Ricky Ray threw four touchdown passes to lead the Toronto Argonauts past the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 38-21 on Tuesday night.
Ray finished 26-of-33 passing for 297 yards to earn Toronto (3-4) its second straight win for a four-point lead atop the East Division standings. But the Argos don’t have much time to relish the victory, before an announced season-high Rogers Centre gathering of 18,106, as they’re back in action Sunday night hosting the B.C. Lions (4-3).
However it was sweet redemption for Toronto, which dropped a season-opening 45-21 loss in Winnipeg. And Ray engineered the impressive victory without regular receivers Andre Durie (clavicle), Chad Owens (foot), Jason Barnes (knee), John Chiles (hamstring) and heralded rookie Anthony Coombs (shoulder).
Winnipeg (5-3) suffered its second straight loss following a 23-17 home defeat to Saskatchewan on Thursday. It also spoiled Bombers coach Mike O’Shea’s return to Rogers Centre.
O’Shea spent 16 seasons as a player and coach with Toronto — winning four Grey Cups — before being hired by Winnipeg in the off-season.
Ray cemented the victory with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Spencer Watt that rounded out the scoring at 11:35 of the fourth. Ray put Toronto ahead 28-21 just 58 seconds into the quarter with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Steele after Cleyon Laing recovered former Argo Romby Bryant’s fumble at the Winnipeg 49-yard line.
Bryant had a 76-yard touchdown grab on the next series but it was negated by a hands-to-the-face penalty on Winnipeg. Swayze Waters’ 18-yard field goal at 6:51 boosted Toronto’s head to 31-21.
Nic Grigbsy’s eight-yard TD run at 6:32 of the third pulled Winnipeg into a 21-21 tie, set up by the Bombers recovering the first of two Steve Slaton fumbles at the Toronto 20-yard line.
Steele finished with two TDs, with Maurice Mann and Zander Robinson also scoring for Toronto. Waters kicked four converts and a field goal.
Cory Watson and Rory Kohlert had other Winnipeg’s touchdowns. Lirim Hajrullahu added three converts.
Two late Ray TD strikes 1:18 apart anchored a 21-point second-quarter outburst that earned Toronto a 21-14 half-time advantage. Ray hit Robinson with a six-yard touchdown pass at 14:57, set up by a 26-yard Hajrullahu punt that put Toronto at the Winnipeg 43-yard line.
Ray’s 15-yard TD pass to Mann at 13:39 made it 14-14, capping a six-play, 62-yard march. It was a solid answer to Kohlert’s sensational 21-yard touchdown grab at 10:45, set up by Troy Stoudemire’s 61-yard punt return.
Steele made it 7-7 at 3:06, his 19-yard TD run ending a smart 97-yard, eight-play march. Winnipeg took its opening possession 63 yards on six plays, with Drew Willy hitting Watson with an eight--yard scoring strike at 6:06 of the first.
Ray finished the half 17-of-19 passing for 177 yards and the two TDs as Toronto rolled up 258 net yards. Willy completed 10-of-11 attempts for 71 yards and two touchdowns but Winnipeg had just 125 net offensive yards, or 62 after their opening drive.
NOTES — Penalties are up a whopping 29 per cent overall this season. Much of that is due to a 39 per cent increase in special-teams infractions this year . . . There have been 33 coach’s challenges this season, with 10 having resulted in an overturned play. Of the 33 challenges, 14 have involved pass interference calls, with just two changes being made . . . B.C. Lions defensive back Ryan Phillips has played in all seven games this season, boosting his streak to 169 straight games. The 10-year veteran hasn’t missed a game in his CFL career.