Argonauts spoil Roughriders' home opener
Ricky Ray executes on offence as Toronto defence stifles Saskatchewan
Darian Durant looked sharp in his return to the Saskatchewan Roughriders' starting lineup. The only problem was the Toronto Argonauts' defence was slightly better.
Ricky Ray threw a pair of first-quarter touchdowns that held up and Toronto as the Argos spoiled the Riders' home opener with a 30-17 victory at Mosaic Stadium.
"To be on the road in one of the toughest places to play in the CFL, to be able to get off to a good start definitely allowed us to control the game," Ray said after he threw for 186 yards and two touchdowns.
Toronto (1-1), which led 21-10 at halftime, watched as its defence limited Durant and the Riders (0-1) to two field goals in the second half.
"[Saskatchewan] had a bye in the first week, so we didn't even have any film to go on," said Argos linebacker Cory Greenwood. "We were out there defending ghosts and we just had to run our stuff better than how they ran their stuff. And we all played together a lot better than how we did last week [in a 42-20 home loss to Hamilton]."
The Argos scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the first quarter. After the Riders went two and out to start the game, Larry Taylor returned a punt 57 yards to Saskatchewan's four-yard line. On the next play, Ray dumped the ball off to Andre Durie, who scampered into the end zone.
On the ensuing possession, Durant marched the Riders into Toronto territory, but came up short on a third-down rush and turned the ball over on the Argos' 16-yard line.
Ray and the Argos again took advantage. Vidal Hazelton blew past the Saskatchewan secondary for a 56-yard touchdown reception, his third of the season, to put the visitors up 14-0 before the game was seven minutes old. Ray was 7-for-10 passing for 121 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
"We were able to keep the crowd out of it and we were able to grab that momentum right away and hold on to it," Ray said.
"We stepped it up this week," added Greenwood, who had a team-high eight tackles. "I felt last week we had them pinned and we let them get off the hook and put drives on us. Tonight, we stepped up and had a lot more two-and-outs and just played better as a unit."
The Riders cut into Toronto's lead early in the second quarter when Durant hooked up with John Chiles, one of several newcomers on the Riders' roster, for a six-yard touchdown reception to make it 14-7. Durant finished the night completing 31-of-48 pass attempts for 310 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 15 yards.
Durant missed the 2015 season after he ruptured his Achilles' tendon in the season opener. He missed the second half of the 2014 season with a torn ligament in his right elbow. Since 2012, Saskatchewan is 6-23 in games without Durant in the lineup.
"I'm glad to get that out of the way and to get back into the rhythm of playing a game," Durant said. "To feel those hits, those bumps and bruises. The biggest thing is that you can never simulate a game. To be tired in the fourth quarter, to be able to make those reads when you're tired and when you're sore. I'm glad I got a chance to experience that again."
Durant's favourite receiver on the night was Naaman Roosevelt. The second-year wideout hauled in nine passes for 113 yards.
Toronto restored a two-touchdown lead before the half ended. This time it was the defence that scored. Matt Black scooped up a fumble on a third-down quarterback sneak and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown. That made it 21-7 with two minutes remaining in the half.
The Argos led 21-10 at halftime.
From there, the defence took over.
"We don't have to be lights out and killers right now," Greenwood said. "We need to be that defence in October and November. We have to keep getting better and climax at the end of the season. Tonight was a good starting point for us."
The Riders had field goals from 15 and 35 yards from Tyler Crapinga, while Lirim Hajrullahu kicked three for Toronto (27, 32 and 50 yards).
Ray needs 76 yards passing to reach 53,000 for his career, and 332 to pass Danny McManus for fourth place on the CFL's all-time passing list.
Toronto will visit the B.C. Lions in Week 3, while the Riders will travel to Edmonton to face the Eskimos.