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Stamps rally late to hand Argos 10th straight home loss

The Canadian Press
8/29/2009 12:36:53 AM
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TORONTO - Henry Burris and Jeremaine Copeland added to the Toronto Argonauts home woes Friday night.

Burris's eight-yard TD strike to Copeland with 46 seconds remaining rallied the Calgary Stampeders to a 23-20 win over Toronto, handing the Argos a club-record 10th straight home defeat.

Rogers Centre has also been an inhospitable place for the Stampeders (4-4), who came in having lost eight of their last 10 road games to Toronto. But Burris capped a four-play, 40-yard drive with the completion to Copeland for his second TD of the game. It came after Cody Pickett hit newcomer P.K. Sam with a 19-yard touchdown toss at 10:21 to put the Argos ahead 20-16.

"Rogers Centre has never been a fun place for us to play," said Burris. "We've had some tough games here against some hard-hitting Argos teams.

"This team has been through a lot and with the belief we have in one another, we were able to fight back and respond when it really counted."

Toronto (2-6) drove to the Calgary 50-yard on its final possession, but instead of having Justin Medlock try a 57-yard field goal to tie the game, first-year head coach Bart Andrus kept the offence on the field. Pickett's last-ditch attempt to Mike Bradwell on the game's final play was incomplete.

The decision was a curious one because Medlock has not only shown to have a strong leg, but has only missed one field goal all season. That was a 57-yard attempt on the final play of a 13-12 loss to Winnipeg on Aug. 1 that missed only because it hit the outside of the crossbar.

"I'll take the heat on the call to not kick the field goal," Andrus said. "The distance bothered me, that was my worry.

"The 57-yarder (against Winnipeg) came with the roof open. I just wasn't comfortable with it."

Medlock was.

"I definitely thought I could've made it but never got the chance," he said. "Maybe I should've run on to the field.

"I hit the crossbar in practice from 60 yards out."

Copeland's fourth-quarter heroics capped an entertaining second half that mercifully injected some much-needed life into the contest for the Rogers Centre gathering of 25,329. Spectators were forced to endure a simply brutal opening half that featured 14 combined punts and just a field goal apiece.

The Stampeders' defence came under fire after allowing Edmonton to rally for a 38-35 win Aug. 13. But the unit -- despite losing cornerback Brandon Browner to a knee injury -- was simply sensational in keeping the Argos within striking distance long enough for Burris and Co. to rally for the victory.

"It was a defensive battle, both defences played good football," said Burris. "It took us a while to get in sync but, hey, that's what team football is all about.

"We believe in our defence and I know everybody was getting after them after the last game but that's what it's all about. When one side is struggling, the other side picks it up. That's why we have a good team."

Burris was 19-of-29 passing for 260 yards and the two TDs to go with an interception. Nik Lewis had five catches for 118 yards -- both team highs -- while Joffrey Reynolds ran for 114 yards on 18 carries as Calgary enters the bye week on a winning note.

Toronto hasn't won at Rogers Centre since Aug. 1, 2008 against Winnipeg. Despite the Argos coming in with a decisive home record against Calgary, the Stampeders earned their fifth straight regular-season victory over the hapless Double Blue.

Calgary is 2-0 this season against the Argos, beating them 44-9 at McMahon Stadium earlier.

"If it was going to be a close game I wanted our defence on the field at the end to protect the lead and that's what happened," said Stampeders coach/GM John Hufnagel. "I think it's really a big step for this football team.

"I'm very pleased with the defence, I'm very pleased with the offence in the second half when they had to answer points . . . we got the momentum back each and every time."

After a lacklustre opening half, Pickett finished strong, completing 32-of-45 passes for 311 yards and two TDs. But he still fell to 0-4 as a CFL starter, with three of those losses coming against Calgary.

The loss also tarnished a solid return by Sam, appearing in his first game with Toronto after being released by the NFL's Buffalo Bills, Sam finished with five catches for 75 yards.

Toronto's defence was outstanding in the opening half, but Andrus said the unit wasn't able to come up with a big stop when it mattered in the second half.

"When we got the lead, they gave up drives," Andrus said. "They (Argos defence) looked like a different team in the second half.

"I'm not sure if they were tired."

Pickett finally gave the Argos faithful something to cheer about when he hit Sam on an 11-yard TD strike at 8:44 for a 10-3 lead. The touchdown was set up by Jason Pottinger's recovery of Titus Ryan's punt return fumble at the Calgary 16-yard line.

That seemed to inspire the Stampeders, who countered with a smart six-play, 71-yard drive that Burris capped with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Copeland at 12:23. That completion moved Burris into a first-place tie with Doug Flutie for the most completions in club history (1,438) -- a record he broke later in the game.

Calgary's Sandro DeAngelis finished with three field goals and two converts.

Medlock kicked two field goals and two converts.

NOTES -- Receiver Cory Rogers, linebacker Alphonso Hodge, tackle Jonta Woodard and defensive lineman Walter Curry didn't dress for Toronto. Linebackers Marc Calixte and Matt Grootegoed, running back Demetris Summer and defensive end Juwan Simpson were Calgary's scratches . . . Argos running back Jamal Robertson was on Calgary's practice squad in 2001 when the club won the Grey Cup . . . Burris became Calgary's career passing leader in its 38-25 loss to Edmonton on Aug. 13. Burris came into this game with 20,792 passing yards to surpass Flutie (20,561).

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