Alouettes knock out Ray, Argonauts
A big game by Brandon Whitaker's replacement Victor Anderson and a surprise touchdown on special teams gave the Montreal Alouettes the victory in a showdown with the Toronto Argonauts, who were left pondering life without quarterback Ricky Ray.
Anderson and Trent Guy each scored two touchdowns as the Alouettes took the battle for first place in the CFL East Division in an unexpectedly easy 31-10 win on Sunday afternoon.
Montreal (8-4) leads the Argonauts (6-6) by four points with six regular season games left for both clubs.
And Toronto, which lost consecutive games for the first time this season, heads into a its next contest in Winnipeg on Friday not knowing if Ray or backup Jarious Jyles will be under centre.
Coach Scott Milanovich said tests will be needed to determine the extent of the knee injury Ray suffered near the end of the first quarter that caused him to leave the game. Ray had just completed a pass when a teammate rolled into him on what Milanovich called an "innocent" play.
"His knee's a little banged up and right now, we're looking at him as day to day," Milanovich said. "It's a short week.
"We're going to do what's right for Ricky in the long term. We'll be smart about it. If Ricky's back and able to go then we'll go with him. At this point, I don't have a lot of answers."
Jackson made some fine passes in relief, but was unable to get to the end zone. The veteran completed 15 passes for 198 yards and was picked off once.
Toronto went into Montreal looking to tie the Alouettes for the division lead and clinch the season series between the teams, but it was all Alouettes from an opening drive that saw Anderson score on a 40-yard pass and run.
Now the Alouettes hold the edge in the race for first place and the bye to the East final. They meet again Oct. 18 in Toronto.
"Our guys know this game didn't guarantee us anything," said Montreal coach Marc Trestman. "It didn't guarantee a championship or a bye week. If we're thinking farther ahead than Friday night [in Hamilton] we must be out of our minds.
"There are too many games left to play."
Sean Whyte added a field goal for Montreal, while Toronto got a safety plus two field goals and a pair of singles from kicker Swayze Waters, who also missed on two attempts.
Montreal led 17-6 at the intermission but the game turned on the opening drive of the second half when Water's 41-yard field goal attempt went wide left.
Guy stopped the ball from going through the end zone, dropped it briefly, then ran it back up the sideline a team-record 129 yards for the struggling Alouettes' special teams unit's first TD of the season. Trestman hugged co-ordinator Andy Bischoff at the bench.
"It is such a relief," said Guy. "It feels like a big weight is off my shoulders, but I'm not getting complacent.
"We wanted to get a big return this week and we got one."
Anderson was in the spotlight in his first start since it was announced that Whitaker would miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. He didn't take long to make his mark, scoring a touchdown only 3:56 into the game in place of the star Alouettes running back.
It was the fourth straight game Montreal scored on its opening drive and the league-leading sixth time this season. They have not allowed a first-possession TD in seven consecutive games.
After Toronto wasted a field goal on a botched snap, Montreal answered with Whyte's 12-yard boot.
When Jackson came in he immediately connected 38 yards with Dontrelle Inman to set up Waters' 34 yarder.
Brandon London, who returned after missing two games to make five grabs for 118 yards, made three catches to set the stage for Guy's nine-yard TD catch late in the second quarter. The Argos answered with a field goal just before the half.
A 47-yard Anthony Calvillo pass to S.J. Green set up Anderson's four-yard TD run late in the third quarter.
"I just wanted to help this team win," said Anderson, who carried 17 times for 76 yards and caught three passes for another 51. "I never have personal goals.
"I'm a rookie, so I just do whatever's asked of me. It's exciting because we got the victory."
Green passed the 1,000-yard mark in receiving yards for a second straight season. Calvillo completed 15-of-29 passes for 315 yards and two TDs.
Jackson said he was disappointed in not getting the win, but he hopes for a better game if he starts again on Friday.
"I'll get reps in practice now," he said. "These are my first reps since training camp.
"We're not expecting anything to change. We lost Ricky Ray, who is our field general and we're all saddened by that, but on the flip side, everyone on the team has to pick up the slack."
Milanovich liked what he saw from Jackson.
"He hasn't had any true reps in 11 weeks, so for a gameplan that wasn't built around him, he looked like the veteran we hoped he would be," he said. "If he's the guy in the future, we'll build it around him, but I thought he looked fine."
Toronto's Chad Owens caught six balls for 87 yards and passed 1,000-yard mark in receptions for the first time in his career. He is the first Argo to top 1,000 receiving yards since Arland Bruce in 2008. He now has a career-high 73 catches for the campaign.
Owens had 220 total yards and remains 85 short of reaching the 3,000 all-purpose yards mark for a record third season.
Calvillo got the 192 yards he needed to extend his CFL career passing yards record past 77,000.
In the second quarter, Guy was grabbed and thrown down by a lock of his extra-long hair by Mike Bradwell. A flag was thrown, then overturned, as there is no penalty for tackling by the hair.
Trestman said Guy was "dinged up" during the game without being specific and that linebacker Kenny Ingram and defensive tackle Ventrell Jenkins suffered injuries that will be evaluated this week.