Ricky Ray showed Saturday just how valuable he is to the Toronto Argonauts.
Ray returned from a shoulder injury to throw four first-half TD strikes as Toronto snapped a three-game losing streak with a 38-6 victory over the Montreal Alouettes. Ray now has 100 touchdown passes for his Argonauts tenure, breaking Condredge Holloway's club record (98) before a season-high BMO Field gathering of 16,326.
Ray missed last week's 21-9 loss in Montreal with a shoulder injury suffered in a 41-24 home loss to Calgary on Aug. 3. With Ray sidelined, Jeff Mathews and Cody Fajadro were a combined 18-of-28 passing for 142 yards versus the Als.
Ray finished 35-of-43 passing for 377 yards on Saturday, the seventh time this year he's surpassed the 300-yard plateau. The only blemish on his performance was Montreal's Dominique Tovell returning a Ray deflection 61 yards for the TD to end the third.
No signs of rust
But Ray started impressively, going five-for-five passing for 65 yards in anchoring Toronto's 76-yard, nine-play opening march. He capped the drive with a 16-yard TD strike to S.J. Green.
"You don't replace a guy like Ricky Ray," said Green, who had nine catches for 145 yards and two TDs. "It was good to get back out there with Ricky and throw it around a little bit.
"You see a guy with his capabilities what we can do."
Ray was 21-of-23 passing for 260 yards and the four TD passes in staking Toronto to a commanding 35-0 half-time lead. Two were to Green, who finished with nine catches for 145 yards after registering just four receptions for 32 yards in his first game against his former team.
"It definitely helps when you come out and play like we did from the get-go," Ray said. "It just gets you off to a good start, gets some good confidence going.
"One drive doesn't mean anything but if you're able to focus and keep putting together good plays after another and you're able to score touchdowns . . . it just puts you in a good position all game long."
'We got kicked in the pants'
Toronto (4-5) moved atop the East Division while improving to 4-1 within the conference. The Argos and Als meet again Sept. 23 at BMO Field to decide the season series.
"Ricky had a great game and found his guys," Montreal head coach Jacques Chapdelaine said. "He did a good job with the run game with his zone reads, which definitely was an issue for us.
"They maintained long drives, a lot of them over seven plays. We got kicked in the pants."
Toronto head coach Marc Trestman was pleased with Ray's performance but also pointed out his team only managed a field goal in the second half.
"We saw a glimpse tonight of the type of team we want to become," Trestman said. "I thought [Ray] did an excellent job, as I said I thought he had a very efficient week of practice.
"We knew this was our mid-term exam. It was an important game, it was a fork in the road for our team."
'It's not about me'
Green didn't feel he earned a measure of redemption against Montreal, the team he played with for 10 seasons before being dealt in the off-season to Toronto. Green missed most of the 2016 campaign with a serious knee injury.
"It's not about me," he said. "It's 44 guys that dress on game day and I'm just one of them.
"Most important thing was getting this win. We wanted to get back into first place. We didn't feel like we played our best game last week against this team."
Ray is the only player in CFL history to have 100 TD passes or more with two franchises. Ray played his first nine seasons in Canada with Edmonton, throwing 210 touchdown strikes.
But it wasn't all good news for Toronto as cornerback Akwasi Owusu-Ansah left in the first half with a leg injury. That forced Canadian safety Matt Black to move to cornerback with halfback Rico Murray and cornerback Qudarius Ford also switching positions on a defence that was already missing four injured starters.
Slotback Anthony Coombs also suffered a shoulder injury.
Montreal (3-5) fell to second in the East, one point ahead of the Ottawa Redblacks (2-6-1). Starter Darian Durant was 14-of-27 passing for 93 yards and an interception as the Alouettes fell to 0-4 on the road.
"I felt we came back from the win against Toronto and were in a favourable position as far as our record," Chapdelaine said. "It felt like we took that for granted."
Slotback Nik Lewis had six catches for 42 yards to boost his career total to 1,020 receptions. He moved past Ben Cahoon (1,017) into second all-time and needs just 10 grabs to surpass overall leader Geroy Simon (1,029).