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Payback time

Argos QB Ray gets last laugh on Esks, Tillman

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TORONTO -- Chad Owens couldn't have picked a better time to score his first punt return TD of the season.

Owens's 59-yard punt return TD highlighted a record 31-point second quarter and led the Toronto Argonauts past the Edmonton Eskimos 42-26 in the East Division semifinal Sunday. Owens' first return touchdown since October 2011 broke a 7-7 tie and provided a huge momentum shift in the contest.

"The defence fed off it, the offence started rolling," Owens said. "The way the game was going we needed to do something and that's the great thing about specials, we can be the eraser, we can be the cleanup crew if things aren't going well.

"We can come out and make a play that can spark everybody and that's what happened."

Special teams and defence anchored the outburst -- the most points scored in one quarter by one team in CFL playoff history -- to delight of the Rogers Centre gathering of 25,792 with the roof closed due to the installation of camera rigging for the Grey Cup game Nov. 25.

Ricky Ray threw two touchdown passes and ran for another in the second for his first win in three games against his former team. Ray helped convert two Edmonton turnovers into 14 points in the quarter.

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. The 10-year CFL veteran finished 23-of-30 passing for 239 yards in finally beating his former team.

"I don't have any hard feelings," he said. "Just losing to them twice in the regular season and not having that first win against your former team makes this one feel so much better.

"It's kind of like getting a monkey off our back and being a playoff game makes it a little bit more special."

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.

Argos head coach Scott Milanovich, who received a Gatorade shower from his players following his first playoff win, said Owens delivered the key play.

"The momentum started with that fumble ... and Chad, it felt like, sent it over the top," Milanovich said. "The sideline got electric after that. I think guys really started to feel good about the game."

Ray certainly did.

"That was huge," he said of Owens' touchdown. "That was our first all year ... and to get it in a game like this was a huge spark."

While happy to get the win, Milanovich didn't feel it was deserving of a post-game shower.

"I said, 'This isn't the Grey Cup. This is one playoff win, it's one of three steps we hope to take,"' he said. "I wasn't seriously upset but I'd like us to act like we've been there before even though we haven't, I guess."

Toronto's second-quarter fireworks effectively quashed an impressive start to the contest by Edmonton, which outrushed Toronto 99-0 in the first. Kerry Joseph's 11-yard TD pass to Cary Koch at 9:06 opened the scoring and capped a smart nine-play, 91-yard drive.

Joseph struggled from then and was replaced by youngster Matt Nichols to start the second half. Nichols guided Edmonton to a field goal on its first possession of the half but was carted off with a dislocated ankle on the second, finishing 3-of-9 passing for 50 yards.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 12, 2012 D1

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