For a second straight week, a game that appeared to be in the bag nearly slipped out of the Alouettes’ grasp.
But they once again just managed to hang on, taking a 27-25 win over the Edmonton Eskimos on Sunday afternoon, the team’s 100th victory at Percival Molson Stadium.
It was the Alouettes’ third win in a row and the second straight in a game that meant nothing for Montreal beyond the team’s final record.
“That’s our mental challenge right now – to stay hungry and finish the season strong,” Anthony Calvillo said. “I thought we did a great job offensively in the first half. Second half we didn’t but our defence right now, they’re playing amazing.”
The Alouettes built up a 19-1 lead heading into halftime on a Sean Whyte field goal, Bo Bowling and Adrian McPherson touchdowns, and a two-point safety conceded by the Eskimos.
Edmonton finally got on the scoreboard late in the half on Grant Shaw’s punt single.
Calvillo racked up 224 yards in the first two quarters, leaving him just 15 yards shy of 5,000 on the season. He crept to within two early in the third quarter and finally hit the mark with a pass to Chris Jennings midway through the frame. With the toss, Calvillo became the first quarterback in CFL history to hit the 5,000-yard mark seven times in a career.
“We’re playing with a great quarterback,” Bowling said. “He’s been doing this for [so many] years and that’s what it’s about. AC runs the show; he’s our leader, he’s our man, and we all just feed off him and fill the roles we need to fill.”
Depth delivering for Alouettes
That’s exactly what the Alouettes’ depth has been doing, forced to the forefront with the team’s injury-depleted offence. No S.J. Green. No Brandon London. No Brandon Whitaker. Then Victor Anderson, Whitaker’s replacement, went down, propelling Jennings into the starter’s spot at tailback.
Bowling, who couldn’t find his way onto the roster last season, finished the afternoon as Calvillo’s top target with five catches, including a six-yard haul in the first quarter. His 62 yards were second only to Noel Devine (63) and tied him with Eric Deslauriers.
“The more I’m in there, the better I’m getting and the more comfortable I’m getting and that’s what it’s all about – getting comfortable in the system,” Bowling noted.
After back-to-back 100-yard games, Jamel Richardson had a quieter afternoon with just 44 yards on three receptions.
“Guys are going to have to step up and make the plays. We’re not going to just call 30 plays to J-Rich in a game. That’s just not going to work in this league,” said coach Marc Trestman, whose 59th win at the Alouettes’ helm put him into a tie for the franchise record. “Hopefully that will help our balance and how teams play us defensively. They’ll be forced to consider everybody as they game-plan us.”
Montreal had its opportunities to put this one away but couldn’t finish off their drives. Whyte’s rouge on a missed field goal was all they would get in the third quarter. They wouldn’t add to that until late in the fourth when Calvillo found offensive lineman Ryan Bomben in the end zone to put the Alouettes up 27-12.
“We moved the ball a bit but not enough (in the second half) and kept them in the game. I’m really disappointed that we didn’t get that first down late in the game,” Calvillo said. “Guys were happy that we won but we really could have put that team away and offensively, we have to do a better job.”
With their sights set on a playoff berth, the Eskimos put 21 points up in the fourth quarter and came close to sending this one into overtime. Trailing by eight with 1:26 remaining, backup quarterback Matt Nichols drove his team down the field.
He found the end zone for the six points with three seconds left on the clock but the rally came to an end when Alouettes defensive back Jerald Brown knocked down Nichols’ pass on the two-point convert attempt.
“I told our guys that we got our backbone built again to try to win a game on the last play of the game, which has happened a number of times to us this year and we found a way to win,” Trestman said. “I hate the word because it’s such a cliché but this was a wake-up call that we can always improve, that there’s things to work on.”