HAMILTON — The Toronto Argonauts have sailed in to some rough waters.
The Argos couldn't put anything together in arguably the most important game of their season to date, a 42-12 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Labour Day Classic at Tim Hortons Field.
First place in the CFL East was on the line and a Ticat (7-3) win meant Hamilton would take the season series after also winning the first meeting 34-18 back on Aug. 3. The lopsided loss is the second in a row, after losing 38-15 to Edmonton last week. Toronto (6-4) had been enjoying a three-game win streak to that point.
"I'm not pleased with the way we've played the last two weeks," said head coach Scott Milanovich. "There's streaks that happen in this game and in this league and we'll have to stop that tide."
Toronto, now second in the East, will get its chance almost immediately. They play Hamilton again on Friday, this time at home, with just four days rest.
Milanovich said he will have to consult the game film to see how things went so wrong so fast against Hamilton, which led 27-1 at the half. But he feels it's just the little things that will help the team get back its mojo.
"It just starts with a little momentum," he said. "It starts with a good first drive followed by the defence getting a turnover and it builds off that. That's what Hamilton does a great job of doing. They really feed off their special teams when they get a big play . . . It seems to rally their whole team and they grow on that. That's how you do it. You need to start a little faster, catch a break early (and go from there)."
Toronto hoped to get a little bit of momentum from the return of all-star slotback Chad Owens, who came back from injury after missing four games.
But the league's leading punt returner couldn't provide the spark. He had just two punt returns for 11 yards — it didn't help that Hamilton didn't have to punt the ball once during the first half — combined with four catches for 32 yards.
"I want to be better," Owens said. "I want to make more plays out there. It is what it is. Sometimes you've got to give credit where credit is due and, you know, they beat us today."
But the seven-year veteran plans on rallying his troops.
"It's not the end of the season," he said. "Everything we want to do is right there for us. I think that's what we all have to realize. There's still a lot of football left. You've got to flush this one and move on and work to win the next one. . . That's the beauty of this game. You get to learn something every week from every game. And we're just looking forward to getting another opportunity on Friday."
Carol Phillips, The Canadian Press