HAMILTON – John Hufnagel and the Calgary Stampeders added to the Toronto Argonauts’ misery Saturday afternoon.
Bo Levi Mitchell threw two touchdown passes as Calgary beat Toronto 27-15 at Tim Hortons field, earning Hufnagel his 100th career regular-season CFL coaching victory. It marked the third home game Toronto has been forced to play away from Rogers Centre with another looming as the Argos will host the Montreal Alouettes here Friday night.
Hufnagel, who’ll hand over head-coaching duties to offensive co-ordinator Dave Dickenson at season’s end, improved to 100-41-1. Calgary (12-4) is in second place in the West Division, trailing Edmonton (12-4), which beat the B.C. Lions (5-10) 26-23 in overtime later Saturday.
Despite the loss, Toronto still clinched a playoff berth with B.C.’s defeat.
“The winning (of) this game is the most important thing to give us a chance to stay in first place and move forward,” Hufnagel said. “We played a good football team, they were under a little bit of duress because of their scheduling . . . the fact it was my 100th is a little icing on the cake.”
Just 3,401 spectators attended the game, braving cool, windy conditions. And they all sat in the east stands as the west side — where the TV cameras shot the action — was closed. Toronto dropped to 0-4 at Tim Hortons Field, the first three losses coming against the home-town Tiger-Cats.
Mitchell, who finished 21-of-26 passing for 266 yards, said he felt the Argos’ pain.
“It’s tough on them, they’ve been playing the whole season like that,” he said. “Obviously with the Blue Jays playing how they are right now, it’s going to be tough for anybody to take attention away from them in Canada.
“It was definitely a different atmosphere.”
Saturday’s contest was originally scheduled for Rogers Centre but was shifted here due to scheduling issues created by the Jays being in the American League playoffs. The Argos (9-6) had their three-game win streak snapped and suffered their first relocation loss.
The Argos beat Edmonton 26-11 in their season opener in Fort McMurray, Alta., as the Pan Am Games and scheduling issues at Rogers Centre forced the move. A potential scheduling conflict with the Jays forced Toronto to relocate its Oct. 6 game against Ottawa to TD Place, which it won 38-35.
Mitchell cemented the victory with a 14-yard TD strike to Tory Harrison at 5:38 of the fourth quarter, giving Calgary a 27-10 lead. The Stampeders dropped a 15-11 home loss to Edmonton last weekend but have gone a CFL-record 67 regular-season games without consecutive losses.
“It’s John Hufnagel,” Mitchell said. “He makes sure he does a great job just re-focussing us and not letting us get down.
“As soon as we lost to Edmonton, he walked in and said, ‘Hey, it’s over. You lost, get your head up, we’ve got a game next week.’ Oh man, it’s a huge honour just to play under him.”
Calgary also went 2-0 versus Toronto this season, downing the Argos 25-20 at McMahon Stadium in July.
Trevor Harris’s seven-yard TD strike to Tori Gurley early in the third with the wind pulled Toronto to within 17-7. It was set up by Matt Black’s recovery of Anthony Parker’s punt return fumble at the Calgary 30-yard line.
The Argos drove to the Calgary 25 with just over six minutes remaining when they surprisingly went on third-and-three rather than try the field goal. Harris’s pass was deflected, then picked off by Glenn Love to maintain the Stampeders’ 10-point lead.
Rene Paredes then capped a six-play, 61-yard drive into the wind with a 23-yard field goal at 11:52 that put Calgary ahead by 13 points. Justin Palardy field goals of 28 and 32 yards in the fourth cut Toronto’s deficit to 27-13.
Harris finished 28-of-44 passing for 280 yards with a TD but also three interceptions.
Marquay McDaniel and Bryant Moniz had Calgary’s other touchdowns. Paredes booted two converts and two field goals while Rob Maver added a single.
Palardy added a convert for Toronto, which also earned a safety on a wild 35-yard throwback from Mitchell to Joe West that burned 23 of the remaining 29 seconds off the game clock.
Calgary took early control. Maver’s 75-yard single with the wind opened the scoring before Mitchell hit McDaniel on a five-yard scoring strike at 3:06.
It came after Brandon Smith’s 48-yard interception return. The two-point convert try was unsuccessful. Toronto’s Diontae Spencer returned the ensuring kickoff 98 yards for a TD, but it was nullified by a holding penalty. Calgary went ahead 14-0 at 9:17 on Moniz’s one-yard run.
“We just started poorly,’’ said Toronto coach Scott Milanovich. “It looked like we made a play on a kickoff return and we end up with a penalty.
“You can’t play a half against the Grey Cup champions because you’re just not going to beat them if you play 30 minutes.”