MONTREAL - It was the storyline all season.
The Argos acquired Ricky Ray from the Edmonton Eskimos to get them to the 100th Grey Cup game in Toronto.
The way he played against the Eskimos in the Eastern semifinal last week and in the Eastern final Sunday, completing 28 of 37 passes for 399 yards, you’d have to say he certainly did that.
Now the Argos have him for a new challenge, to win the first Grey Cup game Toronto has played host to in 60 years.
That’s right. The last time the Argos won a Grey Cup at home was in 1952.
It was a win over the ... wait for it ... Edmonton Eskimos.
When you consider this is the 46th time Toronto has hosted the Canadian classic, Ray has a chance to make some significant history.
Indeed, he made some significant history by just getting the Argos to the game in Toronto, which they hadn’t done since 1982.
That’s right. Thirty years ago. When they lost to the ... wait for it again ... Edmonton Eskimos.
Ray wasn’t aware of all that in the post-game Argos dressing room, after bringing Toronto back from being down 10-0 early and by 10 at the half, to advance against the Calgary Stampeders in Sunday’s Grey Cup in Rogers Centre.
And he was a reluctant hero in a game in which Chad Owens had 207 yards receiving and Chad Kackert had 139 yards rushing.
“I never bought into that,” said Ray of being brought in to get the Argos to the Grey Cup. “I’m just one guy. If I was that great, I’d have been going to the Grey Cup every year.”
The quarterback who made it to the Grey Cup in his first three years in the league and won two, was aware how long it’s been since he was last there.
“It’s been seven years,” he said of his MVP performance in winning Edmonton’s 13th Grey Cup in 2005. “It’s just a great feeling to have a chance to play the 100th Grey Cup game at home, though. Just a great feeling.”
The questions of feeling vindication after being traded to Toronto by Eric Tillman were inevitable.
“It feels good,” he said, choosing his words carefully. “You always try to prove to people you can play. But I never thought ‘Poor me!’ or ‘Why did I get traded?’ ”
Ray said it took a while for him to become an Argo and to get comfortable in head coach Scott Milanovich’s offence.
But he said it took a while for all the Argos.
“It was a long season with a lot of ups and downs. Part of this is everything we’ve been through. I felt all year long we had a good team and that we could beat anybody. I felt if we played a solid game we had the guys and the coaches.”
The Argos did not look like a well-oiled machine in the first half.
There was a turnover on a fumble by Chad Kackert on the first series followed by a loss of possession on downs on the second series. That was followed not long later by Ray getting the Argos to the one, only to give way to Jarious Jackson who couldn’t get them in from there, turning it over on downs again.
It looked like the Argos were going to shoot themselves in the foot so many times in the first half they weren’t going to be able to walk back to the dressing room at the half.
But in the second half everything Ray had been doing which kept turning into nothing, suddenly started turning into touchdowns.
Ray, as is his history, took a licking and kept on ticking.
“I don’t know what his numbers were but Ricky took some hits today. He took some big hits,” said Milanovich. “It’s why he’s Ricky Ray. It’s why he’s the guy we wanted.
“He made a couple mistakes today, but he had a fabulous football game.”
Ray, said Milanovich, told the way it was going to be.
“Scott told me early in the week I was going to have to stay in there and take a few to make some plays down the field.
“I took a couple. One knocked the wind out of me,” said Ray.
“What a stud he is, standing in there and taking all those hits,” said GM Jim Barker.
Ray, if he should manage to lead the Argos over the Stampeders, would match Calvillo’s three Grey Cup rings. And his 399 passing yards moved him — in one game — past Jack Jacobs, Matt Dunigan, Doug Flutie, Jerry Keeling and Dieter Brock into 10th in CFL playoff passing history and he can pass Danny McManus, Russ Jackson, Eagle Day and Sam Etcheverry with less than 200 yards in his next one.