CALGARY — In his first career start, rookie quarterback Jake Maier overcame two costly interceptions early to lead the Calgary Stampeders to a come-from-behind victory for their first win of the CFL season.
Getting the start after two-time Most Outstanding Player Bo Levi Mitchell was placed on the six-game injured list with a fractured fibula, Maier threw for 304 yards, a touchdown, and a near-touchdown in a thrilling 28-22 victory over the Montreal Alouettes at McMahon Stadium.
The near-touchdown was a pivotal 83-yard pass and catch to Josh Huff in the fourth quarter that went to the one-yard line. That play set up the touchdown that would end up being the difference.
“Well, I definitely would have liked it to start better,” said the 24-year-old Maier. “As an offence, we just weren’t executing and I was putting the ball in harm’s way. I’m not an excuse maker at all and that’s on me, I have to do a better job there.”
But after those two first-quarter interceptions that turned into Montreal touchdowns and a 14-3 lead for the visitors, Maier settled in nicely.
“For a first start, that’s pretty impressive. I called the game just like I had a vet in there,” said Calgary coach Dave Dickenson. “I called the game trying to win and aggressive and flea flicker at the end just to try to get a huge play and it happened. I wouldn’t normally do that with a rookie. But I felt like he could handle it and he made the plays for us to win.”
Making it 28-14, Maier’s longest completion of the night came when he handed the ball to Ka’Deem Carey, had it pitched back to him, and tossed a long bomb to Huff. The Stamps receiver came back to the football, beat Alouette defensive back Wesley Sutton one-on-one, and ran the ball to the one.
“I’m excited for plays like that,” Maier said. “It’s just such an opportunity to create so much momentum in a game and I believe in our guys, I believe in throwing those balls up there to make plays. You know, that’s what makes the game exciting. Just put your chips in and whatever happens, happens. That’s just my mentality.”
But the Alouettes would not go down quietly.
A fourth-quarter fumble by receiver Hergy Mayala turned the ball over to Montreal on the Calgary 45. Shortly after, Montreal quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. hit Quan Bray for a 10-yard touchdown pass to pull the Alouettes within six.
After Montreal got a big two-and-out and got the ball back at their own 18, Adams led the Alouettes down the field again. But on the final play of the game from the Calgary 14, Eugene Lewis’ diving catch as he came back to the football was called out at the one-yard line after league video review.
“One yard short short. I might have threw it a second too late. If I had thrown it a little bit earlier, I would have got it right on time. That’s on me,” Adams said.
Montreal’s undisciplined play throughout the contest proved costly. The Als finished the game with 16 penalties for 149 yards compared to nine penalties for 80 yards for Calgary.
They came at pivotal times, too. After the Huff play, Montreal had the Stampeders stopped at the two-yard line and facing third down. But on that same play, defensive back Tyquwan Glass punched Mayala, giving Calgary first down at the one. Carey rushed it in for his second touchdown of the game.
“When you play with a lot of emotion, a lot of intensity, there’s an edge that you play with and I think we went over that edge,” said Alouettes coach Khari Jones. “I’m a little embarrassed by it because I don’t want that associated with my team. So we’ll address it, we’ll talk about it, we’ll make sure doesn’t happen in the future.”
Calgary’s defence also had an outstanding game, shutting Montreal down after the two early scores.
The eight-play, 100-yard touchdown drive that started Calgary’s comeback began with a critical Royce Metchie interception with the Alouettes driving. Rene Paredes’ second field goal of the game, this one from 52 yards out, then made it 14-12 at halftime.
“Our defence kept us in this game,” said Maier. “They did an amazing job for us. A big turnover when they could have went up three scores. So hats off to them. You know, they dug us out of a hole. And ultimately, they finished the game for us.”
In the third quarter, Calgary limited Montreal to just one first down on four possessions. The Stampeders eventually took advantage of its gradually improving field position by capping off a 41-yard drive with Maier’s first touchdown pass, a four-yard completion to Kamar Jorden.
Calgary’s first win of the season improves them to 1-2 while the Alouettes fall to 1-1.
Next up for the Alouettes are the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday in Montreal’s home opener. The Stampeders are in action next Sunday when they hit the road for the first time, travelling to Winnipeg for a clash with the Blue Bombers.
Notes: Stampeders lost a pair of defensive linemen for the game with Folarin Orimolade having to be helped off the field late in the first quarter and Jarrell Owens taken off on a cart in the second quarter… Attendance at McMahon Stadium was 21,199.