HAMILTON -- Kerry Joseph and the Toronto Argonauts needed just over a quarter to take care of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Wednesday night.
Joseph threw two of his three TD passes in a 20-point first quarter to pace the Argos to a 30-17 win over the Ticats in the CFL opener for both teams.
The win marked the successful debut of Toronto head coach Bart Andrus, the former NFL and NFL Europe coach who was appearing in his first-ever CFL game. Andrus, who is also serving as the Argos' offensive co-ordinator and making the play calls, received an ice-water shower from his players after the game.
"I would never want to do this job if I couldn't have fun at it and I preach that to the players because I want them enjoying the game again," Andrus said. "At some point when they were young they played this game because it was fun and went back the next day and played again because it was fun and we want to keep that part of it.
"But, yeah, it was very cold."
Argos receiver Arland Bruce III took Andrus's fun-filled approach too far, though. After scoring on a 21-yard pass from Joseph to put Toronto ahead 6-0, Bruce removed his helmet, shoulder pads and uniform and laid down in the end zone. Bruce said he was simply honouring the memory of Michael Jackson by pretending to be buried in the end zone.
The officials weren't amused as Bruce received two objectionable conduct penalties that forced Toronto back to its 15-yard line. To make matters worse, running back Jarrett Payton had to kick while Johnson recovered from making the tackle on the previous kickoff. But the Argos dodged a huge bullet as Hamilton took over at the visitors' 49-yard line but couldn't muster anything.
"I made the mistake of telling him in camp that once he got to the end zone I didn't care what he did," Andrus said. "But he's straight with it now and I think next time around he will celebrate in an appropriate manner."
Andrus had the golden touch in the first as Toronto moved the ball at will, going ahead 20-0 and effectively subduing the Ivor Wynne Stadium gathering of 23,211. The Argos cemented the win on Joseph's 22-yard TD strike to rookie Matt Lambros at 2:17 of the third.
"It was good for us to start fast," said Joseph, who was 14-of-29 passing for 227 yards. "We had a lull in the first half but it was good to come out and establish ourself and get the momentum, especially on the road."
Toronto ran for 142 total yards, including 125 yards and a touchdown from Jamal Robertson. But as dominant as the revamped offensive line was in the run game, Joseph was sacked four times. And the Argos lost the time-of-possession battle as Hamilton held the ball for over 31 minutes.
The Argos were also helped by their defence, which recorded six sacks and the game's lone two turnovers -- interceptions by linebacker Kevin Eiben and Lin-J Shell. Toronto got an inspirational effort from kicker Eddie Johnson, who suffered a separated shoulder making a tackle on a kickoff but returned to finish with three converts, a field goal and 45-yard average on 11 punts.
Johnson also got away with one, making a touchdown-saving trip of Hamilton's Marquay McDaniel on a 49-yard punt return in the second. The Ticats had to settle for a field goal that only cut Toronto's lead to 20-10.
"He's a tough guy," Joseph said. "You have to commend him for his toughness to come out there with one arm and punt like that.
"That's a big deal for us. With the way our defence was playing, to have field position like that was big."
Sophomore Quinton Porter had a rough outing for Hamilton, completing 26-of-39 passes for 234 yards and two TDs, but also two interceptions. Porter was also sacked six times.
"We moved the ball and can build on that and keep growing each week," Porter said. "We'll watch the film and focus on the good stuff."
The game stats were deceiving. While Hamilton had more first downs (24 to 20) and completed 28-of-40 passes, most of those came in the fourth quarter when the game was well in hand for Toronto.
Hamilton's special teams were outstanding, registering 254 total return yards compared to 34 for Toronto. Trouble was, the offence did little with the field position. But that didn't stop Porter from giving himself a passing grade.
"Self evaluation, B-minus," Porter said. "I used my legs to my advantage but made some mistakes.
"I don't feel down about it."
Ticats coach Marcel Bellefeuille said his young quarterback must learn to get the ball off quicker, especially when Hamilton falls behind so quickly. But Bellefeuille is still taking a patient approach with a team that has many new faces from the one that posted a league-worst 3-15 record last year.
"When you're doing things right, which we are doing, the hardest thing is being patient," he said. "This team is going to be good.
"Quinton will get better. It's part of the growing pains of that position. He is going to need to play in order to be good."
Reggie McNeal had Toronto's other touchdown.
Terry Caulley and Prechae Rodriguez had Hamilton's touchdowns. Nick Setta, playing despite a back injury, had two converts and field goal but hit the crossbar on a 48-yard try. With Setta ailing, receiver Dave Stala handled kickoff duties.
NOTES: The first official challenge came in the fourth when the Ticats questioned an Argos completion. The CFL's new command centre -- with replay official Jake Ireland presiding -- reversed the on-field call, with it taking less than two minutes for that decision to be reached . . . Kicker Justin Medlock, offensive lineman Shannon Boatman, receiver Hank Edwards and defensive end Ben Ishola were Toronto's scratches. Receiver Drisan James, defensive back Jykine Bradley, offensive lineman George Hudson and defensive lineman Garrett McIntyre didn't dress for Hamilton.