Trevor Harris has complicated the Toronto Argonauts quarterback picture with a star performance in leading the team to a 25-20 exhibition win over the Montreal Alouettes.
The 26-year-old pivot from Edinboro College upstaged starter Ricky Ray and backup Jarious Jackson as he came off the bench in the third quarter to throw two touchdown passes with 13 for 15 marksmanship at a noisy, student-laden Rogers Centre Tuesday. The Argos were promoting their anti-bullying programs. The official attendance was 36,214.
That Harris is bidding for the No. 3 quarterback job is a surfeit of riches – but a nice problem to have as Toronto head coach Scott Milanovich tries to cut his roster from more than 60 to 46 before the weekend. Some cuts could come as soon as today.
"Trevor seems to have some moxie back there," said Milanovich. "He's good in the pocket, makes accurate throws. He's done it two weeks in a row, which is impressive."
Milanovich would not say how many of the five quarterbacks in camp would survive for the weekend. Ray and Jackson are expected to be the starter and backup, respectively. Ray will be fine ... and there's no substitute for what he brings. He's a veteran, a leader. His numbers weren't good in Hamilton and we challenged his this week."
Harris auditioned for the third spot against former Als third-stringer Ricky Santos Monday. Zach Collaros is on the disabled list with an ankle injury.
"I really felt I left some plays out on the field," Harris said. "I did everything I could to ensure I had no regrets."
Harris passed for 160 yards and the two touchdowns against the Als.
Harris, who lauded the offensive line, rallied Toronto to knot the match 17-17 with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Jessie Hubbard early in the third before Anthony Alix's single gave Toronto the lead. Harris then impressed with a 93-yard march and found Samie Parker on a five-yard TD strike 21 seconds into the fourth to put Toronto ahead 25-17.
Hubbard's touchdown came three plays after Toronto recovered a fumble by Montreal rookie quarterback Josh Neiswander. Toronto receivers suffered another injury on the drive as Djems Kouame was carted off with a left leg injury. The pass catching crew was already missing Maurice Mann, Jason Barnes and Andre Durie.
Pacino Horne, who blocked a punt then returned it for a TD, also scored for Toronto. Noel Prefontaine booted a convert and field goal while Alix finished with a single and two converts.
Harris outshone the veteran Ray, who yielded an interception on Toronto's first offensive series. The nine-year veteran was 3-of-7 passing for 27 yards and two interceptions before giving way to Jackson who completed 6-of-8 passes. Toronto's top offensive contribution came from running back Charles Kackert who rushed eight times for 28 yards and caught four passes for 71.
Milanovich's faith in Ray as his starter is unshaken. "It started bad for Ricky and he never did find his rhythm but ultimately we'll need Ricky for that first game," the coach said. "He's practised well, I just need to do a better job getting him out of the gate faster."
"It definitely wasn't the performance I was looking for heading into the season," Ray said. "It's hard to establish a rhythm especially getting off to the start we did."
Toronto opens the 2012 season in Edmonton on June 30. Montreal visits Calgary on July 1.
Montreal coach Marc Trestman is happy the team has time to recuperate. Canadian Kyle Quinlan, who led McMaster to the 2011 Vanier Cup, was the last of four quarterbacks used by the Als. Quinlan threw a 41-yard completion to Felton Huggins that put the Alouettes at the Toronto 46-yard line with less than two minutes remaining as he tried for the comeback. But that revival was snuffed out by a failed pass.
Quinlan and Acadia's Kyle Graves, both in Montreal's camp, can return to school if they don't sign.
Montreal starter Anthony Calvillo was 7-of-11 passing for 55 yards before giving way to backup Adrian McPherson late in the opening quarter.
"You're always anxious to get out there and perform at a high level," said the 39-year-old Calvillo.
Travon Patterson and Brandon Whitaker scored Montreal's touchdowns while Sean Whyte added the converts and two field goals.