Ray’s Return Unable to Lift Argos

ray's return

The Toronto Argonauts (4-4) came into the match-up against the B.C. Lions (6-3) hoping to turn the page and begin the second half of the CFL season on a positive note. Toronto had lost consecutive home games in the month of August at BMO Field and were looking to give the home fans a much needed win, after starting the season with a 1-4 record on BMO’s natural turf.

The Lions, coming off a 29-23 victory against the Ottawa Redblacks, were trying to sweep their back-to-back road games in Ontario. In Ricky Ray’s return, the 16-13 loss was bitter-sweet in a hard fought game, as the Argos fell victim to Jonathon Jennings when he led the Lions offence with an offensive drive late in the game to set up a game winning field goal as time expired.

Ray’s Return Unable to Lift Lions Over Argos

Good First Drive for Ray’s Return

Wednesday night the Argonauts finally had Tori Gurley in the lineup, Kevin Elliott, Diontae Spencer, Anthony Coombs, Brandon Whitaker in the backfield and most importantly, it was Ray’s return.

The return of the proven veteran passer in the CFL brought about the significant changes that the Argos desperately needed the last few weeks. The first play of the game Ray dropped straight back and made a 9-yard pass to Gurley. Both players were seeing their first game action in lengthy stretches of time, if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t have noticed.

Ray, on following snaps, dropped back calmly delivering strikes as the Argonauts went 73-yards on 5 plays balancing the runs in key spots. On the drive, Ray also threw a pair of bombs to Elliott, the last of which on that drive was a 21-yard touchdown throw to the back of the end zone. The drive was pure execution and might have been considered a turning point for the team had they not lost.

In the first half Ray had 14 consecutive completed passes going 15-16 for 146 yards and a touchdown in the first 30 minutes.

After all was said and done Ray finished the game with one touchdown, one interception and went 24/29 for 231-yards.

BMO was Loud

The criticism by some, for parts of the Argo’s woes, was a lackluster fan base at BMO in the earlier games during the month of August. That certainly wasn’t the case Wednesday night. The 17,509 spectators had the stadium shaking on second down consistently. The atmosphere certainly seemed to be fuelling players on defence and causing communication problems for the Lions players.

At several key moments the noise appeared to effect Lions players causing multiple off-sides while raising the intensity of the players in the game on defence.

Penalties, the New Old Problem

The defence played great according to their head coach but at times in the game they also didn’t do themselves any favours getting called for untimely penalties. The team total was 11 for 110 yards, and the defence committed five of them for 56-yards.

Early in the game the Argonauts had a defensive touchdown called back due to an offside call against Bryan Hall, otherwise the Argonauts could’ve been up two scores due to the Rickey Foley interception touchdown return after Shawn Lemon caused the ball to come free, but the spectacular play was all for not.

The offence also got nailed with a number of untimely penalties of their own, and that certainly didn’t help the home team’s cause. Midway through the fourth quarter after a nice catch and run by Andre Durie for 10 yards, the play was negated by an offside penalty against Elliott.

In special teams, when the Argos finally got a big play from a Spencer punt return, bringing the Argos inside the B.C. 30-yard line, it was all brought back on a holding call. The Argos went two and out, and Jennings then closed out the game with the game-winning drive, and game-winning Richie Leone field goal.

Short Yardage Success

Dan Lefevour was perfect in short yardage situations when tasked with gaining the crucial small chunks of field position during the game. Brought onto the active roster to replace the injured Cody Fajardo, Lefevour’s first taste of game action this year was successful.

Lefevour’s 1.000 efficiency on third down conversions also shows how strong this offensive line can be at the point of attack. When asked to gain 1-yard via short-yardage, Lefevour and the goal-line unit gained double what was needed in multiple instances as he went four rushes for 6 yards.

Whitaker has been phenomenal running the ball and a large part of that is the big men up front opening the holes. During a run outside to the left hash against B.C., Chris Van Zeyl was the pulling lead blocker. Van Zeyl met with the unlucky Lions defender, and in the collision, he put said defender on his back with a massive pancake block. Whitaker made his way around the pile of bodies for an easy 8 yards uncontested.

The Argos can’t expect this to happen every play, but in the moment it was an amazing feat of dominant strength as the offensive line tried to impose its will on their counterparts in the trenches.

The Struggle is Real

There may be no shame in losing a tight game to a good team like the Lions. Instead there’s a pain that the players and coaches all feel every time they come up short. The Argonauts losses and the emotions that come with it just keep piling up for the head coach Scott Milanovich.

“This week, it’s a different kind of sick, last week (against Edmonton) I was embarrassed, this week I’m not embarrassed by the way this team prepared and played tonight. (B.C.)’s a good football team. We just didn’t make enough plays in the end and we have to give them credit for what they did,” said Milanovich.

The Argos pass rush led by Lemon showed a knack for disrupting Jennings but even a good individual performance is dampened with a hard loss.

“We’ve got to make more plays, it’s cool to have gotten two sacks and all but I would much rather have the wi,n” said Lemon.

“We need to make plays there at the end that give our team a chance to win.”

Moving Forward

The Argonauts (4-5) won’t have a lot of time to recover from this game. The team is back at it again in less than a week to take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (4-5) in Hamilton on Labour Day, kicking off a two-week home-and-home series with their Southern Ontario rivals. Only four days of rest will separate the games for the Argos against the league’s big cats.

It’s crunch time now for Toronto after three straight games against Western \Division opponents. Of the next five games for the Double Blue, four are against Eastern Division rivals, so there is still hope for the Boatmen to shoot up the Eastern Division standings in the second half of the season.

Main Photo.

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