TORONTO — Another start, another comeback win for McLeod Bethel-Thompson and the Toronto Argonauts.
James Franklin's one-yard TD run with 2:59 remaining rallied Toronto to an exciting 24-23 win over the B.C. Lions on Saturday afternoon. Franklin put the Argos ahead 24-20 at 2:59 of the fourth quarter after they'd fallen behind 20-10 in the third.
Bethel-Thompson was solid in his second CFL start, completing 18-of-29 passes for 260 yards with a TD. On Aug. 2, Bethel-Thompson provided plenty of second-half drama with four touchdown passes to rally Toronto from a 24-point deficit in a stirring 42-41 home win over the Ottawa Redblacks.
"We're still shooting ourselves in the foot in the first half not completing drives," Bethel-Thompson said. "I'm learning more each time I go out there."
Toronto head coach Marc Trestman put Bethel-Thompson's performance into perspective.
"We now have a quarterback who's played eight quarters, that's it," he said. "We have to grow with him.
"He made some very big throws when we needed him to. That's a work in progress . . . our roster is fluid and will be that way until we put it all together."
Marcus Ball appeared poised to cement the Toronto victory when he had a clear path to the endzone on an interception with just over two minutes remaining. But he fumbled and the Lions' Chris Rainey recovered at the B.C. 22-yard line.
Ball redeemed himself by recovering Manny Arcenaux's fumble at centre field with 38 seconds remaining. That thrilled the season-high BMO Field gathering of 18,104 with the CNE underway.
"Marcus is too good a player to not make up for that," Bethel-Thompson said. "It was one of those glitches.
"I knew the defence was going to pick that up."
Tyler Long's 46-yard field goal at 6:37 of the fourth pulled B.C. to within 24-23.
"In the fourth quarter (of the Ottawa game) and the last half of this game, a light switch went on and we became more of a team we wanted to become," said Trestman. "We weren't that team to start this game.
"We were undisciplined, couldn't contain the quarterback, couldn't finish drives. But in the third and fourth quarters we found a resilience, an edge and a way to win the game."
James Wilder Jr. was also a key figure for Toronto. He ran for a game-high 91 yards on 18 carries and added four catches for 49 yards.
"We're becoming a second-half team," he said. "We've got to have that the whole game.
"We're finishing strong right now, that's the main thing."
The contest was big for both teams.
Toronto pulled into a second-place tie with the idle Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-5). The long-time rivals will meet in an important home-and-home series starting on Labour Day.
B.C. (3-5) remains tied for fourth in the West Division with the Saskatchewan Roughriders (3-4), who face the unbeaten Calgary Stampeders (7-0) on Sunday. The Lions are also tied with Toronto and Hamilton in a cross-over scenario.
Lions coach Wally Buono made his final regular-season visit to Toronto. The CFL leader in coaching victories (276-161-3) and seven-time Grey Cup winner (twice as a player, five times as a coach) will retire at season's end and fell to 32-16 against the Argos.
"They out-competed us," Buono said. "In a very, very close game that's the difference between a stop, that's the difference between a play and that's the difference between a point.
"In the second half it was very evident in my mind they out-competed us and with that got the win."
B.C. starter Travis Lulay was 21-of-35 passing for 285 yards with a touchdown and interception. Although the offence registered 405 net yards and 23 first downs, it also committed three turnovers (two lost fumbles, downs) and accounted for six of the team's seven penalties as the Lions fell to 0-5 on the road.
"For two-and-a-half, three quarters we felt like we were in control of this game, we were in a position to win," Lulay said. "These games often come down to the wire and for whatever reason on the road we haven't made the fourth-quarter plays.
"That's been the difference in at least three of those losses."
Bethel-Thompson was drilled on the play but still found Anthony Coombs on a 20-yard touchdown pass at 10:26 of the third, cutting the Lions' lead to 20-17. Coombs, in his first game after recovering from an ankle injury, had three catches for 56 yards and a five-yard run.
Defensive back Ronnie Yell, who joined Toronto this off-season after four years with B.C., had four tackles. Lions defensive end Shawn Lemon, who helped Toronto win a Grey Cup last year before being dealt last month, had a tackle and sack against his former team.
Bryan Burnham had four catches for 91 yards and a TD while Arcenaux registered five receptions for 90 yards for the Lions.
Jeremiah Johnson had B.C.'s other touchdown. Long booted three field goals and two converts.
Medeiros kicked three field goals, two converts and a single.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press