BACK ONBOARD: BOATMEN REBOUND WITH VICTORY IN RIDERVILLE
Ricky Ray completed a pair of touchdown passes on his opening two drives which was enough to stave off the Saskatchewan Roughriders and lead the Toronto Argonauts to a 30-17 win in the final home opener at Mosaic Stadium.
Friday night marked the official start of the Chris Jones era in Saskatchewan after a much-publicized off-season move from Edmonton to Regina just days following his leading the Eskimos to a Grey Cup victory. It too marked the return of Darian Durant who was seeing his first meaningful reps since the first quarter of the 2015 season where he suffered a season-ending injury.
The Argonauts were coming off an opener that was electric while opening up BMO Field as their new turf but struggled against a well-prepared Hamilton Tiger-Cats club. The biggest challenge for Toronto in Week 1 was the slow start, something that was not an issue in the opening moments of this one.
After getting a quick two-and-out on the Riders’ first possession, the Argos were set to get the ball with good field position but veteran returner Larry Taylor ensured that Ray had the ball inside the Saskatchewan 5-yard line after taking a punt 59-yards.
Ray promptly found SB Andre Durie in the flat on the next play who stretched across the goal line for the Argos touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead.
The Riders countered with a 48-yard gain but their drive stalled inside the Argos 30-yard line when they turned the ball over on a QB sneak that didn’t reach the first down marker. Ray wasted no time expanding the lead.
The very next play, Ray stepped into a deep ball on a pump-and-go, spotting sophomore receiver Vidal Hazelton wide open for an easy 56-yard touchdown. A total of 98 yards on three passes and Ray had the Argonauts up by two scores early.
As the second quarter began, Ray cooled a bit as the Riders took away the deep ball that burned them in the first frame and forced Ray underneath to checkdowns.
A pair of consecutive stops on defence eventually netted the Riders some momentum. An 8-play, 76-yard drive, aided by 30 yards in Argos penalties, was capped off with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Durant to former Argo WR John Chiles who cut the lead to 14-7.
However, as soon as momentum swung in Saskatchewan’s favour, the Argos literally scooped it back. Already with a turnover on downs the Riders looked to convert another third-and-short QB sneak but a fumbled snap between centre Dan Clark and backup QB Bryant Moniz resulted in a fumble and a 37-yard touchdown scamper by DB Matt Black.
The 8-year veteran DB was forced into the every-down safety spot after Jermaine Gabriel left the game with an injury. Black’s third career touchdown put the Argos back up by 14 points and they took an 11-point lead to the locker room at halftime after the Riders closed the quarter with a 27-yard Tyler Crapigna field goal.
As the second half opened, so too did the Riders offence. Durant put together a pair of first downs before connecting with WR Ricky Collins down the sideline for a big gain. The Texas A&M product’s 35-yard athletic snag set the Riders up inside the redzone but he Argos once again held tough and forced Crapigna to hit a 15-yarder.
The Argos countered with a 28-yarder of their own on the ensuing drive to keep the lead at 11.
Ray took control of the Argos offence when the fourth quarter began, methodically putting completions together to try and eat some clock. A 50-yard field goal from Lirim Hajjrullau
After the Riders made good on a field goal and also sent one wide left, the defences battled back and forth, bending but not breaking as the Argos looked to kill the clock and the Riders tried to mount a comeback. Taylor all but sealed it for the Argonauts with 2:34 left in the contest when he fielded a punt in his own zone, cut across midfield and romped down the Saskatchewan 25 yard line. Two plays later Hajjrullau knocked through a field goal to close it out for the Boatmen.
The Argos will stay on the road for Week 3 as they take on the Lions at BC Place while the Riders head to Edmonton where Chris Jones will face his old Eskimos squad.