HAMILTON — Chad Kelly conquered the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Monday but not necessarily the weight of expectation.
Kelly threw two touchdown passes and ran for another as the Toronto Argonauts earned a 41-28 Labour Day victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on a hot, muggy afternoon.
Kelly finished 15-of-23 passing for 201 yards and two interceptions in his first start after signing a three-year, $1.865-million extension Thursday that made him the CFL's highest-paid player.
"There's always pressure but even more so now," Kelly said. "Everyone is looking at you to be the best player out there.
"I've got to prove to them (Argos) why they did what they did. I've got to do better, I've got to be a better leader and make sure the team is more focused … we've just got to do better as a team so we'll fix that."
Kelly also ran three times for 27 yards and the TD in his first Labour Day start for Toronto (9-1). His two-yard run at 3:58 of the fourth put the Argos ahead 31-13 and by then most of the sellout Tim Hortons Field gathering of 25,381 — a Ticats home-game record — had left.
"Today wasn't (Kelly's) best day, for sure," said Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie. "I thought he pressed a little bit and tried to force some balls down the field that weren't there, trying to be a superhero.
"Like I've said, just manage the game. We pay you that much money because that's what he has earned but he doesn't have to go out and carry us. We've got a good team, just go out and manage the game and go play well. I'm sure he felt that (pressure living up to extension) a little bit."
Hamilton (4-7) countered with Taylor Powell's four-yard touchdown pass, and then the two-point convert to Tim White at 9:42 that cut Toronto's lead to 31-21. But A.J. Ouellette's 26-yard TD pass to Dejon Brissett at 11:29 gave Toronto a 38-21 advantage.
Boris Bede's 27-yard field goal at 13:14 was set up by Folarin Orimolade's fumble recovery. Powell rounded out the scoring with a two-yard touchdown pass to Terry Godwin II at 14:49.
Hamilton leads the series 36-15-1 but Toronto has won the last two rivalry matchups.
Toronto also earned its third win in as many meetings with Hamilton to cement the season series and retain the Harold E. Ballard Trophy. The two teams meet again Sept. 23 at BMO Field.
Hamilton is 1-5 this season at home and has lost four straight there by 10-plus points for the first time since 2006.
The contest was played in brutal heat. The game-time temperature was 33 C but the heat index was listed at 42 C.
"It was hot," Dinwiddie said. "I came in (at halftime) and my underwear were soaked. I'm like, 'Geez I didn't know I was sweating that bad.'"
Powell completed 30-of-42 passes for 296 yards with three TDs, an interception and lost fumble. White had eight catches for 110 yards.
"There are moments of success but we've just got to find a way to play four quarters," Powell said. "This offence has great potential and I think it starts with me.
"I've got to obviously put the team into the end zone more often. I just didn't get it done."
Neither team has the luxury of time to spend evaluating Monday's contest. Hamilton visits the Ottawa Redblacks (3-8) on Friday while Toronto hosts the Montreal Alouettes (6-5) on Saturday.
"It's a long season, man, I think we're about to get this thing turned around," Powell said. "The thing is we get to play in four days and get this cruddy taste out of our month and go take on Ottawa."
After hosting Montreal, Toronto will visit the Alouettes on Sept. 15 in an important home-and-home series between the East Division's top two teams.
"Those five-day weeks are tough, especially with how hot and physical it was," Dinwiddie said. "We've got to be smart how we practise.
"I'll probably do one practice, a walk-through, then have another walk-through and then go play the game."
Andrew Harris, DaVaris Daniels and Damonte Coxie had Toronto's other touchdowns. Bede booted two field goals, a single and four converts.
Godwin had two TDs for Hamilton. Marc Liegghio kicked two field goals, a convert and single.
Liegghio's 37-yard boot at 14:57 of the third cut Toronto's lead to 24-13.
Kelly connected on a seven-yard touchdown pass to Coxie at 13:01 to go ahead 24-10, but the convert was wide. The score capped a smart eight-play, 82-yard march.
Bede's 65-yard punt single at 7:10 moved Toronto ahead 18-10.
Hamilton opened the second half with Powell's 17-yard TD pass to Godwin at 4:51 of the third to pull to within 17-10. It capped a nine-play, 55-yard drive but Butler's run for the two-point convert was short.
Liegghio hit from 37 yards out at 14:32 of the second to cut Toronto's halftime lead to 17-4. He missed from 57 yards out at 7:58 that went for a single.
Hamilton had more first downs (eight to seven), offensive plays (32 to 23) and offensive yards (146 to 143) than Toronto in the first half. But the Argos did all of their first-half damage offensively in the opening quarter.
One play following Jamal Peters's interception, Kelly found Daniels on a 31-yard TD strike at 12:42 to put Toronto ahead 17-0.
Harris's two-yard TD run at 10:49 pushed Toronto's lead to 10-0 at 10:49. It followed Javon Leake's 31-yard punt return and Kurleigh Gittens Jr.'s 21-yard run.
Bede opened the scoring with a 28-yard field goal at 3:47.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 4, 2023.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press