He held his four-month-old daughter, Adelynn Rae, in his arms. He gave credit to his father, Willie. And he thanked just about everyone involved in the Argos’ 20-17 win over the Edmonton Edmonton on Saturday at BMO Field.
Quarterback James Franklin, making his starting debut with the Argos, had himself quite a night. He had some big shoes to fill, replacing the injured Ricky Ray, but he showed he has the poise and arm strength to get the Argos’ offence in gear after it went stagnant over the first two games of the season.
“I feel good, but the (Argos players) made me feel comfortable and welcome, and not that I was worried about that but I wanted it to happen,” Franklin said after guiding the Argos to their first win of the season, which came before 12,196 on a lovely summer evening.
Franklin’s debut was bolstered by another standout effort: James Wilder Jr. had by far his best game of the season, rushing for his first 100-yard game (21 carries, 120 yards) and a touchdown.
Franklin threw an interception — a crucial turnover when the Argos trailed by three points in the fourth quarter — but he talked about how he had learned from his father to remain calm under duress.
Those teachings proved valuable as Franklin turned around and tossed a game-winning, five-yard touchdown pass to the versatile Declan Cross at the 12:03 mark of the fourth quarter. That was followed by a two-point conversion to Armanti Edwards, and from there, the Argos had reason to celebrate after looking disjointed in their first two games of the season.
“I learned from my dad, being calm and collected, be more clear when things are hectic,” said Franklin, whose photos of himself and his daughter were a hit on Instagram after the game.
Franklin said he miscued on the interception, thinking Edwards was going to pull up short on an out pass. Edwards went longer, to the sidelines, and Franklin said he will better learn the nuances of that route after the misread.
But, for a debut, and a first crack at an Argos offence that stumbled and stalled over the first two weeks of the season, Franklin proved to be a tonic. He was also replacing Ray, who suffered what is said to be a season-ending neck injury in game two.
Franklin finished with 16 completions on 24 attempts for 217 yards, a touchdown, and a rushing touchdown — all against his former team.
That matchup was part of the lead-up to the game and, afterward, Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly huddled with Franklin, having a laugh and congratulating the Argos quarterback on his strong debut.
“Mike was great, and he said, ‘Nice job,’ ”Franklin said. “We had a laugh over a story, it was something like master (Reilly) and student (Franklin) and stuff like that. Mike has been great to me all along.”
Reilly made things interesting, completing a six-play, 87-yard drive with a 24-yard strike to Derel Walker to put the Eskimos up 14-12. That was near the end of the third quarter, and Edmonton went up five points on a field goal to put tremendous pressure on Toronto to reel in the come-from-behind win.
Reilly wound up with 28 completions on 40 attempts for 370 yards, a sign that the Argos still have a lot of work to do in containing a top-shelf quarterback.
D’haquille Williams, the CFL’s top-rated receiver, hauled down eight catches for 125 yards while Walker, the league’s second-rated receiver, had four catches for 51 yards.
Toronto’s defence did make big plays at crucial times, with Shawn Lemon recovering a fumble to set up the Argos’ second touchdown, and Ronnie Yell intercepting a Reilly to Walker pass in the end zone.
The first half ended with a rare play by the Eskimos after the Argos successfully challenged a 30-yard pass interference penalty against Toronto defensive back T.J. Heath. Edmonton had a field -goal situation on a third down and 11 yards to go on the Toronto 34, but attempted an onside kick.
It was last touched by Edmonton’s Korey Jones, handing the ball back to Edmonton at the Toronto 35-yard-line. Toronto’s defence held tough after that, but the play surprised even veteran CFL observers. According to the CFL play-by-play department, the play was considered a rush and a first down instead of a field-goal attempt.