WINNIPEG — The Montreal Alouettes were impolite guests at the official opening of Investors Group Field on Thursday, defeating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 38-33 to open the CFL season.
The Alouettes rallied after surrendering a 14-0 lead they built early in the first quarter and had to come back in the fourth from a nine-point deficit.
Demond Washington’s 80-yard punt return for a touchdown helped the Winnipeg Blue Bombers grab the lead in the third quarter and electrify the sellout crowd of 33,500.
Oft-injured Winnipeg quarterback Buck Pierce, who didn’t see much pre-season action, was intercepted twice and sacked three times but moved the ball better in the second half.
Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo was sacked four times but kept his offence moving, although he had trouble getting past the Bomber goal-line after the opening quarter.
It didn’t start well for Pierce. On his first throw of the game he was intercepted by Geoff Tisdale and Chris Jennings ran the ball three yards for Montreal’s first touchdown.
Tyrone Carrier then returned Mike Renaud’s 39-yard punt 77 yards for Montreal’s second touchdown at 4:50.
Justin Palardy kicked the first of his three field goals and Winnipeg finally scored its first touchdown after Washington picked off a bouncing overthrow from Calvillo and ran it back 49 yards.
Pierce connected with Chris Matthews to make it 14-10. Matthews, the CFL’s outstanding rookie last season, was confirmed as a starter only Thursday morning.
Winnipeg picked up a single on a Renaud punt into the end zone to start the second quarter but Pierce was intercepted again.
Calvillo was sacked on the following drive and had to settle for a 36-yard field goal from Sean Whyte to make it 17-11.
A fumble on Winnipeg’s next play handed the ball back inside the Bombers’ 40 but again their defence held Montreal to a field goal.
Whyte conceded a safety at 10:58 to bring the Bombers within a touchdown again but his short field goal made it 23-13 as the first half ended, with the Alouettes stalled again at the goal-line.
Pierce brought the Bombers within three at the start of the second half, thanks to a 65-yard reception from Jade Etienne and an eight-yard touchdown pass to Clarence Denmark.
Then Washington brought the crowd to their feet with his 80-yard run and goal-line dive to put the Bombers ahead 27-23 near the four-minute mark.
Palardy added a field goal a few minutes later to make it 30-23, Montreal picked up a single, and then Palardy kicked a 48-yarder before the end of the third quarter to make it 33-24.
But Calvillo wasn’t done, throwing a 42-yard pass to S.J. Green in the end zone just over four minutes into the final quarter to bring the Alouettes within two.
A penalty brought the Alouettes into Winnipeg territory and Whyte kicked a 35-yard field goal to make it 34-33. He made another at 13:19 and capped the scoring on a punt single for a 38-33 lead.
This was the second game but also the official opening for the new $200-million stadium on the campus of the University of Manitoba. The Bombers played their first exhibition game there June 12.