CFL East final: Ricky Ray tips scales in Toronto's favour | Football | CBC Sports

CFLCFL East final: Ricky Ray tips scales in Toronto's favour

Posted: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 | 01:14 PM

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Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray posted a nifty 126.4 rating this season, passing for 2,878 yards and 23 TDs with two INTs. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press) Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray posted a nifty 126.4 rating this season, passing for 2,878 yards and 23 TDs with two INTs. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

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CBC Sports football contributor Malcolm Kelly explains why he thinks the Toronto Argonauts will beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Sunday's CFL East Division final at Rogers Centre.

The scales of sports justice have been brought out of the closet, dusted off and calibrated to zero. Placing all the arguments thereon, we conclude:

The host Toronto Argonauts (11-7) will defeat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (10-8) in Sunday's East Division final at Rogers Centre and advance to the 101st Grey Cup.

We can find a number of good arguments to choose the Tiger-Cats:

1. Neither defence has been able to really stop the other in three games this season (two won by Hamilton). That's especially true for Toronto. Ticats quarterback Henry Burris has thrown for 985 yards on 70 completions against the Argonauts. He was picked off just twice in those contests.

2. Hamilton has been able to run against a Double Blue defence still rebuilding after last year's Grey Cup victory, to the tune of 403 yards, led by running back C.J. Gable, who has 1,622 combined yards overall in 2013 and who loves rumbling against these guys.

3. Toronto will need somewhere north of 75 yards on the ground to give its own offence a chance to throw the ball. Running back Chad Kackert, the reigning Grey Cup MVP, broke his ankle in practice last week and is not available. Bad.

4. Hamilton made a habit of building early leads against the Argos this year, going up 21-8, 22-6 and 16-1 in the three contests. Yes, Toronto got back into each. But if the Kitties do it again Sunday, that could spell a long afternoon at the Rogers Phone Booth and Internet Café for the unwanted home tenants.

5. Cats head coach Kent Austin has been using backup quarterback Dan LeFevour to great advantage running the ball, beating the Montreal Alouettes with the draw in the East semifinal last weekend, when the youngster ran for 61 yards.

6. Brandon Banks, picked up to run back kicks after Lindsey Lamar was gooned out of the season with a concussion by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Week 5, piled up 341 yards in returns over two games versus Toronto. Lamar himself had 279 yards against the Argos in Week 1.

And on like that.

Those arguments tip the scales of sports justice in favour of the Cats, ladies and gentlemen. But there is a single argument for Toronto that moves things its way: It has Ricky Ray.

Mr. Ray, the albatross around Eric Tillman's career for trading him out of Edmonton, is 11-4 in post-season games, including 3-0 as an Argonaut, compared to Burris's 5-6. Ray is a quarterback who knows how to win when the season is on the line.

This season, despite missing seven games to injury and one other to protect him, Ray was chosen by football writers as the East nominee for Most Outstanding Player. He likely won't win it (Calgary Stampeders running back Jon Cornish should). But still, the nomination says a lot.

And why not?

In just 10 games, Ray threw for almost 3,000 yards, piled up 21 touchdown passes while tossing a mere two interceptions. Two. That's ridiculous. His 126.4 QB rating was, by far, a career high and he was already a future Hall of Famer coming into this year.

While doing that, he completed 77.2 per cent of his passes, breaking the previous accuracy mark for a single season held by Dave Dickenson (minimum 300 attempts). Plus, CFL stats whiz Steve Daniel points out that Ray needs just two regular-season completions to pass Dickenson for most accurate ever.

The only challenge he can't seem to overcome is follicle... but you can't have everything. 

Last game out in Week 18 versus the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, having shed the rust with a 303-yard day versus Hamilton in the second of the back-to-backs, Ray went a mere 39-of-45 for 505 yards and three touchdowns. Included was a team-record 21 straight completions.

Yes, not having Kackert to run the ball will make something of a difference. But there are lots of receiving weapons, including the underrated Andre Durie (1,093 tough, grinding yards from the line of scrimmage in 2013), Chad Owens and the team's top rookie, John Chiles.

We just don't trust Burris in a big-time playoff game enough to ignore Ray's awesome awesomeness this season.

How this could go wrong:

Look, football can be a violent, nasty affair. Hamilton's defence will do everything it can to get Ray out of the game and force the Argos to go with backup quarterback Zach Collaros, who did a fine job in relief this year but isn't ready for playoff prime time.

That means the Cats'll be willing to give up some 15-yard penalties for a few late licks at the Toronto QB. The offensive line has to block like its life depends on it because Ray is playoff life. Watch for a back to stay home all the time to pick up the rush.

If Ray goes out early, Hamilton wins. Simple as that.

A healthy Ray outweighs anything the Cats can put on the other side of the scale. We won't pick against him anytime in the future until he loses another playoff game.

Post-season record: 1-1

Follow Malcolm Kelly on Twitter @sportsnag 

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