McLeod Bethel-Thompson states case to be Argos permanent starting quarterback

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McLeod Bethel-Thompson has stated his case to be the permanent starter at quarterback for the Toronto Argonauts.

Bethel-Thompson outplayed Bo Levi Mitchell while leading the double blue to an upset over the Stampeders in Week 1. Meanwhile, Nick Arbuckle, who was given a $150,000 signing bonus in February, watched from the sidelines with a lingering glute and hamstring issue.

“He battled his butt off. He did a helluva job. I don’t know if I’m ready to quite make that decision, it’s unfair to Nick because he hasn’t gotten an opportunity to compete for the job” Argos’ head coach Ryan Dinwiddie said.

“If Mac takes off running with it, I wouldn’t want to say: ‘Hey, you’ve been doing great, sit down and let Nick get a shot. That’s going to be a gut feel to make that decision. If we’ve had production and we’ve been winning, I don’t know why I would change it.”

The last three drive results Bethel-Thompson engineered at McMahon Stadium: touchdown (with a two-point convert), field goal and victory formation.

It was second-and-10 with Toronto trailing by eight, Calgary sent a blitz, but it didn’t faze Bethel-Thompson. He stood tall in the pocket in the face of the rush and delivered a strike down the middle to Canadian Kurleigh Gittens Jr. for a 27-yard touchdown.

“Eric Rogers is an amazing football player. That is all Eric Rogers. He’s gotta block the front-side ‘backer and he scanned all the way back into the get-off — it was the best play of the game hands down,” Bethel-Thompson said.

“For a receiver to make a play like that at that time — to see the blitz — absolutely phenomenal. It’s one of the best plays I’ve ever seen. That’s all Eric just being a phenomenal football player.”

The next snap was to tie the game and Bethel-Thompson connected with Rogers for the two-point convert. Just like that it was 20 apiece on the scoreboard.

After getting the football back, Bethel-Thompson hit Rogers for 21 yards, rushed for 13 and a first down, found No. 8 again and setup Boris Bede for the game-winning field goal from 32 yards out.

“I don’t have a problem with earning my stripes, I’ve been fighting my whole career and I’m happy to be in that position,” Bethel-Thompson said.

Two kneel downs and it was official: Bethel-Thompson helped guide the Argos to an improbable win, the first of Dinwiddie’s head coaching career.

“It’s a big game, but it is just one game. We found out we have heart. We need better execution, we need to play a complete game, but we got some men with some big hearts,” Bethel-Thompson said.

The six-foot-four, 220-pound passer completed 26-of-37 attempts (70.3 percent) for 354 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in his first game directing Dinwiddie’s offence.

“The one thing that I really needed to have was no turnovers and he didn’t have any turnovers, that’s what I was impressed with,” Dinwiddie said.

“The passion that he brings to practice, it forces everyone to be on their toes. Everyone is trying to get in Dinwiddie’s head, see the game how he sees it as an offensive coordinator and as a head coach,” Bethel-Thompson said.

The 33-year-old impressed Dinwiddie through training camp by proving he has a grasp of his offence and operating it with leadership and precision. That led to Arbuckle being listed as the backup and holding the clipboard for 60 minutes in Cowtown.

“That kid made some plays with his legs by extending the pocket and making throws on the move. He won the game for us at the end,” Dinwiddie said while excited about Bethel-Thompson.

“We gotta get better there on some certain things, but at the same time I felt like he was pretty fluid, he was doing what I was asking him to do for the most part.”

The excitement being exuded by Dinwiddie bodes well for Bethel-Thompson starting in Week 2 against the reigning Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.