Argos pass their ‘mid-term exam’ with flying colours

It was a season-high crowd of 16,326 that took in the Toronto Argonauts’ record-setting 38-6 trouncing of the Montreal Alouettes on Saturday.

And if the extra fans came only for curiosity’s sake — or perhaps because an Argos ticket got them free admission to the CNE — then they left knowing two names: Ricky Ray and S.J. Green.

Ray threw four touchdown passes — two of them to the nimble Green with the incredible vertical reach — to become the Toronto Argonauts’ all-time TD passer, surpassing Condredge Holloway (100 to 98). Ray was already the Argos all-time leader in passing yards, and holds similar records in Edmonton. He is the only quarterback in the CFL to hold the TD passing record for two teams.

“It’s pretty cool,” Ray said. “That’s not something I really think about. I’ve been lucky in my career to play with two really good franchises, with Edmonton and now Toronto, teams with a lot of history.”

What’s more relevant is the Argos’ convincing victory, one that propelled them back into first place in the East at the halfway point of their season. Toronto is 4-5, with a 4-1 record within the division. Montreal is 3-5.

“This was a mid-term exam,” head coach Marc Trestman said. “We saw a glimpse of what type of team, an efficient team, that we can be.”

The Argos aerial attack dismantled the Alouettes’ defence as they built a 35-0 halftime lead. This was the same team the Argos couldn’t handle last week when Ray was out with a shoulder injury.

“We’ve seen glimpses all throughout the year,” Ray said. “We haven’t played to the level we want to play consistently. We showed a lot of good things, and we showed some things that we definitely would like to improve on.”

“We certainly played our most complete game of the year,” Trestman said. “We still have some things to clean up, some penalties. To shut down a football team of that caliber is not easy to do.

“We’ve seen a glimpse tonight of the team we want to become.”

The Argos defence limited Montreal to 122 yards in the air and 44 on the ground, giving them just 20 minutes and 27 seconds with the ball.

Ray, meanwhile, was 35 of 43 for 377 yards passing, with one interception in addition to his four touchdown passes. The Argos managed 96 yards rushing.

“He’s Ricky Ray,” Trestman said. “He’s shown he can do it. But we as a team played better football than we have all year. That’s a good sign.”

Green caught the game’s first touchdown pass, jumping over double coverage at 4:40 of the first quarter to cap a nine-play, 76-yard march downfield. And Green caught the second touchdown pass at 3:58 of the second quarter, again using his reach.

“He’s a great receiver, makes a lot of plays for us,” Ray said. “We’ve got some guys who are big targets. When they’re one on one and you give them a chance, they’re going to come down with it more often than not.”

There’s an obvious chemistry with Green.

“It was good to get out there with Ricky,” Green said. “You can see what a guy with his ability can do. The most important thing was getting that W, get back into first place. We didn’t feel we played our best game last week. And we wanted to do our best on our home turf.”

The only real question about the game was why Ray played all four quarters. Backup Cody Fajardo saw a handful of snaps, but Ray played right up to the victory formation as time expired. Given he was coming off a shoulder injury, it was an odd decision not to give him some rest. And odd as well to risk injury. He was sacked late in the third quarter.

“I thought about it,” Trestman said when asked if he considered removing Ray. “But I thought we were sufficiently in position where he could do the things necessary to function. You could see how we played the game the last quarter-and-a-half, a running game. We really didn’t expose him to anything.”

Trestman said the Argos still need to work on components of the game, and he used the last quarter to do just that.

“We need the work,” Trestman said. “We haven’t arrived. We need the offence to work together. We didn’t score (a touchdown) in the second half. We had some good drives. But we cut ourselves short. There were second downs we didn’t convert. We played efficiently, but we didn’t get the scoring.”

As for the extra fans — about 4,000 more than usual — Ray said he hope they left entertained.

“The atmosphere was good in the stadium,” he said. “We’re going to go out and play hard for them. Hopefully we gave them a good experience.”

– Toronto Star