MONTREAL — Ricky Ray threw for 399 yards and a touchdown, while Marcus Ball had two interceptions as the Toronto Argonauts advance to the 100th Grey Cup with a 27-20 win over the Montreal Alouettes on Sunday at Olympic Stadium.
Chad Owens had a game-high 207 receiving yards on 11 catches for the red-hot Argos offence, which also got some help from a defence that held the Als to just three points in the second half.
The Argos appeared to be on their way to a quick start, after Chad Owens followed up a solid opening return with a 24-yard catch-and-run over the middle, setting the Argos up in Alouettes territory.
But on the very next play, a bad handoff between Ricky Ray and Chad Kackert put the ball on the ground, with Ollie Ogbu coming up with the recovery for Montreal.
Anthony Calvillo and the Als went to work quickly, with a first-down catch-and-run for Jamel Richardson, before a 25-yard run by running back Jennings to set Montreal up inside the 10.
Toronto’s red zone defence rose to the occasion after that though, forcing an incompletion followed by a Ronald Flemons sack to set-up a 25-yard field goal from Sean Whyte, putting the Als on the board first.
Another long return from Owens gave the Argos strong field position on the following drive, but after getting to third-and-one yardage, Head Coach Scott Milanovich elected to gamble to move the chains.
The Als defence rallied to stuff short-yardage quarterback Jarious Jackson, forcing the second straight turnover to open the game.
This time, the Alouettes made the Argos pay. After quick completions to Richardson and S.J. Green, the running game took care of the rest as Jennings powered his way to consecutive first down runs, including an 18-yard touchdown for the game’s first major.
That capped off a six-play, 60-yard drive over 3:51, giving the home team a 10-0 lead.
In an early hole, the Argos offence responded to the touchdown furiously, starting with a 15-yard run by Kackert. On the next play, Ray found Maurice Mann down the sideline for the import receiver’s second catch of the game, a 32-yard gain.
Ray would add a 17-yard completion to Andre Durie in the middle of the field, but that was all the Boatmen could muster, forcing a 22-yard field goal from Swayze Waters.
Down 10-4 in the latter half of the second quarter, the Argos caught a break on third-and-four when the Alouettes were flagged for an illegal substitution on the punt.
Ray responded with a 35-yard pass to Dontrelle Inman, giving the Argos a first-and-goal from the one-yard-line.
The Boatmen would cash in on two points though, after holding Calvillo to two-and-out on the ensuing possession, cutting the deficit to 10-6 and getting the ball back in Ray’s hands up near their own 40. But the drive stalled, leading to a punt single for the Argos and making it a 10-7 ballgame.
With 1:30 remaining in the opening half though, the Als weren’t done yet. Calvillo found Richardson for a 49-yard catch-and-run, before a pass interference penalty on Ahmad Carroll put Montreal down to the one.
The Argos would add a 12 yard field goal just before half and the teams entered the locker room with Montreal up 17-10.
After getting a defensive stop to begin the second half, Ray and the offence took over down seven points at their own nine-yard-line.
Ray first hit Owens for a 27-yard gain on first down. Then on a second-and-long, Ray dropped back in the face of pressure and found his number one receiver for the second straight time over the middle.
The finalist for Most Outstanding Player found plenty of space, going for a 75-yard catch-and-run and giving the Boatmen the ball at the two-yard-line. While short yardage killed the Double Blue through the first 30 minutes of the game, this time Milanovich kept Ray on the field.
With the Als moving quickly in response, another big play would turn momentum in the Argos’ favour. Calvillo’s pass downfield was picked off by a leaping Marcus Ball, setting the Boatmen up with possession at their own 35-yard-line.
Ray, already on fire, looked to make Montreal pay once again. On a second-and-16, the wily vet found Jason Barnes with space at the first-down marker.
The four-play, 75-yard scoring drive off a turnover took just 2:24, giving the Argos their first lead of the game, 24-17.
Not to be out-done, Jennings and the Als offence went back to work. With the drive seemingly stalled early, an unnecessary roughness penalty on Pacino Horne kept Montreal on the field.
Mired in third-and-13 at their own 50, a special teams play turned the tide on the drive, as Chip Cox took the ball on the reverse during a fake punt. He had just a few inches to spare, giving the Alouettes another fresh set of downs on the gutsy third-down call.
From there, Calvillo completed three straight passes to move into scoring range, but on second down near the goal line, Evan McCollough knocked down the veteran quarterback’s pass in the end zone, forcing Whyte’s second field goal of the game to make it 24-20.
On the ensuing kickoff, the air came out of the stadium in a hurry as Als’ special teamer and linebacker Marc-Olivier Brouillette stayed down after being tackled, eventually needing a stretcher to get off the field.
The Als’ responded with a sack and a quick two-and-out, getting the ball back in the hands of a red-hot Calvillo with 13 minutes remaining. But the Argos defence got back on track with a two-and-out of its own.
That set-up another long burst from Kackert, this time for 51 yards to put the Argos inside the Montreal 30-yard-line, eventually setting up a 35-yard field goal from Waters to restore a seven-point lead with 10:01 remaining.
Down 27-20, Calvillo began the charge once again in hopes of getting tying the game, starting with a quick completion to Jennings followed by a 17-yard catch for rookie pass-catcher Patrick Lavoie. The poised gunslinger stayed hot, completing a 13-yard pass to Brian Bratton on second-and-10 to extend the drive.
But disaster struck soon after. On second-and-short, Calvillo found non-import receiver Eric Deslauriers in first-down territory, only to have the ball stripped by rookie defensive back Horne. That ended the Als’ scoring threat, as the Boatmen took over at around their own 15.
Ray and the Argos moved the chains twice, and with a chance to move in for the kill, Durie appeared to have a key second-down conversion. But on the run after the catch, he had the ball knocked out by Kyries Hebert.
It was recovered by defensive back Michael Carter, giving the Als possession and new life with just over two minutes remaining.
On the ensuing drive, Calvillo and the Alouettes appeared to have all momentum, following a first down to receiver Noel Devine. But Calvillo looked to go long on the next play, overthrowing his receiver and getting picked off by Ball for the second time this game.
The Argos had the ball with just under two minutes remaining and a chance to put the game on ice. After getting four yards on first down, Ray found Owens, but he was stuffed no sooner than he caught the ball, giving Montreal one final chance to tie the game.
Calvillo moved the Alouettes to the 21-yard-line, before throwing two straight incompletions, leading to a game-deciding third-and-10.
The veteran pivot rolled out, eventually firing a bullet to Bratton past the outstretched hand of Horne. But the slotback couldn’t hang onto the ball, securing a 27-20 win for the Argos to advance to the Grey Cup game at home.