Argos hope to keep momentum going in Calgary

The one-step forward, one-step backward Toronto Argonauts are heading this weekend to Calgary, where they might just like to try the two-step. Not the country-western dance, but a second step forward in the standings.

Coming off a win over Montreal, the Argos face the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday in McMahon Stadium with the rare opportunity to string two victories together.

“We’re playing one of the top teams in the league,” said quarterback Ricky Ray. “If we want to get to where we want to go, we have to be able to beat some of those teams. For us to go and get a win on the road against a good team would be one of those confidence boosts, proving to yourself and to your team what you can do and what kind of team you are.”

The Argos are the underdogs, to be sure; a win would send a strong signal to themselves and the league they have what it takes to be a division champion.

“It would mean we’re a .500 team looking to be a winning team,” said linebacker Bear Woods. “That’s the way we’re looking at it. Right now we’re a 4-and-5 team. We want to be a 5-and-5 team after the weekend.”

The Stamps clobbered the Argos 41-24 in Week 7 at BMO Field, on their way to establishing themselves as one of the best teams in the CFL.

The Stampeders are 3-0-0 at home, 6-1-1 overall and in second place — one point behind the 7-1-0 Eskimos — in the CFL West. Even under .500, the Argos are a first-place team only because the East is weak.

“Playing on the road against them is tough,” said Argos coach Marc Trestman. “They’ve won four in a row. They’re on a bit of a roll. They play well in all three phases. They’re exceptionally well coached in all three phases with a staff that has been together a long time. They have great players.

“Beating them would mean we won a game in late August. And we’d have stacked two games in a row. And we go back to work.

“If you get into big pictures, and try to define yourself in a league as fluid as this one where things change on a weekly basis, you’re worrying yourself to death and not gaining anything.”

The Argos are coming off somewhat of a confidence boost following their 38-6 defeat of the Montreal Alouettes. The Argos dominated every facet of the game, from the opening play.

“That’s what it takes: You’ve got to play good in all three phases,” said quarterback Ricky Ray. “For us to go out and prove it to ourselves, we can feed off each other and play that type of game. But we’ve got to play that way week after week. That’s the challenge for us.

“But I don’t think it (beating Montreal) is something we sit here and enjoy more. It’s more a confidence builder that you take with you as far as experience,” said Ray. “It’s always in the back of your mind, a confidence thing, that you can do it as a team. Any time you win, or come back from behind, or put a team away, or anything, it gives you confidence going into that next situation.”

Calgary is a completely different opponent. The Stamps have put up a league-high 275 total points while having a balanced rushing and aerial attack. Meanwhile they’ve allowed the fewest sacks (10) and committed the fewest turnovers (six).

“They’ve got guys who have been in place in all areas of their team, their D-line, linebackers, secondary,” said Ray. “Somebody from each group is making it tough on you. They communicate really well. They show different coverages, they cover really well. They make it tough on you.”

Ray managed to complete 15 of 26 passes for 139 yards and one touchdown in the loss to the Stampeders.

“We just have to execute more consistently,” said Ray. “In spurts we put some good plays together. But there were a lot of bad plays out there: turnovers, penalties. A lot of sloppy play against a really good team like Calgary, you can’t hurt yourself out there.

“We’ve got to clean those games up and just play better.”

In Calgary, there was concern quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell might have hurt his shoulder and could miss the game, especially with a Labour Day Classic and battle for first shaping up the week after against Edmonton. That hasn’t changed the Argos preparation.

“The focus is on No. 19 (Mitchell),” said Trestman. “He’s the guy that’s going to play. I certainly don’t think they’re going to change their offence if he doesn’t play, or if he leaves the game. No doubt we’re going to see 19 and he’s the guy we have to focus our attention on.”

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