There was no Grey Cup redemption for Bo Levi Mitchell and the Calgary Stampeders.
Mitchell threw three touchdown passes as Calgary embarrassed Toronto 41-7 at BMO Field in the first meeting between the two teams since the Argonauts’ 27-24 Grey Cup win in November. Mitchell improved his career regular-season record against the Double Blue to 9-0 while guiding the Stampeders to their ninth consecutive regular-season victory over the defending CFL champions.
“I would’ve thought about it more if it was Game 1 of the season, more like Ottawa two years ago and we had to play them twice,” said Mitchell. “To me, you’re thinking about Hamilton all off-season, all training camp, so to me it kind of lost that lustre of it.
“It was just us going out there and beating a football team today.”
Calgary (2-0) opened its season last week downing Hamilton 28-14.
Toronto (0-2) also lost starter Ricky Ray late in the third. After being sandwiched between two Stampeders defenders, Ray received on-field medical treatment before going on a backboard then a stretcher with his neck immobilized and leaving on a cart following roughly a 20-minute delay.
Ray was taken to a Toronto hospital afterwards, but a club official said it was purely for precautionary reasons.
“He’ll get an MRI and those type of things, but I’m encouraged by what the doctors had to say,” Toronto head coach Marc Trestman said. “But I’m not a doctor so we’ll have to wait until the medical information is in, but I’m going to be optimistic at this point.”
Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson echoed those sentiments.
“I’ve been told it was a bit more precautionary and I’m glad our people do that,” Dickenson said. “I like Ricky, always have … and didn’t like seeing that.
“It was a hard-fought game, things can happen but fingers crossed. I believe he’ll bounce back, we’ll see what happens.”
Ray, who was seen moving his fingers, finished 12-of-17 passing for 74 yards. He was replaced by James Franklin, who scored Toronto’s lone TD on a 10-yard run at 9:11 of the fourth.
“It’s always scary to see a guy you’ve played with for six years take a hit like that,” said veteran Argos tackle Chris Van Zeyl. “And then see him hurt, my heart was broken.
“It makes you question a lot of things.”
Mitchell improved his career regular-season record to 58-10-2 and is 27-3-2 versus East Division teams. Rookie running back Don Jackson also ran for 123 yards on nine carries while Eric Rogers registered five catches for 131 yards and two TDs.
Mitchell finished 20-of-22 passing for 324 yards before giving way to Nick Arbuckle in the fourth.
“He was on fire, made a lot of good reads and plays with his feet,” Dickenson said of his starter. “He’s also happy to get Mr. Rogers back in the neighborhood and that was nice.
“But I’d have to say (Mitchell) stayed within himself, he didn’t force the ball, he took the checkdowns. He did the things we know if he does we’re a dang good offence and it looked like that tonight.”
Calgary also registered its sixth straight road win over Toronto. The Argos last beat the Stampeders on Sept. 21, 2013 and their last home victory against them came July 7, 2012.
Toronto opened a season with two straight losses for the first time since 2002. Ray lost his seventh straight start against the Stamps and dropped to 14-23 all-time against them before a home-opening crowd of 16,450, roughly 1,550 short of a sellout with the upper-east balcony closed.
Toronto will have time to ponder its start heading into a bye week.
“We’ve got to find ourselves,” Trestman said. “The first two weeks, we still don’t know who we are.
“What we’ve seen in practice hasn’t been reflected on the field for most of the first two games. We really have to regroup and start over.”
After gaining just 69 first-half yards offensively, Toronto opened the second half turning the ball over on downs. Franklin was stopped on a third-and-one gamble at the Calgary 49-yard line.
Calgary responded with Mitchell’s 10-yard TD strike to Rogers at 5:33 to go ahead 27-1.
Arbuckle, DaVaris Daniels and Terry Williams, on a 102-yard punt return, had Calgary’s other TDs. Rene Paredes had five converts and two field goals, boosting his streak to 15 straight.
Ronnie Pfeffer added a single for Toronto.
Calgary experienced a deja vu moment in the second, leading 10-0 and at the Toronto 15-yard line. Argos defensive back Ronnie Yell recovered Mitchell’s fumble and looked like he had a clear path to a touchdown.
But receiver Kamar Jorden ran Yell down and eventually tackled him at the Calgary 20-yard line. That was huge because Toronto never scored as the snap on Pfeffer’s 21-yard field goal was high and holder Jimmy Ralph fumbled while scrambling.
In last year’s Grey Cup game, Toronto tied Calgary 24-24 when Cassius Vaughn returned a fumble 110 yards for the TD and Declar Cross scored a two-point convert at 10:25 of the fourth. That set up Lirim Hajrullahu’s eventual game-winning kick from 32 yards out with 53 seconds remaining.
This time, though, Calgary countered with Mitchell’s 18-yard TD strike to Rogers at 5:28 for a 17-0 advantage.
“I was pretty upset with myself and I’m watching the guy run and I’m like, ‘Man, he’s gone,”’ Mitchell said. “And I just see KJ coming from outside and he’s moving faster than everybody on the field.
“I think that was kind of a vindictive moment but honestly that’s just KJ, that’s how he plays. Hats off to him, he saved my tail right there, the defence got the ball back and we drove down and scored.”