TORONTO - In the end, the scoreboard read Edmonton Eskimos 26, Toronto Argonauts 17.
But there were plenty of other individual winners — and losers — who had their reputations riding on a rare CFL edition of Monday night football at Rogers Centre.
What was supposed to be a hyped-up showdown between Ricky Ray and Steven Jyles in front of an announced crowd of 22,912, turned into what can only be described as a run-and-gun Kerry Joseph bonanza after Jyles came up lame late in the first quarter.
“I’m just trying to be a leader here and do my job,” said the 38-year-old veteran, who has been playing professional football since 1996. “I still have my two turnovers that I’ve got to correct and everything, that are unacceptable. But you just go out there and you play the game.
“When it’s time to step in, it’s time to step in.”
Those two interceptions marred an otherwise clean, if not always pretty, performance that saw him complete 13 of 20 pass attempts for 169 yards after Jyles left with an ankle injury, finishing the opening quarter four-of-six for 49 yards.
“Just a little ankle (injury), he’s fine,” said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed, adding Jyles was kept out as a precaution. “There was no reason of risk further injury to him.”
Cory Boyd’s less-than-vengeful return to Toronto was overshadowed by his replacement, Chad Kackert, who broke for 25 yards on a sweep into the end zone at the end of the third quarter to finish with eight carries for 58 yards and the touchdown.
But the most meaningful duel of the night just might have been between the kickers, who were both at training camp in Edmonton this year before Grant Shaw won the starting job and Swayze Waters landed in Toronto.
Their score was 12-3 between the uprights, with each missing one attempt when called upon by oft-sputtering offences.
But the big question of who actually won the Ray trade made last December has to go to the Eskimos, who have now swept the season series 2-0 over the Argonauts, as they improved to 5-3 on the season while Toronto pulled even at 4-4.
“I’m ecstatic that this is over,” Reed said, closing the chapter on the Argonauts for the 2012 regular season. “All that hype is for you guys, it’s not for us. This football team is built with character and we are built on focus and trying to quiet the noise around us.”
It was still anybody’s game heading into the fourth quarter with the Eskimos leading 19-17 before Joseph hit slotback Fred Stamps 44 yards downfield to set up a 10-yard touchdown run by Hugh Charles.
But Ray found wide receiver Dontrelle Inman on a 42-yarder of his own deep into Eskimos territory only to end up third-and-26 after back-to-back sacks by Etienne Legare and Damaso Munoz forced a punt.
Joseph strung together a clock-chewing drive that ate 51/2 minutes before the defence took over to close things out, as the Argos opted for a third-down gamble instead of kicking a field goal to make it a one-score game.
The end of the first quarter saw Jyles go down in a heap after getting sacked by defensive tackle Ronald Flemons, with Joseph coming in for the save, on a 49-yard pass-interference penalty against cornerback Ahmad Carroll that set up a one-yard QB keeper to give the Esks a 10-0 lead after 15 minutes.
But Carroll, a former first-round draft pick by the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, took some payback in the second by getting his first interception of the season on a pass intended for Stamps.
Waters then put up Toronto’s first points with a 17-yard field goal to trail by seven before Shaw made good on a 32-yarder to lead 13-3.
Ray, who completed 26 of 38 pass attempts for a touchdown, now leads the league in interceptions thrown after giving up a pair to safety Donovan Alexander and J.C. Sherritt — who had a game-high 12 tackles and three picks in as many games.
Trailing 16-3 to open the second half, Ray found wide receiver Dontrelle Inman on a 16-yard lob to the back corner of the end zone before Kackert’s touchdown at the end of the third.