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MONTREAL – With the injury bug biting his primary targets, Ricky Ray leaned on RB Steve Slaton who had two touchdowns in a 31-5 Toronto Argonauts win over the Montreal Alouettes Friday night at Percival Molson Stadium.
Slaton, who is a part of an Argos rushing attack by committee, did just as much damage in the air in this one, earning both of his majors off receptions. The West Virginia product finished the night with 52 yards on the ground and 48 in the air .
Ray finished 19 of 33 for 186 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
At the helm of the Alouettes offence as once again Troy Smith who was trying to erase a forgettable performance in Vancouver where he and his club were handled 41-5. Smith vowed to be better following a much-needed bye week and relied on his tailback early.
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After earning a punt single on their first drive, Whitaker, along with a key reception form Duron Carter, helped put Montreal in position to kick a 49-yard field goal to take an early 4-0 lead.
The Argos countered with an impressive drive, including two big first downs by running back Slaton, but came away with nothing after Swayze Waters hooked a 38-yard field goal wide left.
The first quarter was primarily a defensive battle with the Argos holding holding Smith to just 27 yards passing. The Boatmen got on the board as the quarter came to an end after Anthony Coombs (20 yards) and Slaton (9 yards) set up a 30-yard Waters field goal to cut the Montreal lead to 4-3.
Heading out of the bye, speculation was rabid as to how long head coach Tom Higgins would allow his starter to remain at the helm without moving the ball. Then answer was one quarter.
At 14:43 of the second quarter – Montreal’s first possession – Higgins hooked Smith and called upon veteran pivot Alex Brink to take over.
Smith left after completing 4 of 7 passes for 27 yards.
For his part, Brink couldn’t solve what was a determined Argonauts defence in the second quarter. The Double Blue secondary took away everything beyond 15 yards and their defensive line was active, batting down passes and putting heat on the former Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback.
With momentum still up in the air and the second quarter dwindling away, the Argonauts seized the opportunity to go into halftime with the lead.
Ray, missing his top four pass-catchers, quickly put together a 7-play, 62-yard touchdown drive. After completing passes to Maurice Mann and Jarrod Fayson, Ray lobbed a pass in for Slaton who recorded the game’s first touchdown from 10 yards out to give Toronto a 10-5 lead.
Slaton, who was playing in his second game for Toronto at running back, started off the third quarter the same way its predecessor began – with a score.
After getting a big kickoff return from receiver Robert Gill, Ray spotted Coombs for 12 yards and Slaton for 23 on a run reverse before the latter and his quarterback connected again. Six yards out this time, where Slaton hauled in his second touchdown of the game to give the Argonauts a 17-5 lead.
Momentum was swinging in Toronto’s direction but the injuries continued to build up in the third frame. Already without Chad Owens, John Chiles, Jason Barnes and Andre Durie, the Argonauts lost Coombs with 8:38 remaining to what appeared to be a left shoulder injury.
Smith re-entered in the third quarter but only lasted two possessions before being relieved once again by Brink. Brink came in with just over five minutes remaining but promptly absorbed a 10-yard loss on a sack by Jermaine Gabriel who came off the blitz.
The Argonauts ‘D’ from then on out would simply not let up on the Alouettes evolving offence.
After the Als were forced to concede a pair of punt safeties, the Argos added 10 more points to close out the game. First, Waters knocked a 42-yard field goal with 1:48 left and then linebacker Jamie Robinson jumped a Brink pass and took it back 45 yards for a pick-six.
Marsh and Smith finished the night with a combined 14 of 33 for 123 yards.
The Argonauts take a much-needed bye week before returning home for back-to-back home dates against Winnipeg and BC. The Alouettes, meanwhile, head to Commonwealth Stadium to take on a rested Eskimos squad.