TORONTO — The last time the Toronto Argonauts faced the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Corey Chamblin wasn't sure if his defence would face Brandon Bridge.
This time, Chamblin says the unit will be ready for the elusive Canadian quarterback if he steps on to the field.
Toronto hosts Saskatchewan on Sunday in the East Division final at BMO Field, with the winner advancing to the Grey Cup on Nov. 26 in Ottawa. The Riders swept the season series 2-0 and are coming off a solid 31-20 semifinal win over the defending-champion Ottawa Redblacks.
Bridge played a major role in Saskatchewan's 27-24 road win over Toronto on Oct. 7. The six-foot-five, 230-pound Mississauga, Ont., native was 20-of-28 passing for 292 yards and the two TDs in relief of starter Kevin Glenn. Bridge came in during the first half with the Riders trailing 16-3 after Glenn completed just three-of-eight passes for 29 yards.
After Toronto tied the score 24-24 with under four minutes to play, Bridge calmly marched Saskatchewan 64 yards on 11 plays. That set up Tyler Crapigna's game-winning 18-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining.
"We didn't expect to see him that quickly," Chamblin said. "That's a sign of the respect and regard we have for Kevin Glenn, he's a guy we expected to play the whole game.
"On the flipside you have to know with Chris (Riders coach/GM Chris Jones) he's always going to pull something out of the hat. It's not so much we didn't prepare for (Bridge), he was just good in what he did. Now we understand who he is . . . there's more respect for him as a player because he's been in games and had experience playing."
Glenn, 38, and Bridge are two very different quarterbacks. Glenn, in his 15th CFL season, is pretty much a pocket passer who often runs only as a last resort. The five-foot-10, 203-pount Detroit native ran 21 times for 75 yards and two touchdowns this season and has rushed for 1,580 yards in 239 career CFL games.
Bridge, 25, uses his legs much more. He runs to either evade the rush and head upfield or extend a play and buy his receivers time to get open downfield.
"He was a one-read type of guy (in October game)," Chamblin said. "Once he read it, if it was there he took it, if he didn't then he was able to take off.
"I think there are things schematically we have to do different to defend him because they're two different quarterbacks. It will be fun to see how this turns out in the sense which quarterback they play and how long they play him."
Glenn went the distance against Ottawa, completing 18-of-28 passes for 252 yards and a TD while also running for another. He'll start Sunday for Saskatchewan.
"We've experienced what their quarterbacks can do," Argos coach Marc Trestman said. "We understand how good they are, we understand their strengths and what we have to do to attack them.
"We've got a lot of respect for Kevin Glenn and his ability to lead his team and we've seen what (Bridge) can do as well. He's not really a backup, he's a capable starter. He proved that against us and we've got to be ready for that as well."
Chamblin has had success gameplanning for a mobile quarterback. Toronto cemented first in the East Division on Nov. 4 with a 40-13 road win over the B.C. Lions, picking off elusive Jonathon Jennings three times and holding him to 145 passing yards and just eight yards rushing on two carries.
"You understand you have a running quarterback," Chamblin said. "You have to make sure all your gaps are covered.
"You have to make sure when they rush that it's not just pin your ears back and go, it's more of a controlled rush. We just played Jennings so it's somewhat similar to playing Bridge."
But linebacker Bear Woods said execution is crucial for Toronto's defence, regardless of who's at quarterback.
"We always focus on our defence and as long as we're executing it really doesn't matter who you put back there," Woods said. "It goes without saying Bridge is a threat with his legs moreso than Kevin.
"But Kevin is an equal threat in that he's been doing it for years. We just have to be ready. It's the East final, it's a playoff game and if there's a card to pull, everyone is pulling every card they have."
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press