Alouettes 23 Roughriders 17
REGINA — It wasn’t a Grey Cup victory, but the celebration in the Montreal Alouettes’ locker room was a scene to behold.
After their 23-15 win over the host Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday night to snap a 13-game losing streak, Alouettes players held nothing back with high fives, chanting, dancing, singing, and a whole lot of smiles.
“It always means a lot when you win,” said backup quarterback Jeff Mathews, his team now 1-2 this season. “We have faced some adversity early this season and to come out here and get a win is an important thing for us. We can build on this and hopefully get rolling.
“I know it’s just one and we’ll need a lot more, but you always have to start with one and now we have that.”
Montreal’s last victory came in the 2017 season when it beat the Toronto Argonauts 21-9 on August 11.
Mathews completed 8-of-12 pass attempts for 98 yards in relief of starter Drew Willy, who left the game in the third quarter with what was believed to be a neck and shoulder injury.
Mathews engineered a pair of late-game scoring drives that kept the rallying Roughriders at bay. Boris Bede capped each drive with a field goal, his fourth and fifth of the game.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done, still a lot of mistakes that we need to clean up,” Montreal head coach Mike Sherman said after he notched his first CFL victory. “Winning a football game here is tough, and I’m happy for our guys because they’ve worked hard. But we still have a lot of work to do.”
The Riders dropped their second consecutive game to fall to 1-2 in the West Division.
Receiver Duron Carter, who has started at cornerback the past two games, was again exposed at his new position.
Speedy Chris Williams raced past Carter for a 79-yard pass and catch for a touchdown late in the second quarter. It was a score that broke a 3-3 tie and gave the Alouettes a 10-3 lead going into halftime, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“I’m a good receiver,” said Williams, who caught three passes for a game-high 130 yards. “You put a guy out there who is not corner traditionally… I do this to good corners. (Carter) is just inexperienced at the position. It’s not anything that he’s doing. He’s just not an experienced, savvy vet at the position.
“Some plays it was just straight speed and other it was a little move.”
But Saskatchewan’s head coach Chris Jones said Carter will remain entrenched on the defensive side of the ball.
“Too many big plays, too many penalties,” he said of Carter’s performance.
When asked if Jones would move Carter back to his traditional wide receiver spot, Jones was brief.
“Nope,” he said.
Carter caught 73 passes for 1,043 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017.
Backup quarterback David Watford rallied the Riders in the fourth quarter with his team trailing 17-6. Watford replaced an ineffective Brandon Bridge to start the third quarter.
The Riders first were sparked by a 53-yard punt return by Christion Jones, a play that set up Watford and the offence at the Montreal 17-yard line early in the final quarter.
Two plays later, Watford hooked up with Naaman Roosevelt for an acrobatic five-yard touchdown pass and catch. The two-point convert failed and the Riders trailed 17-12. Roosevelt led the Riders with six catches for 73 yards.
After the Riders defence forced a turnover deep in Montreal’s end, the Riders were again poised to strike. However, a Watford pass attempt to a wide-open Caleb Holley ricocheted off the goal post and fell to the turf.
Saskatchewan settled for a Brett Lauther field goal, which cut the deficit to 17-15 with nine minutes remaining in the game.
But back-to-back scoring drives that ended with Bede field goals proved too much for the Riders to overcome.
“We’ve been here before, unfortunately,” Jones said of the Riders’ slow start. “This is the third year in a row digging ourselves a hole early. You can’t hide and you’re your head in the sand like an ostrich. You have to face it head on and see what you’re doing wrong and try to fix the problems.”
In Week 4, Saskatchewan will host Hamilton (2-1) on Thursday, while the Alouettes will take on Ottawa (1-1) on Friday on Montreal.
Watford completed 10-of-22 pass attempts for 108 yards. He was intercepted twice, as was Bridge. In his first start of the season, Bridge completed 8-of-18 attempts for 111 yards.
Willy was 8-for-15 for 157 yards and one touchdown before he left with his injury. He jogged to the locker room under his own power.
“I believe it was a neck and shoulder injury,” said Sherman.
Willy’s status for Friday’s game is unknown.