AJ Ouellette’s five-yard touch in the fourth round helped the Toronto Argonauts beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers with an emotional 24-23 in the 109th Gray Cup Sunday night in Regina.
Ouellet’s TD – his second hit in the game – came in at 11:36 with Boris Bede’s conversion giving Toronto a slim advantage.
And that’s the backup Chad Kelly, the grandson of former NFL star Jim Kelly, who designed the five-time, 36-yard driveway with veteran McLeod Bethel-Thompson sidelined with an unspecified injury. Ouellet’s touchdown was set up by Javon Leake’s 44-yard throwback, sending Toronto to Winnipeg’s 31-yard line with 6:07 remaining.
On Winnipeg’s next hold, full-back Henoc Muamba tackled Zach Collaros to send Argos to Winnipeg’s 43-yard line with a score of 3:20. But the Bombers survived with a Nick Hallett save from Bede 37 yards, sending the West Division team back to the 29 yard line with two minutes left.
After Robbie Smith’s second drop, Smith faced Collaros again in the third but was flagged for a mask penalty, putting Winnipeg in 41st. The Bombers drove to Toronto’s 40-yard line. but Smith blocked Liegghio’s 47-yard effort, placing Toronto at the 14-yard line with 43 seconds left.
Toronto was then able to run out of time.
The loss tarnished Winnipeg’s Janarion Grant’s record-setting attempt, who hit the previous 102-yard TD return in the fourth inning. It was the longest punt comeback in Gray Cup history.
Winnipeg is trying to become the first CFL team to win three Gray Cups in a row since Edmonton won five in a row (1978-82).
Toronto won its first Gray Cup since 2017 and extended its big-game winning streak to seven in a row.
The two teams played against each other in the first match of the Gray Cup at the new Mosaic Stadium. The last time the competition took place was in 2013 when the match was played at Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field and the hometown Roughriders beat Hamilton 45-23 to claim their fourth and final title. end of the franchise.
The contest took place before the sold-out announcement with more than 33,000 spectators despite notable patches of empty seats throughout the venue.
The action kicks off after pre-match festivities including a sensational nine-plane flyover of the 431st Air Demonstration Squadron, formerly the Snowbirds of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Collaros completed the 14/23 pass from 183 yards with an interception.
Bethel-Thompson completed 15/28 passes of 203 yards while Kelly completed 4/6 of 43 yards.
Andrew Harris, who helped Winnipeg win titles in 2019 and ’21, ran 55 yards on 10 executions for Argos. Ouellette dashed 24 yards with six attempts.
Bede only made three of his six goals of the night. He also added two transitions and singles.
Dakota Prukop scored both Winnipeg touchdowns. Lieggio added two conversions and an on-field goal.
Prukop’s one-yard TD run at 11:04 of the third round gave Winnipeg a 17-14 advantage. It passed the smart loop 13 times, 74 yards long, taking 7:12.
Ouellet gave Toronto a 14-10 lead with a 4-yard TD run at 3:30. The 35-yard march in four plays was set up by Leake’s 23-yard pitch back to Winnipeg’s 35-yard line.
Liegghio’s 45-yard goal at 14:39 in the second half gave Winnipeg a 10-7 lead at halftime. Bede had a chance to score but his 53-yard effort in the final game went wide of the post.
The second is the better one for Winnipeg (148 yards into the net compared to Toronto’s 119 yards). However, the Bombers took the lead as their defense forced Argos to tackle on-field goals and Bede was able to convert only two of his four first-half attempts.
After struggling in the first half, Collaros passed 6/10 from 95 yards in the first half. However, twice he let Dalton Schoen open, but both were unable to connect successfully.
Toronto seemed determined to set up the pass as Bethel-Thompson completed 10 of 21 attempts at 142 yards. Harris ran five times in 36 yards.
Bede’s successful 36-yard goal at 11:30 made it 7-7.
Toronto took a 4-0 lead when Bede’s 36-yard miss scored a single goal at 2:56 of the second half. Winnipeg’s offense ended up producing something of the same as Prukop’s one-yard TD finished third at 7:09, passing the eight-time, 70-yard march, losing 4:35.
Bede opened the scoring with a 46-yard goal at 4:44 of the first half, controlled by Toronto. Argos had the ball at 8:55 and edged Winnipeg 71-29 at offensive yards while Collaros passed only a quarter of four yards.
Defensive midfielder Jackson Jeffcoat, however, had his team’s best game of the quarter, overcoming the awkwardness following the firing of Bethel-Thompson.