Kelly throws two touchdown passes as Argos earn season sweep of Ticats

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press
Kelly throws two touchdown passes as Argos earn season sweep of Ticats

TORONTO — And the beat goes on for Wynton McManis and the Toronto Argonauts.

McManis returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown and narrowly missed scoring on another as Toronto defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 29-14 on Saturday night to sweep the season series.

McManis’s pick-six came in the first half. He had a 50-yard return in the third quarter to Hamilton’s two-yard line.

McManis turned 29 on Wednesday and said two interception return TDs “would’ve been icing on the cake.”

“I’m a little disappointed in myself for that last one,” McManis said. “Blessed all the same to be able to make those plays and help us out.

“I think that was my first time having two (interceptions) in a game.”

Toronto’s defence was solid the entire game, forcing five turnovers. McManis added six tackles while fellow linebacker Adarius Bowman registered a game-high nine defensive tackles and another on special teams. Defensive back Qwan’Tez Stiggers finished with seven tackles and a pass knock-down.

“It was big for us,” McManis said. “We pride ourselves in being one of the top defences in the league.

“Each week . . . we want to go out and showcase that. I believe we did a great job today. The energy was there, we were flying around making plays all over.”

Toronto (12-1) earned its first four-game sweep of Hamilton since 2006. The Argos have downed their arch rivals in six straight contests and 10-of-11 overall, delighting the energetic BMO Field gathering of 15,549.

“Wynton is that guy,” Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie said. “I joked with him afterwards, I said, ‘You want to play some tailback tonight?’

“I thought he did a great job making plays. I thought our whole defence did . . . that was one of our best defensive performances.”

Toronto clinched top spot in the East Division last week with a 23-20 win in Montreal. Running backs A.J. Ouellette (healthy scratch) and Andrew Harris (six-game injured list, knee) along with offensive lineman Isiah Cage (one-game injured list, hamstring) didn’t play Saturday night.

But starter Chad Kelly did, along with the entire starting defence. However, Toronto’s offence didn’t match the production of its defence on the night as Kelly completed 17-of-26 passes for 242 yards with two TDs and two interceptions.

“After the emotional win last week we knew we weren’t going to be at our best,” Dinwiddie said. “We just weren’t at our best offensively, we should’ve scored more points.

“Sometimes you’re going to have those days.”

Kelly’s nine-yard strike to Dejon Brissett _ his second TD of the game _ at 14:44 of the third gave Toronto a commanding 27-4 lead. It was set up by McManis’s 50-yard interception return.

Hamilton pulled to within 27-11 on Taylor Powell’s six-yard touchdown pass to Terry Godwin II at 4:33 of the fourth. It capped a smart nine-play, 95-yard march.

Tyreik McAllister’s 57-yard punt return put Hamilton at Toronto’s 35-yard line but it was negated by a holding call. Instead, the Ticats were on their own 10-yard line.

Toronto was awarded a safety at 6:12 when Powell was flagged for intentional grounding while in Hamilton’s end zone. Marc Liegghio’s 37-yard field goal at 10:30 pulled the Ticats to within 29-14.

Toronto extended its overall win streak to six games and improved to 8-0 within the conference. The defending Grey Cup champions also have a 7-0 home record (including a victory in Halifax over Saskatchewan).

Hamilton (6-8) suffered its first loss in three games. The Ticats also fell to third in the East Division, two points behind the Montreal Alouettes (7-7), who defeated the Calgary Stampeders 28-11 earlier Saturday.

“Every time we take the field, it’s to win the football game but we have to help ourselves,” said Hamilton head coach Orlondo Steinauer. “We did some great things tonight but it was sporadic.

“We have to string it together consistently, we have to play a little better situational football. I think there is a lot of resolve, a lot of resilience. The effort is there, it’s the execution.”

Powell, who’d won three of his four previous starts, finished 27-of-42 passing for 334 yards with a TD and two interceptions. The Ticats’ rookie fell to 0-3 this season versus Toronto.

Hamilton’s Kiondre Smith had nine catches for 156 yards, both game highs. The Ticats host Calgary on Saturday night.

On Friday night, Toronto visits the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (10-4) in a Grey Cup rematch. But Dinwiddie said the Argos won’t be fielding a full team.

“I think the media is going to make a big deal about it, the whole Grey Cup rematch and all of that stuff,” he said. “I’m going to sit some of our guys who are beat up, some of our stars aren’t going to be playing next week.

“We’re not going to jeopardize some of our star players that are beat up . . . I’m not putting anyone in jeopardy to make the media happy as far as who we’re going to play.”

Toronto’s Boris Bede kicked two field goals, two converts and a single.

Liegghio booted two field goals and a convert while Kaare Vedvik added a single.

Toronto rode a 16-point opening quarter to a 20-4 half-time lead and continue a trend this season versus Hamilton. Over the four games, the Argos outscored the Ticats 48-3 in the first quarter and 79-17 in the first half.

Bede opened the scoring with a 41-yard field goal at 3:59 of the first. McManus staked Toronto to a 10-0 lead at 4:56, returning an interception 58 yards for the touchdown on Hamilton’s second play from scrimmage.

Liegghio hit a 26-yard field goal at 11:12. It was set up by Gordon Whyte’s recovery of a punt-returner Javon Leake’s fumble.

But on the next play, Kelly hit Brissett on a 70-yard TD strike at 11:31 for a 16-3 lead as Bede missed the convert.

Bede put Toronto ahead 17-3 with a 62-yard single at 5:26 of the second. He made it 20-3 after connecting from 36 yards out at 13:07.

Vedvik booted a 56-yard single at 14:07.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2023.

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