MONTREAL — With stars of the past like Ben Cahoon and Uzooma Okeke in the house, the Montreal Alouettes looked a little like the CFL East powerhouse they used to be.
Jonathan Crompton, who is starting to find his range at quarterback, threw touchdown passes to James Rodgers and Duran Carter as the Alouettes ended the injury depleted Calgary Stampeders’ six-game winning run with a 31-15 victory in the Hall of Fame game on Sunday.
The victory allowed Montreal (4-8) to keep pace with Hamilton and Toronto atop the woeful CFL East Division with four wins.
“The race is tight, but we have to focus on ourselves,” said Crompton, now 3-1 as a starter, including 3-0 at home, since taking over from injured Troy Smith. “We control our own destiny.”
Crompton completed 20 of 28 passes for 220 yards and two TDs, and wasn’t intercepted. It was perhaps Montreal’s best game of the season. They had no turnovers, took only five penalties and dominated time of possession at 36:54
“It comes with game experience,” Carter said of Crompton. “Working with us, throwing with us, and getting in a groove. We didn’t have a whole training camp to work with him. Now, we’re just scratching the surface on what we can do.
“We feel we’re a good team and our record doesn’t show it. It’s our first time playing a complete football game. We’ve got a lot of talent and, when we play a good game, this is what happens.”
Back-up quarterback Tanner Marsh also ran in a TD and Sean Whyte booted three field goals.
Drew Tate, starting for the injured Bo Levi Mitchell, ran in a pair of TDs for Calgary (10-2).
Calgary was also without star running back Jon Cornish, top receiver Marquay McDaniel and rush end Charleston Hughes. All four were hurt in a comeback win last week over Toronto.
The Stamps erased a 15-1 Montreal lead to tie the game early in the second half, but the offence stalled and then coughed up turnovers on three consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter.
Tate went 15-for-30 for 152 yards and was picked off once.
“Drew was like the rest of the team, he needs to play better,” said Stampeders coach John Hufnagel.
“I’m not pinning anything on Drew, but on offence, we needed to do a lot of things better.
“It was a combination of Montreal playing good defence and us not doing the things we need to do.”
As for the injuries to key players, Hufnagel said: “We’re not going to use that as an excuse. We needed to make plays with the people that were here.”
In Cornish’s absence, Canadian Matt Walter rushed 13 times for an impressive 88 yards.
The Stampeders ended a string of nine straight wins over Eastern teams. It was their first loss in six away games this season.
The game featured a halftime presentation of the seven new members of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, with the biggest cheers for ex-Alouettes Cahoon, Okeke and Wally Buono (now GM in B.C.), as well as Charles Roberts, Neil Lumsden, Moe Racine and former university coach Larry Haylor. They were inducted at a Saturday night gala.
The Alouettes took a 15-8 halftime lead, but were up against a team that roared back after a weak first half last week against Toronto.
After a scoreless first quarter, Marsh scored from the one after Crompton’s 22-yard completion to Carter highlighted a nine-play 65-yard drive 1:06 into the second.
The teams exchanged punt singles before another drive ended with Rodgers’ 18-yard catch-and-run TD at 10:20.
Tate found his passing range on the final drive of the half, and finished it himself with a one-yard plunge at 14:37.
Calgary tied it on their first possession of the second half, as a 39-yard strike to Maurice Price set up Tate’s six-yard TD score on a quarterback draw.
Crompton answered with a pair of scoring drives, one ending with an 18-yard Whyte field goal late in the third quarter and the other on Carter’s 10-yard catch over the middle 3:21 into the fourth.
Geoff Tisdale’s interception set up Whyte’s 34-yard kick at 7:07. Walter fumbled on Calgary’s next possession and Whyte was good from 27 yards. Then Tate fumbled. Alan-Michael Cash recovered both loose balls.
Montreal’s defence was smarting from a loss last week in Edmonton in which it gave up 200 yards in the fourth quarter to waste a lead. Cash said they were determined not to let it happen again.
“It was a statement,” said Cash. “We watched film of the last game.
“We know we didn’t perform in the fourth and we wanted to come out and do all we could not to blow it again.”
The team has a short turnaround before a game Friday night against the expansion Redblacks in Ottawa.
The Stampeders return home to face B.C., the only other team to beat them this season, losing 25-24 to the Lions in Calgary on Aug. 1.