Alouettes eager for rematch with Bombers after last-play loss in Winnipeg

MONTREAL — If their last meeting was an indication, the clash Thursday night between the Montreal Alouettes and Winnipeg Blue Bombers should be quite the offensive spectacle.

On July 28 in Winnipeg, the Blue Bombers erased a 12-point Montreal lead in the last minute to win 41-40 on a final-play touchdown by Andrew Harris.

The victory began a four-game winning run for Winnipeg (6-2), which topped Edmonton 33-26 last week to end the Eskimos’ seven-game streak.

The Alouettes (3-5) are still smarting from their worst loss of the season, a 38-6 setback in Toronto in which they trailed 35-0 at halftime and then got their only points on an interception by linebacker Dominique Tovell.

Montreal was able to recover from the loss in Winnipeg by beating Toronto 21-9, but then got hammered by the Argonauts in the rematch.

“I thought we bounced back the first time we played Toronto,” Montreal coach Jacques Chapdelaine said this week. “But we are looking back at the Winnipeg game because we played against them and I thought we did well for the most part, up until 90 seconds left and we let things slip.

“That’s important, not to let down.”

The Alouettes had a short week, having played on Saturday, while Winnipeg has had a full week to prepare.

Such is the imbalance between the CFL’s divisions, the Bombers are third in the West behind Edmonton (7-1) and Calgary (6-1-1), while the Alouettes are second in the East behind Toronto (4-5).

A victory would put Montreal at 4-5, one win better than they were at the midpoint of the 2016 regular season, before they made wholesale changes in the off-season that included the acquisition of veteran quarterback Darian Durant. He completed only 14 passes for 93 yards against the Argonauts.

“We don’t think about last year,” said slotback Nik Lewis. “It’s about right now.

“We know Toronto’s got to go play a tough Calgary team at home. We have a tough Winnipeg team here. We have a chance to stay up on Ottawa (2-6-1) and move close to Toronto. That’s our focus.

“Ottawa proved last year you don’t have to have a winning record. We’d like to, but we have to get the ball rolling and string together more than one win at a time because you’ve got to win at least two to win a Grey Cup.”

Durant was better when the Alouettes last faced Winnipeg, passing for 348 yards and two touchdowns, but Matt Nichols answered with 358 and a pair of TDs for the Bombers.

Winnipeg is one behind Calgary for most points scored in the league with 274, but has surrendered the second-most points (247), ahead only of winless Hamilton’s 310.

Harris has been red-hot, posting 105 rushing yards and 120 receiving yards against the Eskimos to put him on pace for the CFL’s first double-1,000 season. After eight games, the 30-year-old Winnipeg native has 495 yards on the ground and 459 through the air.

Lewis caught six passes for 42 yards last week, which moved him past Alouettes legend Ben Cahoon (1,017) for second place in career pass receptions with 1,021. The 14-year veteran has a chance to pass B.C. Lions great Geroy Simon (1,029) against Winnipeg or, if not, next week against Ottawa.

“I didn’t think about passing Ben Cahoon one time after that game, other than looking at social media and seeing the congratulations,” said Lewis, who had passed Terry Vaughn’s 1,006 catches earlier this season. “My focus now is on winning games. If we can win games and at the end of the season I’m number one, I’ll be very happy.”

Simon leads in career receiving yards with 16,352 ahead of former Winnipeg star Milt Stegall (15,153) and ex-Stampeder Allen Pitts (14,891). Lewis is seventh at 13,532 and, at 35 years old, that record may be out of reach.

“I was fortunate that I got to see Ben, Geroy and Milt (Stegall) play for a long time,” said Lewis. “Just to see those guys play and be on the field and watch them, as a young guy, studying their game and watching them grow.

“Even Terry Vaughn I got to see for two or three years. I hope that if I stay healthy and get to the number one spot I can carry the torch like they did, with honour and respect.”

By coincidence, the Alouettes’ ninth game last year was also at home against Winnipeg, a 32-18 defeat.

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