November 12, 2012
No QB edge for Argos this week with Ricky Ray vs. Anthony Calvillo
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
TORONTO - The game would end and Armond Armstead would soon begin to look ahead to what he thought would be a return visit to Montreal.
Deep down, Toronto’s impressive rookie defensive tackle knew the Argos would be back, only this time the stakes are considerably higher.
“We’re excited,’’ Armstead said. “We’ve been prepping for this game from the time we last played them over there. We’re just excited to get that shot at them.”
In a one-game showdown, the Argos do have a shot, even though Montreal had the luxury of a bye week and will be in front of its rabid fan base at Olympic Stadium in this Sunday’s East final with the winner advancing to the historic 100th Grey Cup.
The Argos enjoyed a huge advantage at quarterback when Edmonton came to town for the semifinal and played it as many had envisioned, except for the unfortunate leg injury to befall backup Matt Nichols.
There will be no such edge this week, but no team will have much of an advantage at the pivotal position when one takes into account the post-season pedigree of Anthony Calvillo and Ricky Ray.
Naturally, Calvillo has played in the same offence much longer than Ray, who picked apart Montreal’s secondary in Toronto’s lone win over the Als this season.
As much as Argos head coach Scott Milanovich wanted to downplay the Ray-Calvillo matchup, it does loom as the single most impactful dimension to Sunday’s eventual outcome.
“The way I see it,” began Ricky Foley. “The team that keeps its quarterback clean will win, plain and simple.”
The Als are vulnerable in their back end, but if the Argos aren’t able to establish a run game, it’ll be a long afternoon.
Ray took advantage when Montreal went with man coverage, hooking up with Chad Owens for two first-half touchdowns.
For Ray, that late July meeting in Montreal would mark the only time he would play an entire game against Montreal during the regular season.
When the Argos visited Montreal on Sept. 23, Ray was knocked out in the first quarter when centre Jeff Keeping rolled into Ray’s leg.
It was later revealed Ray had suffered a left knee strain.
When Montreal visited Toronto for the first and only time, backup Jarious Jackson started at quarterback.
Toronto’s matchup in late September had first-place repercussions, a loss that may eventually come back to haunt the Argos if they fail to win this week.
At the time, a win would have given the Argos the all-important tiebreaker over the Als.
It would represent one of many opportunities lost for the Argos, who finally broke through last month when they went into Regina and left with a win and the knowledge that second place and a home playoff game was secured.
But now comes the biggest test of all, one game with a trip to the Grey Cup hanging in the balance.
No doubt momentum is on Toronto’s side and the Argos won’t be intimated by the hostile environment because of Ray’s presence.
Armstead talked about the Als and what thoughts immediately come to mind.
“You think about A.C.,” he said. “You think about those great receivers they’ve got.
“For us, we have to come out and get to the passer and lock those guys (receivers) up to get a win. It’s going to be a challenge in trying to stop those big-time receivers and that big-time quarterback.”
The Argos will come with pressure, but Calvillo’s quick release makes it almost impossible to get to him.
What’s required is for the Argos to disrupt his rhythm, stop the run, which wasn’t achieved in late September, and come with timely blitzes that force a turnover or a sack that keeps Montreal out of field goal range.
During his time in three-down football, middle linebacker Robert McCune has seen the poise from Calvillo and the challenges Montreal’s offence pose.
“Montreal has always been a smart team,” said McCune. “They do very well with the personnel they have and they do everything. They’ll run the ball, pass the ball and they have a great quarterback.”
THESE ARGOS ARE MORE TALENTED
Jordan Younger isn’t getting any younger, but he’s wise enough to know the difference with this year’s edition of the Argos from previous teams.
In a quarterback-driven league such as the CFL, it starts and ends at the quarterback position.
For Younger, Sunday’s visit to Montreal in the East final will be the fifth time he’ll face the Als with a trip to the Grey Cup on the line.
In previous meetings, Younger has gone 1-3, including a loss in 2008 when he played for Edmonton.
“It’s a great atmosphere,” Jordan said of playing at Olympic Stadium. “That team has always had a great quarterback and any time you have a great quarterback you have a chance to win.
“The difference is we have a great quarterback as well.”
The only time Younger beat the Als was back in 2004, the first time he ventured into the football cauldron that is the Big Owe.