Argos beat Eskimos 42-26, advance to CFL East final
Toronto Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray throws the ball against the Edmonton Eskimos during first half CFL Eastern Conference semi final football action in Toronto on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012. (Nathan Denette/ THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, November 11, 2012 4:40PM EST
TORONTO -- Ricky Ray threw two touchdown passes and ran for another in a record-setting second quarter to lead the Toronto Argonauts past the Edmonton Eskimos 42-26 in the CFL East Division semifinal Sunday.
Chad Owens also had a 59-yard punt return TD to highlight a 31-point Toronto outburst, the most in any quarter by one team in CFL playoff history. Owens, a finalist for the league's outstanding player award, brought the Rogers Centre gathering of 25,792 to its feet with the roof closed due to the installation of camera rigging for the Grey Cup game.
The win was Ray's first in three meetings this season against his former team. The Eskimos stunned the CFL last December by dealing Ray, a two-time Grey Cup champion, to Toronto for journeyman quarterback Steven Jyles, Canadian kicker Grant Shaw and a 2012 first-round pick.
Ray finished 23-of-30 passing for 239 yards and received a nice round of applause when he left the game with just over a minute remaining.
Adding insult to injury, Edmonton played without linebacker J.C. Sherritt. A finalist for the CFL's top defensive player award after registering a league-record 130 tackles, Sherritt watched wearing a walking boot on his right foot.
The lopsided loss capped a season to forget for Edmonton, which entered the playoffs having lost three straight and eight of its last 10 regular-season games for a 7-11 record overall. And last weekend the club fired general manager Eric Tillman, who had been under tremendous fire in Alberta for trading Ray.
Kerry Joseph, appearing in his first playoff game since leading Saskatchewan to victory in the 2007 Grey Cup game in Toronto, got the start for Edmonton but struggled. He was replaced by youngster Matt Nichols to start the second half.
However, Joseph returned late in the third. Nichols guided Edmonton to a field goal on its first possession of the half but was carted off with a nasty left leg injury on the second, finishing 3-of-9 passing for 50 yards.
Joseph had a 16-yard TD run before finding Fred Stamps on the two-point convert at 11:08 of the fourth. He then hit Nate Coehoorn with a 39-yard touchdown pass and two-point convert to Cary Koch at 14:37. Joseph finished unofficially 12-of-25 passing for 192 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Toronto travels to Olympic Stadium in Montreal for the East final next Sunday, with the winner advancing to the Grey Cup on Nov. 25 at Rogers Centre. The Alouettes won the season series 2-1 but the Argos' lone victory was a 23-20 decision at Molson Stadium on July 27.
Chad Kackert, with two, and Maurice Mann scored Toronto's other touchdowns. Swayze Waters added five converts, two field goals and a single.
Koch had Edmonton's other touchdown. Shaw added the convert and a field goal.
Owens' electrifying TD helped stake Toronto to a commanding 31-7 half-time lead. He took Shaw's 39-yard boot back at 3:38 of the second to break a 7-7 tie after Edmonton dominated the first quarter by outrushing Toronto 99-0. It was Owens' first punt return score since Oct. 10, 2011.
It came after Ray hit Kackert with an 11-yard TD pass at 2:00 after Toronto coach Scott Milanovich successfully challenged an end-zone interception by Edmonton's Joe Burnett, which was overturned. That allowed the Argos to maintain possession after initially getting the ball when Ronald Flemons recovered former Argo Cory Boyd's fumble at the Eskimos' 27-yard line.
A key defensive play also set up Ray's 11-yard TD strike to Mann at 9:06, coming after Marcus Ball intercepted Joseph's attempted shovel pass to Hugh Charles and returned it 53 yards to the Edmonton 29-yard line.
Toronto completed its onslaught with Ray's seven-yard TD run at 14:59.
Joseph's 11-yard TD pass to Koch at 9:06 of the first opened the scoring to cap a smart nine-play, 91-yard drive. Charles' 46-yard run was a key play on the march, which marked the first time this season Edmonton had scored a TD on its opening possession.