MONTREAL – The Toronto Argonauts scored on their first possession of the game and never looked back, handling the Montreal Alouettes 38-13 at Percival Molson Stadium Thursday night.
Ricky Ray passed for three first half touchdowns while Chad Owens ignited his team with an electrifying missed field goal return score to keep Toronto atop the CFL’s East Division.
It wasn’t all good news for the Argos however, as Ray took a hit from Als LB Ejiro Kuale and appeared to be holding his injured knee again. He returned for a few series but Zach Collaros took over under centre as the second half began.
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» Video: Owens' 118-Yard MFG Return TD
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» Video: London's 48-Yard TD Reception
» Preview: New-Look Als host Argonauts
With Ray returning for the Argos after missing one week with a knee injury, the big return was Montreal’s GM Jim Popp back to the sidelines after relieving Dan Hawkins of his duties after only five games earlier in the week.
Heading into a matchup with the defending Grey Cup Champs, the Als task in front of them was made all the more difficult after learning they were losing SB Jamel Richardson for the rest of the season with an ACL injury and RB Brandon Whitaker for at least a game.
Canadian running back Jerome Messam started in the backfield as the Als offence looked to get on track after some inconsistent outings under Hawkins.
With all the talk surrounding Montreal’s offence heading in, it was Toronto’s that jumped out to an early lead off a key special teams play.
The Argos forced a fumble by Noel Devine on the opening kickoff and LB Shane Horton recovered the loose ball to set the Boatmen up at the Montreal 30 yard line. After a 19-yard catch-and-run by Andre Durie, Ray found rookie John Chiles on a corner route for a 12-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead, 1:30 into the contest.
It was Chiles’ second touchdown reception in as many games after the Texas product made his debut, hauling in his first major against BC just prior to the bye.
Neither he nor the Argos' knack for popping the ball loose were finished there.
Two possessions later, Toronto forced Devine to put the ball on the carpet again and DB Alonzo Lawrence pounced on the loose pigskin.
Ray and Chiles hooked up again, this time for a 19-yard touchdown grab to increase the early advantage to 14-0.
Both the Argos’ majors occurred before the Alouettes had recorded more than one first down on offence. Once they did, Toronto struck again.
|Early exit for Ray|
Ricky Ray seemed to have picked up where he left off before getting hurt but left the game at halftime, making way for Zach Collaros. He was 15 of 18 for 152 yards and 3 touchdowns but did take a hit that looked to aggravate his knee...View Game Stats.
Montreal earned their next first down off a penalty and it set up a 45-yard Sean Whyte field goal attempt. Argos defensive back Jalil Carter dove to get a hand on the kick and it sailed wide left.
Owens, who is no stranger to making the Alouettes pay, picked up the ball in his own endzone, got a few blocks and raced down the far sideline for a thrilling 118 yard touchdown to open up a 21-0 lead.
Lawrence, playing in his first game, also making sure he did his part as he picked up another Montreal fumble on the next possession but the Als defence bailed out backup RB Tyrell Sutton.
As the first half went on, the Argos refused to take their foot off the gas in all three phases.
With the Als backed up inside their 10 yard line, Anthony Calvillo aired it out down the sideline only to have his pass picked off by sophomore cornerback Patrick Watkins. His interception set up a 5-play, 22-yard drive finished off by a 14-yard touchdown strike from Ray to SB Jason Barnes to open up the lead to 28-0.
The Boatmen thought they had another touchdown off a 70-yard Owens punt return but his second major of the game was taken off the board on a holding call.
The teams traded field goals in the half’s final two minutes and Toronto entered the locker room with a commanding 31-3 lead.
Following a punt single conceded by the Als off a Noel Prefontaine punt, the Alouettes offence finally solved Chris Jones and the Toronto secondary. Calvillo stepped back in the pocket and found Brandon London, who had gained separation on the defender, for a 48-yard touchdown to cut the Argos lead to 32-10.
The Als would add a field goal on their next drive.
Toronto's defence came to play in this one, forcing seven Montreal turnovers, including three off Devine. Their second-to-last turnover led to a 35-yard Prefontaine field goal which extended the lead to 35-13. A total of 24 of Toronto's points came off of turnovers.
Prefontaine would add another from 36 yards out to put him up over 1,600 points scored on his career (1,602).
The Argos return home next Sunday to host the Edmonton Eskimos.
The Alouettes travel to Saskatchewan to take on the first-place Roughriders.