Blue Bombers-Argonauts Preview

National Sports

In hopes of avoiding a repeat of last week’s result against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Toronto Argonauts coach Ryan Dinwiddie is making a major change for the rematch.

Nick Arbuckle will replace McLeod Bethel-Thompson at quarterback when the Argonauts open their 2021 home schedule Saturday afternoon against a Blue Bombers squad off to a successful start of its Grey Cup title defence.

Bethel-Thompson appeared to have a firm hold on the starting job after throwing for 354 yards and two touchdowns while rallying Toronto (1-1) to a 23-20 win at Calgary in Week 1, but that grasp turned out to be thin after he struggled to move the offence in last week’s visit to Winnipeg. Arbuckle took over late in the third quarter and directed the Argos to their lone touchdown of the night in the 20-7 loss, prompting Dinwiddie to declare the three-year CFL veteran as Saturday’s starter.

“We have to make plays that are there to be made. We haven’t been able to do that,” Dinwiddie said in explaining the switch. “We get off the field and rely on our defence too much … I feel like we were in our own end last week. That’s kind of my mindset.”

Arbuckle, who finished 10 for 19 for 96 yards and an interception, went 4-3 in seven starts in place of an injured Bo Levi Mitchell with Calgary in 2019.

The Georgia State product again faces a stern test from a Winnipeg defence that’s been very difficult on enemy quarterbacks thus far. Opponents have completed a league-low 55 per cent of their pass attempts during the Blue Bombers’ 2-0 start, and Winnipeg has also yielded the fewest yards per pass attempt (5.1) in addition to topping the CFL in pass efficiency defense (57.7).

The unit also came up with three second-half turnovers, including a critical strip of running back John White early in the fourth quarter. The fumble led to Zach Collaros’ 15-yard touchdown pass to Nic Demski that put Winnipeg up 17-7 with less than 12 minutes remaining.

“I could go on and on about those guys,” Collaros said afterward.

Collaros added 292 passing yards and two touchdowns against his former team to aid an offence that will likely be without three-time CFL rushing champion Andrew Harris for a third straight game due to a calf injury. Brady Oliveira stepped in capably with 126 yards in the Bombers’ Week 1 win over Hamilton, but the Winnipeg native was held to 29 on 13 carries by the Argos.

“A win is a win, but we felt like we left a lot of points out there,” Collaros remarked.

Last week’s victory was the Blue Bombers’ 13th in their last 14 home games dating back to 2018, but they lost their final four road contests of the 2019 regular season and were dealt a stinging 28-27 defeat in their most recent visit to BMO Field two years ago. The Argonauts overcame an early 20-0 deficit to score the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left.

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