Argos win nailbiter over Blue Bombers in CFL exhibition opener
Running back Steve Slaton scores pair of TDs in 24-22 victory
Head coach Mike O'Shea checked himself as he was describing how he felt about a pass interference rule change that was a contributing factor to his Winnipeg Blue Bombers 24-22 pre-season loss to the Toronto Argos.
Toronto coach Scott Milanovich was the first in the CFL to avail himself of the chance to challenge the officials failure to rule pass interference on a play and subject it to video review.
His challenge stood and it helped set up Steve Slaton's second touchdown of the game to put Toronto ahead 24-16.
"It worked out well for coach Milanovich, for Scott, and it was pass interference, I believe it was pass interference," he said.
"The rule worked and do I like the rule? Not really. There might be some problems with it at some point."
But he cut himself off when asked to go any further.
"I don't think I'm allowed to talk about it."
The loss hurt but he was happy with a lot of what he saw on the field.
The Bombers saw CFL rookie running backs Paris Cotton and Nic Grigsby deliver some of the same stuff they've flashed in practice and Canadian receiver Julian Feoli-Gudino scored his first touchdown.
They also got solid performances from the two players auditioning for the kicking job.
Slaton meanwhile was also happy after his performance and while it was only a pre-season game he said a win is always worth something.
"Yeah, everybody's competing for jobs," he said of the solid performance of some Argos rookies.
Toronto got a few good carries from running back Jeremiah Johnson, those two touchdowns from Slaton and a solid first quarter out of quarterback Trevor Harris, not a rookie but a likely candidate to move up to Ricky Ray's No. 1 backup this season.
Harris completed eight of 12 throws for 81 yards.
Drew Willy debuted as the starting quarterback for the Bombers. Willy completed six of his 12 passing attempts for 108 yards and one touchdown before he left the game.
"It's fun to get out and play in a real game with these guys," he said.
Running back Anthony Coombs also got to appear in front of a hometown crowd Monday as a CFL player for the first time, although not in a Bombers' uniform. The former University of Manitoba Bison was drafted by the Argos third overall this year.
He had six carries for 19 yards rushing, another four yards on a punt return and 30 on a kickoff return.
"Any role that they put me in I just want to help the team," he said.
"They've got me on some special teams, some running back, I'm very versatile so whatever they see fit that I can contribute the most I'll be more than willing to do to help us win."
He also said he had few friends in the stands. The Bisons share Investors Group Field with the Bombers and is located on the campus of the University of Manitoba.
"The response was good. I had a couple of cheers."
The CFL Players Association is expected to vote this week on a tentative contract with the league that may determine whether the pre-season, or regular season, continues beyond Monday.
Glenn January is Winnipeg's CFL players' representative and he says he doesn't know when the vote will be held.
"My job as a player rep is just to inform the guys, I'm not here to sway them one way or the other," he said.
"We'll definitely sit down tomorrow and hammer everything out and have a nice little session of discussions and see where we go from there."
1st on board
The Bombers scored first on a 43-yard field goal from Lirim Hajrullahu, a rookie Canadian out of Western, set up by a 47-yard pass from Willy to veteran receiver Clarence Denmark.
Toronto made it 7-3 with a little more that three minutes to go in the first after a one-yard run by sophomore running back Curtis Steele. Slaton then ran 13 yards for Toronto's second touchdown about three minutes into the second quarter as the Argos moved ahead 14-3.
The Bombers came back with a solid 76-yard drive capped by a short touchdown pass to an unguarded Feoli-Gudino and closed the gap to four points.
Brett Maher closed it to one with a 47-yard field goal before the first half ended. Maher is the import also vying for the kicker's job and he had a 35-yarder in the fourth.
Toronto's Josh Jasper missed a 41-yard field-goal attempt in the third but connected with a 14-yard kick later in the quarter.
Both teams had touchdowns called back. The Bombers lost theirs on a penalty and Toronto did so when a video replay showed the ball was lost before it broke the goal line.
Winnipeg tested all four of its quarterbacks Monday.
Toronto didn't dress veteran starting quarterback Ricky Ray, going with their three backups.
The two teams should know each other well, although both have made significant changes since last season.
Former Winnipeg head coach Tim Burke (defensive co-ordinator) heads a cast of former Bomber coaches now working for the Argonauts and former Toronto special teams co-ordinator Mike O'Shea took over from Burke as head coach of the Bombers.
If it isn't derailed by a work stoppage, the Bombers and Argos are also set to open the regular CFL season when they meet again in Winnipeg June 26.
The attendance for the game was 24,000.