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Argos battle Als in East Division showdown

Montreal, QC (Sports Network) - The Toronto Argonauts try to shake off an abysmal effort last weekend as they challenge the Montreal Alouettes in an Eastern Division showdown at Percival Molson Stadium on Friday night.

During the second week of the season the Argonauts destroyed the Saskatchewan Roughriders at home by a score of 48-15, but last Saturday night the Riders were ready for retribution, clobbering Toronto in a 37-9 final at Mosaic Stadium. The Argos were without offensive stars Chad Owens and Andre Durie, both of whom are now on the six-game injury list.

Then again, this is a Toronto group which has now lost three straight and four of the first five games on the campaign. While that may sound like a disaster, the good news for the Argos is that not a single team in the division has more than one victory heading into Week 6 action. In fact, the Argos might be listed in last place in the standings, but with two points they are tied with all three of the other clubs in the division.

Toronto quarterback Ricky Ray, one of the most accurate passers in the league the last few seasons, was beaten up pretty badly by the Saskatchewan defense. In that first meeting of the season Ray threw for more than 400 yards and three touchdowns, but he had no such luck on Saturday night.

Under constant pressure, Ray hit on 23-of-35 passes for 221 yards and was intercepted twice, including on the very first play from scrimmage. Ray was sacked three times and fumbled the ball away twice, leaving the Argos little chance of competing with a Saskatchewan squad that was seeking to exact revenge.

Kicker Swayze Waters was the lone bright spot for the visitors as he knocked through all three of his field-goal chances.

Montreal caught a break in the schedule last week, which hopefully gave quarterback Troy Smith some added time to work on his craft. Of all the regular starters at this position, Smith, a former Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State (2006), has both the weakest completion percentage (.487) and lowest efficiency rating (.649).

Trying to take some of the pressure off Smith is running back Brandon Whitaker, who is currently third in the league in rushing with 268 yards, but he has just one touchdown on 49 carries. Unfortunately, since 2011 when he generated a career-high 1,381 yards on the ground and another 638 yards through the air, Whitaker has failed to maintain that level of production.

It should come as little surprise that Montreal, which is last in the league in scoring with just 17.5 ppg, doesn't have a single player with more than one major. The team is a distant ninth in yards per game (263.3), while giving up 354.2 ypg which is third from the bottom in that category as well.

Toronto comes in with 22.0 ppg on offense, placing it in the middle of the pack, but the way that Ray was treated last week, in conjunction with the loss of several key assets, the Argos are in some serious trouble for the time being. Ray is still the league's leader in passing yards with 1,501 and has hit on close to 70 percent of his attempts, but he has almost as many INTs (four) as he does aerial TDs (six).

The loss of Owens is especially painful given that he still ranks fourth in the league in combined yards (574) and is recognized as one of the most electrifying players the league has seen in quite some time. With the struggles on offense of late, expect the Argos to again call on Waters, the third-highest scorer among kickers (50 points) to help keep them competitive.

Taking into consideration only regular-season matchups dating back to 1946, the Als own a 110-85-3 advantage in the series with Toronto. Last November Montreal managed to squeeze out a 23-20 victory at Rogers Centre, giving the Als four victories in the last six encounters.

07/30 10:33:28 ET

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