.

Both coaches will not only use the video from this one to prepare for that playoff game, but they will use it to point out many of their team's mistakes.

For Ticats head coach Greg Marshall, he'll probably concentrate on special teams play.

Not only did the Tiger-Cats look helpless as Levingston eluded tackles in his two touchdown runs, but they watched Clifford Ivory pick off a Danny McManus pass and run it back 18 yards to the end zone.

But the night wasn't all bad for the 39-year-old McManus. The 15-year CFLer joined an exclusive club on Thursday night, becoming just the third quarterback in CFL history to pass for 50,000 or more career yards with a beautiful touchdown pass to Craig Yeast early in the second quarter.

The game was stopped after the play to honour McManus's achievement. Argos pivot Damon Allen and Ticats general manager Ron Lancaster – the only other CFLers to reach the mark – along with CFL commissioner Tom Wright posed for a picture with McManus and presented him the historic ball.

The scoreboard also displayed a video tribute to the former Florida State star.

"You stay around long enough you'll get there," McManus said. "Damon and Ron, those guys are the CFL.

"I had goosebumps when I went out there for the ceremony."

McManus hit on 29 of 42 passes Thursday for 439 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.

Allen, making his first start since fracturing his left tibia against Montreal on Aug. 12, also performed well.

The 41-year-old completed 12 of 20 passes for 144 yards and ran for a one-yard touchdown.

For Argos head coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons, he'll concentrate on his team's lack of focus. Holding a seemingly comfortable 29-7 lead in the second quarter, Toronto allowed the Ticats to chip away at the deficit.

League rushing leader Troy Davis scored on a three-yard run at 14:23 of the fourth quarter to pull Hamilton to within seven points.

On the ensuing kick, the Argos recovered the ball but couldn't kill the clock, punting with 12 seconds left. A no-yards penalty gave the Ticats one last chance on their 32-yard line, but to no avail.

Yeast was also on the receiving end of another long bomb from McManus, a 75-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to give the Ticats hope of a comeback.

Yeast finished with nine receptions for 225 yards and three touchdowns.