Alouettes 30 Roughriders 26
MONTREAL — Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman had a simple answer to his own question after Montreal squeaked out a 30-26 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday night.
Despite an offence that produced just one first down and four points in the second half, the Alouettes survived to avenge their only loss of the season.
“This is a game where you look at it and say, ‘How did it happen?”’ Trestman said. “The reason why it happened is that there are different ways to get a win and our guys played really hard. Their guys did as well, and we were very fortunate to come up with a win.”
First downs in the game were 33-12, yardage was 499-300 and pass completions were 35-18 — all in favour of Saskatchewan.
But the Alouettes defence stood tall when it had to and got Montreal its fifth straight win since a 54-51 double overtime loss to these same ’Riders in Week 1.
Anthony Calvillo threw touchdown passes to Jamel Richardson and Kerry Watkins for the Alouettes (5-1) and Tim Maypray returned his second missed field goal of the season for a touchdown — both against the Saskatchewan.
The Roughriders (4-2) got touchdown catches from Wes Cates and Weston Dressler and four field goals from Luca Congi, while Darian Durant overcame a stomach ailment to elude a voracious Alouettes pass rush all night and finish with 445 yards on 35-of-62 passing.
“I just wasn’t myself,” said Durant, who has battled a mysterious virus for the past three weeks.
“I made some plays, but in the fourth quarter I just didn’t have enough strength to get out of the pocket. I just wish I would have been my normal self, because the fourth quarter is where we thrive.”
Though Durant was particularly hard on himself following a standout performance, Trestman left the game thoroughly impressed.
“He took a number of vicious hits, he was able to escape on a number of occasions and in both cases was able to pinpoint his passes when he had a chance to throw the ball,” Trestman said.
“I think we saw something really special out of him tonight. He’s proven he’s a force to be reckoned with in this league.”
Calvillo did not finish the game for Montreal after hurting his index finger on his throwing hand on a scramble late in the fourth quarter. He was supposed to go for X-Rays after the game, but both he and Trestman were optimistic the injury was nothing serious.
Calvillo was less enthusiastic when discussing Montreal’s offensive performance in the second half, which netted just 31 yards.
“We have to do a better job on offence because that was honestly terrible,” said Calvillo, who finished with 252 yards on 17-of-25 passing.
The Alouettes offence sputtered to the finish line with only a Damon Duval field goal and single after halftime as Montreal went two-and-out six times to allow Saskatchewan to hang around.
The Roughriders — who came back from 21 points down against Montreal in Week 1 — couldn’t repeat the comeback and fully erase the 24-10 halftime deficit.
The third quarter was an exchange of field goals, as Congi kicked two and Duval one for a 27-16 score heading into the fourth.
Durant opened the fourth by stringing together four straight first downs en route to a seven-yard touchdown pass to Cates at 2:38 to cut the lead to 27-23.
Duval kicked a single at 4:26 and Congi countered with his fourth field goal of the game from 46 yards out at 8:37 to make it 28-26.
That’s when the Alouettes defence made two huge plays to seal the tight victory.
With Saskatchewan driving late in the fourth quarter, Durant threw a jump ball that Andy Fantuz bobbled it as he fell to the ground. The ball wound up in the hands of Chip Cox for his second interception of the game with 3:40 to play at the Montreal 47.
After another Montreal two-and-out where Calvillo got hurt, the ’Riders got the ball back deep in their own territory.
Scrimmaging from their own five-yard-line, Durant was sacked in the end zone by Montreal defensive tackle J.P. Bekasiak at 12:24 of the fourth to make it 30-26 Alouettes.
The ’Riders had one last shot to win the game when they got the ball back at their own 32 with 1:38 to play, but a Durant Hail Mary from the Montreal 43 as time was winding down got knocked away in the end zone.
“We did a lot of bending but we didn’t break,” said Montreal defensive end John Bowman. “We would have liked to get off the field a lot sooner, but they’ve got a great offence. They’ve got the Canadian Air Force over there and they do a good job of getting open and staying alive for Durant.”
The game could not have started much better for the Alouettes, but they still emerged from the first quarter up only 10-7.
On the game’s opening play, Calvillo found S.J. Green behind Omarr Morgan for a 67-yard catch-and-run play to the Saskatchewan 22. Calvillo then hit Watkins in the end zone on the very next play, giving Montreal a 7-0 lead barely a minute into the game.
On the second play of the ’Riders first possession of the game, Durant threw a shovel pass off Cates’ back and the ball bounced to Cox for an interception at the Saskatchewan 29. That led to an 11-yard Duval field goal for a 10-0 Als lead at 5:30.
Durant then orchestrated a 75-yard drive on only five plays capped by a 20-yard touchdown to Dressler at 7:58 to get Saskatchewan on the board.
Montreal opened the second quarter with an impressive drive deep into Saskatchewan territory, but Calvillo fumbled the ball near the ’Riders 20 and had it recovered by linebacker Jerrell Freeman. However the play was negated when Saskatchewan was called for illegal contact on a receiver, and on the very next snap, Calvillo found Richardson alone in the end zone to make it 17-7 at 5:43.
The Als increased their lead when Maypray returned a missed 42-yard field goal try by Congi 118 yards the other way at 13:04, but Congi kicked a 35-yarder at 14:53 to make it 24-10 Montreal at halftime.
Notes: Durant passed Kerry Joseph to move into 10th on the Roughriders all-time pass completions list. … Alouettes receiver Brian Bratton did not play as he recovers from a concussion suffered in last weeks 41-10 win over Toronto. … Both teams played in retro uniforms from the 1970s. … Alouettes cornerback Mark Estelle hurt his left leg late in the fourth quarter and was helped off the field. … It was the Alouettes 12th straight regular season win at Percival Molson Stadium.