TORONTO – Ricky Ray threw for 407 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Toronto Argonauts past the Saskatchewan Roughriders 48-15 on Saturday afternoon.
The victory before a sparse Rogers Centre gathering of 17,758 was redemption for Toronto (1-1), coming off a dismal 45-21 season-opening loss in Winnipeg. What’s more, Saskatchewan (1-1) began its Grey Cup defence registering 10 sacks in a lopsided 31-10 home win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
But Ray masterfully executed a gameplan of short passes, timely runs and play-action throws that help limit Saskatchewan’s pass rush to two sacks while allowing the Argos’ speedy receivers to make significant gains after the catch.
Ray capped a sparkling eight-play, 95-yard scoring drive with a 14-yard TD pass to Jason Barnes at 5:24 of the third to put Toronto ahead 24-1. But after hitting Taj Smith with a 59-yard touchdown strike at 10:22, Darian Durant found Antony Allen on a nine-yard toss at 13:16 to pull Saskatchewan to within 25-15.
Swayze Waters’ 40-yard field goal to open the fourth put Toronto ahead 28-15 to open the fourth.
The Argos’ revamped defence looked solid in the first half, forcing two turnovers and holding the Riders’ potent offence in check before Durant and Co. got going late in the third. But a timely sack by Jalil Carter and Chad Owens’ 44-yard punt return put Toronto at the Saskatchewan 49 with 11:42 remaining.
Ray moved Toronto 49 yards on six plays – running twice for 21 yards – and capped the march with a five-yard TD pass to Mike Bradwell at 6:34 of the fourth to put the Argos ahead 34-15 following the unsuccessful two-point conversion.
Curtis Steele had a 17-yard TD run – his second of the game – at 10:33 before newcomer Antwaun Molden returned a Durant interception 108 yards for the touchdown at 12:38 for Toronto, the second-longest in club history.
Toronto’s defence, which opened the season with just four returning starters, had four more new faces against Saskatchewan. Cornerback Vincent Agnew, safety Jermaine Gabriel, linebacker Molden and defensive tackle Marcus Thomas all started as cornerback Matt Ware, linebacker Jamie Robinson and safety Matt Black went on the injured list while defensive lineman Greg Romeus was placed on the practice roster.
Running back Jeremiah Johnson (injured list) also missed the game and was replaced by Anthony Woodson (practice roster). That meant sophomore Steele and rookie Anthony Coombs – Toronto’s 2014 first-round pick from the University of Manitoba – shared tailback duties.
Saskatchewan was also minus Canadian slotback Christ Getzlaf.
Owens had Toronto’s other touchdown. Waters had five converts, two field goals and a single.
Saskatchewan’s Chris Milo had two converts and a single.
Patience and Ray helped stake Toronto to a well-earned 17-1 half-time lead.
Ray was 16-of-21 passing for 285 yards and a TD in the opening half, often throwing underneath to not only counter Saskatchewan’s pass rush but also allow his receivers then to gain yards upfield. Ray’s 14-yard TD strike to Owens at 3:26 of the second put the Argos ahead 17-0, set up by Tristan Okpalaugo’s fumble recovery at the Saskatchewan 49-yard line.
Owens had five catches for 104 yards and a TD in the first half.
Steele’s one-yard TD run at 3:26 opened the scoring came two plays after an outstanding 36-yard one-handed grab by John Chiles put Toronto at the Saskatchewan nine-yard line.
Durant, who only threw 22 passes last weekend against Hamilton, was 7-of-15 passing for 89 yards and an interception for an inconsistent Riders’ offence. When Saskatchewan got to the Toronto 28-yard line, Milo missed the 35-yard field goal for a single at 9:59 of the second.
NOTES – Since 2008, Durant has started 12 of Saskatchewan’s 13 games versus Toronto, the exception being Aug. 9, 2008 when former Argo Michael Bishop was under centre. During that span, the Argos have had seven different quarterbacks face the Riders… Getzlaf and offensive lineman Levy Adcock were Saskatchewan’s pre-game scratches. Linebacker Greg Jones and defensive lineman Delano Johnson were Toronto’s roster scratches… Riders’ defensive back Dwight Anderson celebrated his 33rd birthday Saturday… Country artist Brett Kissel performed at halftime.
© The Canadian Press, 2014