TORONTO — Ricky Ray, calm and cool as ever, found WR Jason Barnes for a 37-yard touchdown with 2:31 left to give the Toronto Argonauts a 25-22 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Rogers Centre.
The story heading into this contest was the new-look Winnipeg backfield, comprised of quarterback Alex Brink, who is now the starter with Buck Pierce injured, and Chad Simpson who made his first career start at tailback.
The Argos wasted little time getting in on the board, scoring a touchdown on their second possession when Ricky Ray hit Cory Boyd on a dump pass for a 7-yard major. The score was set up after Brink was rocked by Toronto LB Brandon Isaac and his pass sailed into the arms of fellow linebacker Robert McCune.
Brink would shake off the hit and engineer a solid 48-yard drive to set up a 40-yard Justin Palardy field goal.
With the Bombers debuting a relatively new offence, the Argonauts also dressed a newcomer – import kicker Swayze Waters. The former Edmonton Eskimos punter (albeit for a brief period of time) is now the new leg in Toronto with Noel Prefontaine being shut down for the year with a hip injury.
Waters’ first attempt, a 45-yarder at the end of the first quarter, sailed wide left but earned a single point thanks to the heads-up play by starting left tackle Chris Van Zeyl who chugged down the field to make a shoestring tackle in the endzone.
Waters would however, get his first CFL field goal shortly thereafter, hitting a 18-yarder after the Argos drove down the field on the strength of a 50-yard Andre Durie catch-and-run. The Argonauts went up 11-3
Compounding matters for the Blue Bombers was the fact that both receivers Chris Matthews and Terrence Edwards left the game in the first quarter with injuries. Matthews returned in the second quarter but Edwards did not make it back onto the field. All-star Ian Logan also left the game and did not return.
Impressive debut for Simpson
Chad Simpson was solid in his first game with the Blue Bombers, rushing 15 times for 91 yards averaging over 6 yards per carry.
What was working for them, however, was Simpson. The shifty back from Morgan State had over 60 yards in the first half and kept the Bombers in second and medium situations.
He would inject some life into the Bombers offence, who go their biggest play of the half when Clarence Denmark hauled in a Brink pass in tight coverage down the sidelines for a 55-yard gain, setting Winnipeg up at the Toronto 1 yard line. Brink would fall forward on a quarterback sneak for the major and pull within one point with just over four minutes remaining in the half.
As Brink settled in, so would the entire Winnipeg offence, taking thier first lead of the game and the season (13-11), on a 30-yard Justin Palardy field goal.
The two teams would trade turnovers before Chad Owens helped the Argos re-gain the lead with 31 seconds remaining in the half when Ray found him wide open for a 37-yard touchdown.
The Argos would head into halftime with an 18-13 lead.
Defences would start to tighten up in the third quarter with Winnipeg gaining the first score of the second half off the leg of Palardy who hit a 22-yard field goal 11 minutes in. The score was set up by a Dustin Doe interception and the Bombers pulled within two.
The Bombers would continue to hang around and take their second lead of the game when Owens fumbled a punt return and Palardy would knock a 38-yard field goal through to go up 19-18.
In addition, they would also get their first 100-yard rushing performance of the season as Simpson continued to carry the load on offence.
Palardy would continue his stellar night, extending the Winnipeg lead to 22-18 off a 45-yard field goal which was set up by a 31-yard Denmark reception.
The Winnipeg defence, who had shut down the Ray and the Argos offence, was starting to show the form that made them one of the most feared units last season as they shut out Toronto for almost the entire second half.
But Ray delivered a strike to Barnes who turned in a 37-yard touchdown reception to put the Argos up by three with just over two minutes remaining.
The Argonauts defence would hold Brink and the Bombers in the final minute to clinch the 25-22 win.