MISSISSAUGA, Ont. -- The frustration was etched on the faces of the Toronto Argonauts on Monday, the pain of missing out on a chance to defend their Grey Cup title still gnawing away at them a day later.
A rather glum Scott Milanovich was the first to appear at a season-ending media availability on a grey, windy afternoon at the team's practice facility west of Toronto. Quarterback Ricky Ray and linebacker Marcus Ball soon followed their head coach, the dreary weather echoing their moods.
Disappointment was a word uttered repeatedly. The failure to win the East Division final had sunk in but the 36-24 loss to Hamilton still stung a day later.
"I wish we had one more drive, one more quarter, whatever -- one more game," said linebacker Marcus Ball. "We definitely expected to have one more game. We just fell a little short."
The Argonauts started strong in front of over 35,000 fans at Rogers Centre on Sunday. The Tiger-Cats, buoyed by a significant number of Hamilton fans in the crowd, took the momentum in the second half and got the win.
Toronto's solid 11-7 regular-season record and first-place finish were quickly forgotten. Milanovich took his share of the blame for the result.
"I'm disappointed I didn't coach better," he said. "We're disappointed we didn't play better and didn't take advantage of the opportunity we earned by getting the bye and playing at home."
Expectations were high after a Grey Cup victory last year on their home turf. The Argonauts were a confident bunch and looked like they were on their way back to the championship game after a strong first half.
Ray was dynamite over the first two quarters but Hamilton quarterback Henry Burris stepped up his game in the second half. The Argonauts went quiet and the Tiger-Cats took advantage.
"The buck stops at the head coach and we didn't get it done," Milanovich said. "It's my responsibility to find ways in which I could have done better or put our guys in better position to have gotten the job done.
"And I'll do that and I'll be better a year from now."
Toronto clearly missed the presence of injured running back Chad Kackert, who won the Grey Cup MVP award last year. The Argonauts rushed for only 13 yards against the Tiger-Cats and instead relied on Ray's impressive arm.
When the Ticats made adjustments at the half, Toronto was stifled and never recovered.
"It's tough," Ray said. "This one is going to hang around for a little while."
The Argonauts had their chances in the fourth quarter, with Ray leading the team on a late drive before turning the ball over on downs with less than a minute to play.
"You can beat yourself up pretty good about it," Ray said of the missed opportunities. "But what you've got to realize is you can't win them all."
Hamilton will represent the East in the Grey Cup game next Sunday in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who dumped the Calgary Stampeders 35-13 in the West Division final.
Milanovich said he was proud of his team and feels there is a strong nucleus in place. He anticipates a busy off-season, adding he thinks the franchise can be a title contender "each and every year."
"We were so close," he said. "We had the game in the first half where we felt like we wanted it and we weren't able to close the deal. The older you get, the more you realize you only have so many opportunities to be a champion.
"We let one slip through our hands and Hamilton took advantage of that and you have to give them credit for it. But any time you don't win it all, I think it's going to be (remembered) as a disappointing season."