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Defending-champion Argonauts start season off strong

Jun 29, 2013 - 3:02 AM Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - Ricky Ray threw for 368 yards and four touchdowns as the Toronto Argonauts got their season off on the right foot by coming from behind to defeat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Rogers Centre, 39-34.

Ray completed 24-of-34 passes and went without a turnover as the defending Grey Cup-champion Argonauts (1-0) picked up where last season left off. Chad Owens, the CFL's reigning Most Outstanding Player, hauled in nine receptions for 95 yards, while Jason Barnes caught just four balls but finished with 85 yards and two touchdowns.

Chad Kackert made the most of his rushing attempts for the home team, carrying the ball 10 times for 112 yards and a touchdown.

For the Tiger-Cats (0-1), Henry Burris was also spectacular, passing for 361 yards on 24-of-36 efficiency while adding a team-high 36 rushing yards. Andy Fantuz was the primary beneficiary of Burris's passes, collecting 10 receptions for 155 yards and a score. Greg Ellingson (six receptions, 120 yards) was also a reliable target.

The Argonauts got the scoring started early on, with Ray concluding the opening drive with an 8-yard scoring strike to Barnes to jump out to a quick lead.

The Tiger-Cats answered immediately, however, as Lindsey Lamar ran back the ensuing kickoff 104 yards to tie the game up at 7-7.

After Toronto added a single, Hamilton capped off the first quarter with a pair of Burris touchdown passes -- a 9-yarder to C.J. Gable and a 64-yarder to Andy Fantuz -- to end the frame with a 21-8 lead.

Toronto regained momentum early in the second quarter. Chad Kackert ripped off a 57-yard touchdown run, and after holding Hamilton to a field goal, Ray hooked up with Barnes for a 73-yard touchdown strike. Swayze Waters would later add a 45-yard field goal to give the Argonauts a 25-24 lead.

The back-and-forth opening half continued inside the three-minute warning. Burris completed 4-of-4 passes on Hamilton's final drive of the half, capped off by a 6-yard touchdown strike to Gable, and the Tiger-Cats went into the halftime locker room with a 31-25 advantage.

Luca Congi drilled a 40-yard field goal early in the third quarter to extend Hamilton's lead, but Toronto inched closer on its next possession following a 19-yard touchdown pass from Ray to Spencer Watt. With Waters going down with an injury, Watt was called upon to kick the extra point, bringing the Argonauts' deficit to just two, 34-32.

The score remained that way until the 5:11 mark of the fourth quarter when Toronto put the finishing touches on a lengthy drive with a 10-yard major from Ray to Dontrelle Inman to go back on top, 39-34.

After empty possessions by both teams, the Tiger-Cats were left with one last opportunity with just 30 seconds to play, but after driving inside the 20-yard line, they could not punch it in. On the second-to-last play of the game, Gable dropped a wide-open screen pass, which most assuredly would have resulted in the game-winning touchdown.

"They made more plays than we did," Hamilton head coach Kent Austin said. "We had a chance to make plays and we didn't. We have to work on what our guys do well. Our job as coaches is to put them in position to win."

Game Notes

Lamar had six kick returns for 227 yards ... Hamilton's James Patrick led all defenders with eight tackles ... This marked the head coaching debut for Austin, who played quarterback in the league between 1987-1996 ... Burris led the CFL in passing yards (5,367) and passing touchdowns (43) a season ago and needs just over 3,000 more yards to reach 50,000 for his career ... Attendance at Rogers Centre was 29,852, which is the largest crowd the Argonauts have had since their home opener in 2009.