Ricky Ray and Henry Burris are no strangers to intraprovincial rivalries, as they've faced each other countless times in the Battle of Alberta between Ray's Edmonton Eskimos and Burris' Calgary Stampeders. They're going head-to-head again in another fierce rivalry Saturday, but will be wearing different uniforms; the game (7 p.m. Eastern, TSN/ESPN3) marks the first regular-season clash between the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats since their offseason acquisitions of Ray and Burris respectively. The fierce rivalry between these teams means there would be plenty on the line even if the game meant nothing in the standings, but the stakes are higher than usual; the Argonauts and Tiger-Cats are hoping to improve on their 1-1 and 0-2 starts respectively, and they're both eager to prove that the offseason hype around their quarterback moves wasn't for naught.
In Toronto, there have already been some positive signs. Ray played very well in the Argonauts' season-opener, completing 31 of 41 passes (75.6 per cent) for 298 yards and a touchdown, so their 19-15 loss to Edmonton in that game was about much more than just him. Penalties and special-teams miscues in particular doomed Toronto in that game, and both of those areas were better in their second-week 39-36 win over Calgary. That game was most notable for the offensive fireworks the Argonauts showed off, though; Ray completed 30 of 40 passes (75 per cent) for 407 yards and two touchdowns (although he did have two interceptions), while Cory Boyd rumbled for 101 yards and a touchdown and both Andre Durie and Dontrelle Inman had over 100 receiving yards. There were certainly concerns from that game too, as the defence couldn't stop the Stampeders even following starting quarterback Drew Tate's injury, but if Ray and the Argonauts' offence can play like that consistently, they'll win a lot of games this year. Still, a loss here would leave the Argos at 1-2, which would certainly be a disappointing start.
The story in Hamilton is a little more concerning. The Tiger-Cats have lost both their first two games, and their season-opening 43-16 loss to Saskatchewan was devastating. Last week's 39-36 loss on the road in B.C. was actually a pretty solid performance against a good team, though, and it left plenty of room for hope. Burris in particular had a terrific game against the Lions, completing 26 of 39 passes (66.7 per cent) for 359 yards and four touchdowns with an interception, and although he was briefly pulled before halftime, that only seemed to really light a fire under him down the stretch. The deep Hamilton recieving corps finally lived up to its billing, too, and that bodes well for the team. However, their defence conceded a league-high 82 points through the first two weeks, and the reports of locker-room tensions that turned up this week certainly aren't all that encouraging.
That puts even more pressure on the Tiger-Cats heading into this game. A big win over their hated rivals would go a long way towards curing their problems, and like other struggling teams, it would help them change the conversation to something more positive; it would also help prove that their offseason acquisition of Burris was the right move. A loss to the Argos and things might get bad, though; this highly-hyped team wasn't expected to start 0-3, and plenty of unpleasant questions will be asked if they do. Both Ray and Burris have plenty of pressure on their shoulders heading into this, and which quarterback turns in the better performance Friday night will have a lot to do with the result. Regardless of who comes out on top, though, one team will be trending up and the other one will be under significant fire.
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- Henry Burris
- Toronto Argonauts
- Calgary Stampeders
- Ricky Ray