REGINA, SK. – An injury riddled Toronto Argonauts squad marched into Mosaic Stadium on Saturday night to square off against the defending Grey Cup champion Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Saturday’s primetime affair marked Dwight Anderson’s highly anticipated return to Riderville after the 33-year-old defensive back was traded from Saskatchewan to Toronto earlier this month. Ironically, the deal was finalized just two days following the Argonauts’ convincing 48-15 win over the Riders at Rogers Centre.
In that aforementioned Week Two triumph, receivers Chad Owens, Andre Durie, and Jason Barnes combined for 275 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns. All three wideouts have since been sidelined due to injury, leaving quarterback Ricky Ray with a youthful and rather inexperienced receiving core.
In addition to losing his top three offensive playmakers, the Argos’ veteran pivot was also without second-year wide receiver John Chiles and rookie running back Steve Slaton.
Despite dropping back-to-back games (Calgary and Ottawa) and owning a disappointing 1-3 record, the Boatmen refused to categorize this weekend’s tilt against Saskatchewan as a “must-win” contest.
As for the Green Riders, they entered Saturday night’s clash with the Double Blue coming off a much-needed bye week. In an ultra-competitive Western Division, the defending champs have been outscored 74-28 in their past two contests, prompting head coach Corey Chamblin to question his team’s championship prowess.
The Riders’ hard-hitting defensive unit immediately responded to their coach’s psychological challenge as veteran defensive back Tyron Brackenridge intercepted Ricky Ray on the second play from scrimmage. The Roughriders quickly converted the turnover into points as Darian Durant scampered into the end zone from 10 yards out, giving Saskatchewan an early 7-0 lead.
On the Argonauts’ ensuing offensive possession, Ricky Ray was once again the culprit of an ill-advised turnover. Newly acquired Roughriders running back Will Ford found the end zone shortly thereafter, extending the Riders’ lead to 14-0.
The Argonauts managed to weather the early storm and forced a turnover of their own as defensive lineman Thadeus Gibson intercepted Darian Durant. Swayze Waters got the Boatmen on the board as he connected on a 17-yard field.
The Argos offence continued to chip away at the deficit as Waters added another field goal, this time converting from 16 yards out, reducing the Riders’ lead to 14-6.
The Roughriders offence eventually responded with a scoring drive of their own as Darian Durant engineered a methodical six-play, 63-yard drive capped off by Will Ford’s second major score of the game, re-establishing the Riders’ double-digit lead, 21-6.
Following a two-and-out from the Argonauts offence, Saskatchewan continued to add to their lead as Will Ford found the end zone for the third time in the opening half, extending the Riders’ lead to 28-6.
Saskatchewan’s defence continued to disrupt Ricky Ray as the Argos’ 34-year-old pivot threw his second interception of the half with less than one minute remaining in the second quarter.
Ricky Ray’s first half struggles carried over to the third quarter as he yielded his fourth turnover of the night. Riders defensive lineman John Chick burst through the Argonauts’ offensive line prior to bringing down Ray and forcing a fumble. The Roughriders quickly capitalized on the turnover as Chris Milo split the uprights from 39 yards out, giving Saskatchewan a commanding 31-6 advantage.
Milo and Swayze Waters then traded a pair of lengthy field goals, resulting in a 34-9 score line. Milo later connected on a 43-yard field goal attempt, extending the Riders’ lead to 37-9.
With the game seemingly out of reach, Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich elected to remove Ricky Ray from the game. Similarly, Roughriders head coach Corey Chamblin replaced quarterback Darian Durant with backup Tino Sunseri.
All in all, the Boatmen turned over the football on five occasions and mustered just 326 yards of total offence.
With the loss, the Argonauts fall to 1-4 on the season.
Ricky Ray made good on 23 of 35 pass attempts for 221 yards and two interceptions while Trevor Harris completed 7 of 10 passes in relief of the Argos’ incumbent signal caller.
Over the course of the past three games, the Argonauts’ offence has produced just one major score.
Swayze Waters was a perfect three-for-three on field goal attempts while his counterpart Chris Milo also split the uprights on three occasions.
Making his Riders debut, running back Will Ford dazzled as he rushed for 113 yards on 17 carries and tallied three touchdowns.