WINNIPEG – In a pivotal early-season Eastern Division matchup, the Toronto Argonauts defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 35-19 on Friday night at Investors Group Field.
It may only be week four, but the Argonauts victory broke a four-way tie in the East, temporarily placing the Boatmen atop the division with a 2-2 record.
Following a thrilling 39-34 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to open the 2013 season, the Argonauts entered Friday’s contest coming off back-to-back losses to the Saskatchewan Roughriders and B.C. Lions.
The win also marked the Argonauts’ fifth victory in their past six meetings against the Blue Bombers.
However, it was a bitter sweet night for the Double Blue as quarterback Ricky Ray suffered an apparent knee injury in the third quarter and did not return to the football game.
Prior to the injury, Ray had completed 19 of 20 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. The Argonauts offensive captain added 24 yards along the ground including an 18-yard score.
Ray also set a new CFL single-game record for the highest completion percentage as the veteran pivot connected on 95 percent of his passes.
The Blue Bombers opened the scoring on Friday night as Justin Palardy connected on a 34-yard field goal, giving Winnipeg an early 3-0 lead.
On the ensuing Argonauts offensive possession, Ricky Ray orchestrated a methodical 11-play, 68-yard drive capped off by Chad Owens’ 15-yard touchdown reception, giving the Double Blue a 7-3 lead.
The touchdown was Owens’ first of the 2013 campaign as the flyin’ Hawaiian made a tremendous adjustment towards the football, hauling in Ricky Ray’s lofting pass in the corner of the end zone.
Ray entered Friday night’s game just 16 pass completions shy of surpassing Danny McManus for third place on the CFL’s all-time list. The Argonauts veteran pivot was a perfect 6 for 6 on the touchdown drive with 70 yards passing.
Following a pair of two-and-outs, the Blue Bombers closed the gap as Justin Palardy split the uprights with a 31-yard field goal, cutting the Argonauts lead to 7-6 early on in the second quarter.
After having an 88-yard pick-six negated last week due to a pass interference penalty, Argonauts defensive back Jamie Robinson recorded his first career CFL interception on Friday night as he picked off Winnipeg quarterback Buck Pierce, setting up the Boatmen deep in Blue Bombers territory.
It did not take long for Ricky Ray to capitalize on the turnover as he connected with Spencer Watt for a 30-yard touchdown, extending the Argonauts lead to 14-6.
Watt concluded the game with two receptions for 37 yards and one touchdown.
The Double Blue continued to add to their lead as Zach Collaros capped a seven-play, 68-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown rush, putting the Argonauts ahead 21-6 heading into halftime.
Ricky Ray concluded the first half 15 of 16 with 196 yards and two touchdowns. The 15 completions put Ray in a tie with Danny McManus for third all-time with 3,640 career completions.
The only blemish on Ray’s nearly perfect stat-line was a drop by rookie wide receiver John Chiles.
Ray quickly surpassed McManus’ completion total with a 10-yard pass to Chad Owens at the beginning of the second half.
Ray’s magical night continued as he registered an 18-yard rushing touchdown, extending the Argonauts lead to 28-6 early on in the third quarter.
However, Ray’s marvelous performance came to end midway through the quarter as he exited the football game with a lower-body injury.
In the absence of Ray, Zach Collaros and Trevor Harris split the Argonauts’ quarterback duties.
The second-year quarterbacks combined to complete 4 of 6 pass attempts for 71 yards.
After taking a hard hit from Argonauts defensive back Shane Horton in the first half, Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce was replaced by Justin Goltz.
Following the game, it was revealed that Pierce had suffered an abdominal injury. Prior to exiting the football game, Pierce completed 10 of 14 passes for 139 yards and one interception.
Noel Prefontaine extended the Argonauts lead as he connected on a 30-yard field goal, putting the Argonauts ahead 31-6 late in the third quarter.
The Blue Bombers registered their first forced turnover of the game as defensive back Teague Sherman blocked Noel Prefontaine’s punt attempt, setting up Winnipeg with possession of the football inside the Argonauts’ 20-yard line.
Justin Palardy converted the turnover into points as he recorded his third field goal of the night, cutting the Argonauts lead to 31-9.
A frightening moment for Argonauts fans as running back Chad Kackert exited the football game in the third quarter after taking a hard hit below his knees.
With backup running back Curtis Steele inactive for Friday night’s game, Andre Durie stepped in at tailback for the remainder of the football game.
Argonauts kicker Noel Prefontaine missed two consecutive field goal attempts, one of which resulted in a rouge, extending Toronto’s lead to 32-9.
The Double Blue defence continued to shine as Marcus Ball registered the Argonauts’ second forced turnover of the game, recovering a Chad Simpson fumble.
Prefontaine connected on his second field goal of the game late in the fourth quarter, putting Toronto ahead 35-9.
With less than two minutes remaining in the game, Argonauts defensive back Jalil Carter collided with Bombers wide receiver Jade Etienne along the Toronto sideline. Carter remained down on the turf for several minutes prior to being helped off the football field.
Chad Simpson added a late fourth quarter touchdown run, making it a respectable 35-19 victory for the Argonauts.
The defending Grey Cup champs have an 11-day layoff in between games as the Double Blue return home for a matchup with the B.C. Lions on July 30.
Connecting on 95 percent of his passes, Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray set a new CFL record for completion percentage in a single-game, surpassing his own previous record of 92 percent, which he set on October 31, 2008 as a member of the Edmonton Eskimos.
Ray also set a franchise record as he shattered Condredge Holloway’s previous completion mark of 87.1 percent set on July 12, 1985 against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Meanwhile, Chad Kackert’s struggles continued on Friday night as the 100th Grey Cup MVP (Most Valuable Player) accumulated just 51 yards on 12 total touches.
Slotback Andre Durie led the way in the receiving game as he collected his second consecutive 100-yard game, tallying six receptions for 108 yards.
Chad Owens continued his spectacular start to the 2013 season as the flyin’ Hawaiian registered seven receptions for 89 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively, the Argonauts surrendered just 64 yards rushing on Friday night as Bombers running back Chad Simpson collected merely 50 yards along the ground.
Marcus Ball and Robert McCune each tallied six tackles in the victory while Jamie Robinson added five and collected his first career CFL interception.
Making his third consecutive start, Argonauts kicker Noel Prefontaine was 2 for 4 on field goal attempts.
As for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, running back Chad Simpson accounted for the team’s only major score as he registered a one-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
Simpson concluded the game with 71 total yards on just 13 touches.
Wide receiver Clarence Denmark recorded his first 100-yard receiving game of the 2013 season as he hauled in four passes for 112 yards.
Linebacker Henoc Muamba tallied eight tackles in the loss while defensive lineman Alex Hall added to his league leading sack total as he registered the Blue Bombers’ lone sack of the football game.
Kicker Justin Palardy was a perfect 3 for 3 on field goal attempts, accounting for 9 of Winnipeg’s 19 points.
However, the Argonauts victory did not come without cause for concern as the team prepares to deal with various injuries on both sides of the football.
With an 11-day layoff in between games, the Argonauts hope that the injuries will subside and not present a long-term issue.