Edmonton Eskimos coach Kavis Reed is thrilled to be done with the Toronto Argonauts.
Kerry Joseph and Hugh Charles scored rushing touchdowns as Edmonton defeated Toronto 26-17 on Monday night. It marked the Eskimos’ second win this season over the Argos and fifth straight overall against the squad.
And there’s been no shortage of hype leading up to each game this year.
In December, Eskimos GM Eric Tillman received plenty of flak in Alberta for dealing veteran quarterback Ricky Ray — a two-time Grey Cup champion and fan favourite — to Toronto for journeyman passer Steven Jyles, Canadian kicker Grant Shaw and a 2012 first-round draft pick. And just for good measure, Edmonton hosted the Argos in the season opener for both teams, winning 19-15.
On Aug. 12, Toronto shocked the CFL by releasing league rushing leader Cory Boyd, who hours later agreed to terms with Edmonton. Boyd’s return to Rogers Centre was the top storyline here leading up to kickoff.
“I’m ecstatic that this is over,” Reed said. “All that hype is for you guys, it’s not for us.
“This football team is built on character. We focus on a very competitive league and every game is a season for us. Two points are very difficult to come by in this league these days.”
Boyd, who was the CFL’s second-leading rusher in each of his two full seasons in Toronto, ran for 45 yards on nine carries and added two catches for 30 yards.
“The first thing I said when I got into the locker-room was this whole fiasco was over with,” he said. “I’m glad we got the win and I won’t have to see or hear you guys for a whole other year so I’m pretty blessed about it.
“I’m loving this team and I’m loving what we have in this locker-room, the character and amount of guys who will fight for one another and that’s what I like about this team.”
Kackert replaced Boyd in Toronto’s starting lineup and outperformed his former teammate, rushing for 58 yards on eight carries and added five catches for 31 yards.
“I think Cory had something to prove coming in,” Kackert said. “It’s tough being cut by a team but I just have to focus on what I need to do.”
Jyles, too, was making his first return to Toronto since the Ray trade but left late in the first half with a right ankle injury. Enter Joseph, the CFL’s top player in 2007 who struggled during his two seasons with the Argos before being released after the 2009 season.
The 38-year-old Louisiana native wasn’t spectacular Monday night, completing 13-of-20 passes for 169 yards with two interceptions. But he rushed four times for 44 yards and did have a one-yard TD run. More importantly, Reed said, the 10-year CFL veteran was able to effectively manage the game.
“Kerry takes care of his body and prepares his mind exceptionally well,” Reed said. “He’s one of the first ones in and one of the last ones out and when a guy does that, much like [Montreal’s] Anthony Calvillo, those guys are pros and when you’re a pro you understand all the dynamics of preparation and Kerry does a great job of that.”
Edmonton’s ground attack certainly helped as the Eskimos rushed for 156 yards on 28 attempts against Toronto.
“That’s the trademark of our offence right now,” Reed said. “We’re not a finesse team, we’re going to have to be a power-running team.”
Joseph said he has no problem coming in off the bench because it allows him to get a feel for what the opposition is attempting to do.
“I’m pretty comfortable with it,” he said. “As the game goes on a team is going to stick to what it’s doing so you’re going to get comfortable knowing where guys are.
“I’m just trying to be a leader here and do my job. When it’s time to step in, it’s time to step in. I believe and know I can still play, I have the confidence and just go out and play football.”
Charles essentially cemented the win for Edmonton (5-3) with a 10-yard scamper 2:31 into the fourth.
Charles’ TD came after Toronto (4-4) made a game of it in the third.
After an embarrassingly lethargic opening half, the Argos’ offence opened the quarter with a three-play, 55-yard scoring drive capped by Ricky Ray’s 16-yard TD strike to Dontrelle Inman. Then on the final play of the quarter tailback Chad Kackert took a third-and-one handoff 25 yards for a TD to pull the Argos to within 19-17 before 22,912 spectators with the Rogers Centre roof closed.
Kackert’s TD was set up by Pacino Horne’s interception of Joseph at the Eskimos’ 34-yard line, Joseph’s second pick of the contest.
Ray drove Toronto to the Edmonton 27-yard line with over eight minutes remaining but was sacked on successive plays before Swayze Waters’ 50-yard field goal try sailed wide to keep it a two-possession game for the Argos. The home team got as far as the Eskimos’ 35-yard line with 1:20 remaining before turning the ball over on downs.
Ray was 26-of-38 passing for 251 yards with two interceptions and one TD. Inman was his favourite target with eight catches for 117 yards, both game highs.
Ray was 29-of-39 passing for 298 yards and a TD in his return to Alberta in June.
But on Monday night, Toronto mustered just 69 total offensive yards and five first downs in the first half, which Edmonton dominated and deservedly led 16-3 at halftime.
“We played one half tonight, well, portions of one half,” said Argos head coach Scott Milanovich. “We didn’t get into a rhythm early . . . we took too long to get going and they kept us off the field.
“We can’t take undisciplined penalties, that’s what kept their drives going in the first half.”
Ray took a philisophical approach to being 0-2 against his former team.
“I feel more for our team not winning,” he said. “We were on the edge in the second half but didn’t make enough plays to put ourselves in the right spot.”
Shaw had four field goals and two converts for Edmonton.
Waters booted a field goal and two converts for Toronto.
Notes: Trampolinist Rosie MacLennan, Canada’s only gold medallist in London, was among the group of Olympic athletes honoured prior to the opening kickoff . . . Ray is on pace to surpass 5,000 yards passing for the fourth time in his 10-year CFL career. He accomplished the feat three times with Edmonton. Also Argos special-teams dynamo Chad Owens came into the game on pace for 4,274 all-purpose yards, which would obliterate the league record of 3,840 held by Mike (Pinball) Clemons . . . Sherritt came into weekend action with a league-high 58 tackles, a pace that would give him a league-record 149. He also had an interception in the first, his third straight game with a pick . . . Monday night’s game was broadcast south of the border on the NBC Sports Network.