TORONTO — Ricky Ray made a memorable home debut Saturday afternoon.
The veteran quarterback threw for 407 yards and two TDs but it was a crucial 36-yard completion to Andre Durie that set up Noel Prefontaine’s 28-yard field goal with no time left and earned the Toronto Argonauts a thrilling 39-36 home-opening win over the Calgary Stampeders.
“It was a weird game because there’s a lot of mistakes, a lot of great plays and it was pretty exciting,” Ray said. “But for us to stay together and get through adversity and get the win is huge, especially in our home opener.
“I was able to step up inside the pressure and found Andre over the middle. He’s one of those guys you get the ball into his hands he’s going to make some plays and was able to do that and get us into field goal range.”
Argos’ balanced attack
“The balance really helped us out. We really need that over the course of the year because you need good balance on offence to keep the defence honest.”
– Argos quarterback Ricky Ray
Toronto (1-1) earned its fourth straight win over Calgary (1-1), which has dropped nine of its last 11 games at Rogers Centre.
After Calgary tied the score 36-36, rookie Chandler Williams returned the kickoff 34 yards to the Toronto 47. Ray then found Durie on a completion to the Stampeders’ 27-yard line, and after runs by both Boyd (six yards) and Ray (no yards), Prefontaine calmly connected with the game-winning field goal.
“The feeling was still good because it was a tie game,” Ray said. “It’s not like we went down and felt like we had to go out and make some extraordinary plays.
“They (kickoff return team) put us in good field position and we just needed to be smart with the football but get ourselves up into scoring position. We were able to do that the first play and that was big for us.”
That was sweet redemption for Prefontaine, who had six in the game but his lone miss from 36 yards out was returned 125 yards for a TD by Calgary’s Larry Taylor at 3:15 of the fourth. That allowed the visitors to tie the score 29-29.
Prefontaine also missed two-of-three field goals he tried in last week’s 19-15 road loss in Edmonton.
“There are some things in the game I’d like to have back that I didn’t do well,” Prefontaine said. “But you keep your head down and keep playing and deal with whatever happens…good or bad, you stay even-keeled.
“You don’t get too high and you don’t get too low. After 15 years that’s one thing I’ve learned.”
The win was hardly a work of art, but it still was Scott Milanovich’s first as a CFL head coach and afterwards his players presented him with the game ball.
“A lot to clean up,” he said. “I don’t know if I am a sentimental guy but I will keep the ball.
“As a head coach you only ever get one first win and this will be something I hold on to.”
But Ray and the Argos’ offence completely overshadowed Kevin Glenn – who entered the game for an injured Drew Tate – and Co., outgaining Calgary 518-257 in net offence. Durie finished with 10 catches for 118 yards while Inman had three receptions for 107 yards.
Toronto also outran the Stampeders 118 yards to 57, with Cory Boyd responsible for 101 yards and a TD on the ground.
“The balance really helped us out,” Ray said. “We really need that over the course of the year because you need good balance on offence to keep the defence honest.”
Ray’s performance was hardly surprising to Milanovich.
“Two weeks ago everyone was concerned about Ricky,” he said. “But there was a comfort level from the coaching staff because we had seen what was happening in practice.
“It’s starting to translate to the game field for us so that’s an encouraging thing.”
If there is a concern, though, it’s that Toronto’s offence all too often had to settle for field goals after stalling in the red zone.
“It seemed every time we were coming away with points but in the back of your mind you’re thinking, ‘We’re only getting three on these, we need to get some touchdowns,”’ Ray said. “You could see a couple touchdowns and they’re back in the game.
“We just have to do a better job of finishing those drives.”