There is little question that Toronto Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray has been incredibly hot of late, but is he in 'the zone?'
The numbers back up the indisputable fact that Ray's play has been incredible, even by his own lofty standards. His last three outings haven't been complete games for a couple of reasons. He was injured mid-way through the third quarter against Winnipeg, missed the BC game, returned for a game in Montreal where he only played the first half, then played the entire game against Edmonton.
So in a little over two games of actual playing time what have the numbers been?
Try 64-73 passing (87.7% completion rate), 851 yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions.
So he's definitely in 'the zone.'
"I've felt like I've been there a few times", Ray told TSN.ca. "It's just when things are going well you have complete confidence and it seems like everything you see is open. That's when you're really playing well, when you can just drop back and trust exactly what your eyes are telling you and then just let it go without any hesitation."
Ray's coach knows what it's like to be playing at that level. When Scott Milanovich finished his career at the University of Maryland he had the NCAA's second-highest completion percentage (66.2%) in history. He's been there.
"I had a couple of pretty good games in college, but nothing consistently over a stretch of time like Ricky has," said Milanovich. "I think it's a comfort level thing and a huge part of it is the fact that he's not getting hit a lot. I can just see it in his feet and just how much more comfortable he is in the pocket and how much more he trusts his protection."
Chad Owens is the defending CFL Most Outstanding Player. As a returner and receiver he's been almost unstoppable at times.
"It's a really good feeling. It's a feeling of 'I can't be stopped' and you feel like every time you touch the ball it's going to be a score or a big play."
"It seems like the game has slowed down, but you're doing it effortlessly, you're just letting things happen."
Can you be in the zone on defence? Middle linebacker Robert McCune, currently third in the CFL in tackles, says absolutely.
"I get in that zone sometimes when the game slows down" said the native of Mobile, Alabama. "It helps when you just let the game come to you. Sometimes when I try too hard, that's when I make my most mistakes. You just have to play your game and relax."
Khalif Mitchell has made a career trying to get offensive players out of 'the zone'. The defensive tackle looks to his teammates to get himself in a good place.
"I pretty much feed off my other guys" said Mitchell. "I understand that if we're all out here and of the same accord then I'll be in the zone and then it's pretty much a natural flow and not something we create artificially."
Staying in the zone this week won't be easy for Ray or any of his teammates. The Calgary Stampeders are in Toronto for a Grey Cup rematch.
Sacramento State 64, Cal. State Northridge 61. November 4, 2000.
It was the second-highest point total in NCAA football's modern era and amazingly it came without an overtime session.
The reason this obscure college football game is noteworthy in Toronto is that the two quarterbacks were Sacramento State's Ricky Ray and Cal Northridge's Marcus Brady, now the Argos Offensive Coordinator. Ray passed for 344 yards and three touchdowns that day and rushed for three more himself. Brady threw for 493 yards and four majors. The game was played at Fred Anderson Field, named after the owner of the defunct CFL team the Sacramento Gold Miners.
The two were asked by TSN.ca to reflect on that amazing afternoon.
Ray: "That was a fun game, it was my last home game in college. The year before we went down to their place and he (Brady) lit us up pretty bad. Coming back my senior year and playing my last game at home it was nice to finally get a win against him and man, we put up some points. He put up big numbers, we were able to so the same and squeaked one out on them."
Brady: "We were just going up and down the field. (Former Winnipeg star) Charles Roberts was his running back (he had 159 yards rushing and two TDs in the game). They were going down and scoring and we had to answer. We both had explosive offences and it came down to the fourth quarter. I had a 50-yard run for a touchdown and threw for four, but I threw a late interception. Ricky had three quarterback sneaks in that game and was the Conference Player of the Week even though I had better numbers than him (laughs), but they got the win so he deserved it."
The Argonauts play Calgary Friday night at 7:30. Follow the Argos all season long on TSN1050 with Mike Hogan and Sandy Annunziata.