Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Jackson Jeffcoat (94) applies pressure to Toronto Argonauts quarterback Nick Arbuckle (9) during the second half of CFL action in Winnipeg on August 13, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Arbuckle to start Argos home opener versus Bombers

Arbuckle to start Argos home opener versus Bombers

Nick Arbuckle will finally make his first start for the Toronto Argonauts.

Head coach Ryan Dinwiddie announced Wednesday that Arbuckle will start the Argos’ home opener Saturday afternoon against Winnipeg. Veteran McLeod Bethel-Thompson was under centre for both of Toronto’s opening two games before giving way to Arbuckle in the third quarter of Friday night’s 20-7 road loss to the Blue Bombers.

“We felt like he got us going a little bit in the second half (last week),” Dinwiddie said “I’ve had a good history with Nick, I know we can win with him.

“I know we can win with Mac as well, we just felt that right now we’re going to go with Nick.”

Arbuckle came into the game with Toronto (1-1) trailing 10-0 and promptly marched the offence to its lone touchdown of the game, John White’s 30-yard scoring run. But that’s as close as the Argos got as Winnipeg (2-0), the defending Grey Cup champion, scored 10 fourth-quarter points to cement the win.

Arbuckle finished 10-of-19 passing for 96 yards with an interception versus Winnipeg. Bethel-Thompson completed 10-of-20 attempts for 70 yards.

Last week’s action was Arbuckle’s first since 2019 when he was with the Calgary Stampeders. That year, Arbuckle won four-of-seven games he started in place of injured starter Bo Levi Mitchell, completing 174-of-238 passes (73.1 per cent) for 2,103 yards and 11 touchdowns with just five interceptions.

He also ran for 76 yards and four TDs. Calgary won the Grey Cup in 2018, Arbuckle’s first CFL season.

Prior to becoming Toronto’s head coach, Dinwiddie served as Calgary’s quarterback coach (2016-19).

Arbuckle, 27, signed with Toronto as a free agent earlier this year and dealt with a hamstring issue during training camp. But Arbuckle said Tuesday he’s been healthy since the start of the season.

Dinwiddie said all he’s looking for Arbuckle to do with the offence is string some drives together.

“We’ve had our moments but we haven’t had any real long drives since the first one of the season,” he said. “We’ve scored and done some good things, we had the one last week where we put Nick in and went downfield and scored.

“Just looking to stay on the field, change field position and make the plays that are there to be made. We don’t have to be anything special, just let the game come to us But we’ve got to make the plays that are there to be made and we haven’t been doing that. I’ve felt we’re getting off the field and relying on the defence too much.”

Canadian receiver Juwan Brescasin suffered a knee injury against Winnipeg and won’t play Saturday. Dinwiddie said while Brescasin will go on the six-game injured list, the Argos are hopeful he might be able to return in three-to-four weeks.

Dinwiddie said Canadians Kurleigh Gittens Jr. and Dejon Brissett along with Ricky Collins Jr. could all pick up the slack created by Brescasin’s absence.

Rush end Charleston Hughes and Canadian linebacker Henoc Muamba both practised little Wednesday. Dinwiddie said both are dealing with bumps and bruises but he expects the veteran performers to be on the field Saturday.

“If there are any dings and the guys aren’t feeling comfortable at practice I want them to sit down,” Dinwiddie said. “Especially the veterans that have been there, done that.

“They don’t need the reps like some of these younger guys do. It gives us a chance to give some younger guys some experience at the same time.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2021.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press