Andrew Harris made many of the Argonauts’ deficiencies disappear on Sunday night at Mosaic Stadium in Regina.
With the Boatmen doing their best to implode, the future Hall of Fame running imposed his will and skill with a display of power running and mental toughness that won’t be soon forgotten.
In easily his finest moment as an Argo — a day in which he would make CFL history — Harris bulled his way for 143 yards rushing and another 45 receiving — most of those coming in the second half — as the Argos rallied to defeat the Saskatchewan Roughriders 31-21.
It was a night that looked pretty bad for head coach Ryan Dinwiddie, until the Argos were finally able to make enough plays to improve their record to 3-2.
The game had been rescheduled from Saturday following a COVID among Riders players. But for most of the game, it seemed the Argos were in COVID protocol given the collective fog that marred the team’s coaching and play.
Harris was the exception and the main reason why the Argos escaped with a win.
The only thing Harris didn’t do was find the end zone.
The winning margin came on a late Boris Bede field goal that broke a 21-21 deadlock.
The Argos added a clinching TD on the ensuing kickoff with 30 seconds left when Riders’ Mario Alford, who returned a missed field goal at the end of the opening half for a touchdown, tried to do far too much. He ended up fumbling the ball inside the 10 yard line as Enoch Penny-Laryea recovered and ran into the end zone untouched.
For the second time in as many weeks, Harris made history. Last week, he passed Milt Stegall for fourth place on the league’s career list for most yards from scrimmage.
This week, Harris became the first Canadian and only the sixth player in CFL history to reach 10,000 rushing yards.
“At the end of day, our team, as a whole, stuck together,’’ said Harris. “I’m proud of our teammates.
“Personal accomplishments are great, but (Sunday) I was very proud of my team and how we responded to certain situations.”
So much would go wrong, so many points left out on the field, so many missteps, turnovers and suspect decision-making and yet the Argos overcame all the nonsense and idiocy to tie the game, 21-21, with 4:49 left in the fourth quarter.
Toronto should not have been in this position, but it was because the team was embarrassingly bad.
Its defence, outside of a few blunders, held strong and forced a quick two-and-out following Toronto’s game-tying score that would see McLeod Bethel-Thompson find a wide open Cam Phillips in the back of the end zone.
Brandon Banks handled the ensuing punt and provided the Argos with great field position inside Riders territory.
The Argos have made third-and-inches anything but routine. After being stopped short of the goalline on third and short in the opening quarter, the Argos tried it again later on. This time, they did catch a break when the Riders went offside as the chains were moved and a drive sustained, ultimately leading to a go-ahead touchdown.
Perhaps for the first time in football history, a club had every reason to fire its head coach at halftime.
And to think Dinwiddie was named coach of the year in the East last season.
The decisions he made in the opening 30 minutes Sunday were atrocious, his game plan equally puzzling and the consequences were lethal.
The Argos were playing an opponent whose quarterback had never started a game at the pro level and had receivers no one has heard of outside of Kian Schaffer-Baker.
All the Argos had to do was play with smarts and not allow the Riders any chance to build momentum by simply protecting the football.
Instead, they gave the depleted Riders life because Dinwiddie exercised some bone-headed decisions.
It’s stunning why a running back lines up seven yards from scrimmage with a QB in a shotgun formation on third down from the opponent’s one yard line.
Sadly, it has happened before if you recall the opening drive in B.C., when the Argos were stopped.
Equally perplexing Sunday was the end of half brain cramp that would see Dinwiddie summon the field goal team to attempt a 61-yard field goal.
Bede missed and Alford returned it 112 yards for a touchdown.
It was a stunning, incomprehensible first half by an Argos team that continually shot itself in the foot.
The missed field goal summed up the team’s utter incompetence in all phases as Saskatchewan took a 15-11 lead into intermission.
Every Riders point came gift-wrapped courtesy of three Toronto turnovers and that ill-advised field goal.
The Argos scored a field goal in the third quarter following a Riders turnover, but then gave up a big play on a busted coverage in the secondary, which led to Saskatchewan kicking three points.
On Toronto’s ensuing series, the Argos reached the lowest of the lows. First came an aborted flea-flicker that led to a sack. Then came a poor snap, which isn’t new, that led to a scoop and apparent score by ex9Argo Charleston Hughes, whose sack-and-strip in the first half led to a Saskatchewan touchdown when Jake Dolegala tossed his first major as a pro.
But the Hughes score was negated because he batted the ball forward, which isn’t legal.
Still, it was another Argos turnover, but the defence showed a lot of fight in keeping the Riders to three points.
Once the dizzying turn of events had been completed, the Argos were looking at a 21-14 deficit late in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, they were stopped short on third down to commit their fifth turnover of the game.