Ricky Ray’s debut as a member of the Toronto Argonauts was less than spectacular. The Argos offense looked out of sync for a majority of the game, dropping wide open passes and surrendering three sacks late in the fourth quarter while Ray was attempting to mount a comeback. Ray completed 31 of his 41 pass attempts for a total of 302 yards and a touchdown in his Argonauts debut. While his numbers do not suggest a bad performance, for those who watched the game last night, it was the whole team that looked uncomfortable and was possibly still adjusting to the new defensive and offensive gameplan of Head Coach, Scott Milanovich and Defensive Coordinator, Chris Jones.
This night however belonged to a former Toronto Argonaut quarterback. Eskimos quarterback, Steven Jyles went 21 for 36 for a total of 236 yards in Edmonton’s first victory of the season. Jyles did a marvelous job of controlling the offense and finding ways to move the ball down the field. Jyles was able to orchestrate a nine play, 85-yard drive early in the second quarter, which was capped off by a Hugh Charles touchdown, and his trademark summersault celebration. Adarius Bowman was the Eskimos leading receiver on opening night with 5 catches for 110 yards including a big catch on the Charles touchdown drive.
The Argos had their fair share of opportunities to go ahead in the ball game. Ricky Ray’s first deep toss of the night came late in the first half when he hooked up with “The Fly’in Hawaiian”, Chad Owens for a 52-yard pass play. Following the big pass reception, Ray found Cory Boyd wide open in the middle of field and he charged into the end zone for the Argos first major score of 2012. At halftime the Argos had only been able to eclipse 39 yards rushing as a team. Cory Boyd besides his touchdown was seemingly out of the picture offensively for most of the first half. Mid way through the third quarter Ricky Ray was able to find Chad Owens in the back of the end zone but the ball was slightly tipped by an Eskimos defender and fell through the hands of Owens. Despite the costly drop in the end zone, Chad Owens had a phenomenal game for the Argos, collecting 100 yards receiving on 6 catches. In the fourth quarter it looked like Ray and the offense were finally finding their rhythm. Ray was able to find Spencer Watt in the middle of the end zone but the touchdown toss was called back due to a holding penalty by the offensive line.
The Argonauts were very undisciplined in the football game and that may have been the difference between a loss and a win on opening night. The Argos took 16 penalties, which translated into 116 free yards for the Edmonton Eskimos. Head Coach, Scott Milanovich stressed all throughout training camp, the importance of remaining disciplined on the football field. He will certainly be disappointed with his team’s performance in week one. The Argos committed two false start penalties early in the first quarter and that was an unfortunate indication of what was to come. Marcus Ball, linebacker, was flying all over the field for the Argos but as well committed two or three offside penalties resulting in a fresh set of downs for the Eskimos.
It was an especially rough day for Noel Prefontaine. The Argos kicker went 2 for 4 on field goal attempts, missing 20 and 32 yards kicks. The final score of the ball game was 19-15 and Argos fans cringe with disappointment knowing that they were only two field goals away from victory. New Eskimos kicker Grant Shaw was also facing his former team last night. Shaw had a breakout year with the Argonauts in 2011 and started his 2012 campaign on a good note. Shaw was a perfect 4 for 4 from field goal range and may have been the ultimate difference maker for the Eskimos.
One positive to take from this Argonauts opening loss is the unbelievable performance by the defense. Following the Hugh Charles touchdown, the defense allowed only six points the rest of the way and held Steven Jyles in check. Marcus Ball was a standout performer with six tackles on the night and providing good pressure off the edge on blitz packages.
The Argos had possession of the ball with just over two minutes to play and were unable to conduct a game winning drive. The offense eventually gave the Eskimos possession of the ball when they turned the ball over on downs with 22 seconds remaining in the game, sealing the victory for the Eskimos.
Scott Milanovich will look to make some adjustments during practice this week hoping for a better result next Saturday when his team hosts the Calgary Stampeders for their 2012 home opener. As for The Eskimos and Argonauts, they will meet again at Rogers Centre on Monday August 27 for a week nine matchup.