TORONTO — Toronto Argonauts president Chris Rudge was strolling around the press box in the Rogers Centre before his team beat the Winnipeg 25-22 Wednesday night because it is what he does before most games. Like most games, he was musing about the Argonauts, mostly about what he liked, but he offered one suggestion.
“I want to see Jason Barnes get a few more touches of he ball,” the team president said. “I know he has a big play in him.”
Perhaps Rudge’s next stop, after the press box, was the dressing room. The receiver he wanted to see make a big play was just the one who caught quarterback Ricky Ray’s pass down the middle for a 37-yard touchdown with just two minutes left to seal a comeback win.
Ray completed 23 of 34 passes for three touchdowns and an interception as the Argos improved to 2-2.
It was all going sideways for the Argos before that. Chad Owens’ second fumble of the game, midway through the fourth quarter on a punt, fell into the hands of cornerback Jovon Johnson and set up Winnipeg kicker Justin Palardy for 22-yard field goal to give the Blue Bombers a 19-18 lead.
Palardy added another kick two minutes later, and was perfect on all four attempts for Winnipeg, who nevertheless finish their season-opening four-game road trip winless.
The Argos defence facilitated the win by crowding every passing lane in the second half, and Blue Bombers quarterback Alex Brink, starting for the injured Buck Pierce, completed nine of 32 passes for 185 yards and two interceptions.
The Argos took an 18-13 lead into halftime, thanks to two touchdowns passes from Ray, his first scoring tosses since Toronto beat Calgary on July 7.
Brink gave Toronto excellent position to score first when he tossed up the ball after being smashed by linebacker Brandon Isaac. It fell into the arms of linebacker Robert McCune. From Winnipeg’s 38, Ray found running back Cory Boyd for a seven-yard touchdown pass four plays later.
Palardy responded with a 40-yard field goal, and new Toronto kicker Swazye Waters, who missed first from 45 yards earlier, recorded his first three-pointer from 18 yards to put Toronto up 11-3.
Brink, who had been prodding the right side of the Argos defence, finally made a connection to Clarence Denmark over cornerback Ahmad Carroll for 55 yards with five minutes left in the half. Brink then fit himself through the line from one yard out for the touchdown.
Winnipeg took a 13-11 lead off another Palardy field goal three minutes later, the first time the Bombers had been ahead this season.
Winnipeg might have taken a bigger lead into halftime after Owens let a pass from Ray drip through his fingers to cornerback Deon Beasley. But Brink gave the ball back 11 seconds later on his second interception, grabbed by Argos veteran safety Jordan Younger.
Ray’s 37-yard touchdown pass to Owens three plays later was Owens’ first touchdown grab since Oct. 29, 2010.
Owens caught 70 passes in 2011, but never once crossed the goal line.