Argos quarterback Ricky Ray 'the right guy'
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
|Argos quarterback Ricky Ray greets fans after beating the Edmonton Eskimos in the eastern semifinal on Sunday at the Rogers Centre. (Ernest Doroszuk/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - A trade that raised eyebrows across the Canadian Football League last December didn’t make much more sense on Sunday afternoon.
Especially for those who support the Edmonton Eskimos.
Quarterback Ricky Ray, pilfered by Argonauts general manager Jim Barker from the Eskimos last December, brought the veteran savvy the Argos hadn’t had at the position for years and in the Argos’ biggest game of the season — so far — it was there for all to see.
Did the Argos’ 42-26 victory against the Eskimos in the East Division semifinal at the Rogers Centre bring closure to the trade?
“There was always closure in my mind,” Argos head coach Scott Milanovich said. “From the day we got him, I knew he was the right guy.”
The main piece going back to the Eskimos in the deal, quarterback Steven Jyles, didn’t so much as remove his ball cap as the Eskimos’ season drained away on Sunday. Third on the Edmonton depth chart, Jyles didn’t even get a sniff from head coach Kavis Reed when backup Matt Nichols, who had replaced the struggling Kerry Joseph, was hurt in the third quarter.
Grant Shaw, also part of the trade, appears to be the Eskimos’ kicker of the future, but it’s not about him right now.
Ray’s leadership couldn’t have been more evident than when time was winding down in the first half. Rather than go for an easy field goal with six seconds remained, Milanovich hedged his bets that Ray could score a touchdown. And he did.
“That was a tough call,” Milanovich said. “That was a case of having a veteran quarterback. I trusted Ricky and I said ‘Listen, Ricky, if this thing doesn’t open wide up and you’re not going to walk right in, you go down,’ so we did not lose the opportunity for the field goal. If we had not have had a veteran quarterback, I would have kicked it there for sure.”
AT THE HALF
Chad Owens’ touchdown on a punt return, one that opened the floodgates for the Argos, was his first since Oct. 10, 2011 when he ran one back 58 yards in Montreal against the Alouettes. His scamper for a major on Sunday was 59 yards ... Think the Eskimos missed linebacker J.C. Sherritt? They would have had a hard time bringing down tackling dummies with the way the Argos were finding the open field. Sherritt led the CFL with 130 tackles during the regular season but was scratched at game time because of ankle injuries. Chad Kackert, on a rush late in the game, ran 10 yards with Weldon Brown grasping the back of his jersey ... Joseph’s failed shovel pass to Hugh Charles might have been one of the more perplexing plays of the game. Apparently it’s not that hard to have a pass intercepted when the intended target is within touching distance. But Joseph didn’t anticipate the quickness of the Argos’ Marcus Ball, who returned the ball 53 yards to the Edmonton 29-yard line. That began the course of events that led to an 11-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Mann from Ray ... The Argos didn’t sack Joseph in the opening half, but they brought lots of pressure and forced the 39-year-old into uncomfortable spots ... Hard not to wonder how the game might have turned out had a bad Ray pass been picked off by Joe Burnett in the end zone early in the second quarter. Ray’s pass to Owens was a bad one, about 10 feet behind the receiver. Burnett stretched out and appeared to catch the ball, and it was ruled an interception. But Milanovich’s challenge was successful, and instead of Edmonton taking over, the Argos got their first major on the next play when Ray hit Chad Kackert from 12 yards ... Of course, the non-interception by Burnett occurred just after Ronald Flemons recovered a fumble by Cory Boyd. “That was all (Kevin) Huntley, not me,” Flemons said. “All I had to do was recover it and that’s not very hard.”
The Argos shattered a CFL record that stood for 33 years when they scored 31 points in the second quarter. The previous mark for most points in any post-season quarter was 29, set by the Calgary Stampeders against the B.C. Lions on Nov. 10, 1979 ... Weird aspect about the hype surrounding Joseph and Boyd heading into the game. As much as they could have been integral factors on Sunday, it’s just as likely that both have played their last game for the Eskimos. It would be more of a surprise if one or both returned to Edmonton than if they were jettisoned during the winter ... Boyd didn’t really know the Argos defence after claiming as much on Saturday, finishing with 15 yards on five carries, none of which came in the second half. Supporters of the benched Jerome Messam weren’t happy ... Was Eric Tillman sitting at home wondering when Jyles was going to get into the game? ... The Eskimos had a CFL-best 49 takeaways during the regular season. They had one on Sunday ... No matter how it’s dissected, a crowd of 25,792 for a home playoff game with the Grey Cup in the same building two weeks from now isn’t good ... Milanovich wasn’t thrilled that he was doused with a container of ice water after the win. “This is not the Grey Cup,” Milanovich said. “This is one of three steps.”