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EDMONTON — A brilliant first half performance by Anthony Calvillo supported by an admirable debut by running back Victor Anderson vaulted the Alouettes to a 38-25 road win over the Edmonton Eskimos, Friday night at Commonwealth Stadium.
Calvillo connected on 22 of his 32 passes for 327 yards and a season-high four touchdowns, while Anderson registered 102 yards on 18 carries, in addition to 32 yards and a touchdown through the air in relief for injured starting tailback Brandon Whitaker, giving the Als their fourth win of the season.
Both teams entered tonight’s game with some new faces on their respective offences.
For the Eskimos, running back Cory Boyd was making his highly anticipated debut in Green and Gold. The 26-year-old import was shockingly released by the Argonauts last Sunday, and was promptly scooped up by the Eskimos less than 24 hours later.
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Montreal, meanwhile, waltzed into Edmonton without two of their most dangerous weapons, as in addition to Whitaker remaining in Montreal, slotback Jamel Richardson was also kept out of the game with an injury..
Whitaker continues to suffer from a rib injury that he sustained two weeks ago against Winnipeg, while Richardson left practice on Wednesday with a hamstring injury.
However, even without Richardson and Whitaker, the Als were still fully capable of moving the ball at a dangerous clip.
Playing in just his second career game, Anderson shouldered some of the load on the team’s opening drive, carrying the ball twice for a combined 13 yards.
But, as usual, it was Calvillo who was moving the ball almost willingly, connecting on all four of his passes for 53 yards on his first drive, the last of which found the hands of rookie Patrick Lavoie for a 14-yard touchdown.
Calvillo would eventually cool down on his next drive, as he was intercepted by Edmonton linebacker J.C. Sherritt on his seventh pass of the game, which also marked AC’s first incompletion.
But the Esks would be unable to take advantage of the turnover, as QB Steven Jyles handed the ball right back to the Als, as he saw his deep pass intercepted by Montreal DB Kyries Hebert.
After Alouettes kicker Sean Whyte was forced to punt it away on Montreal’s ensuing possession, Boyd finally made his on-field debut, carrying the ball for a three-yard loss.
On the Als’ ensuing drive, Calvillo, seemingly unfazed by his earlier interception, made quick work of the usually stingy Edmonton defence.
Equipped with good field position thanks to a botched punt attempt by Esks kicker Burke Dales, Calvillo needed just one pass to find the endzone, connecting with Bratton for a 30-yard score, extending Montreal’s lead to 14 in the process.
Calvillo’s strong night would continue on Montreal’s very next drive, as he hooked up with Anderson for a 21-yard catch-and-run score.
The major marked the second touchdown in as many outings for Anderson, who finished the first half with an impressive 51 yards on 10 carries, as well as 28 more yards on two receptions.
But the man of the half hour was Calvillo, who continued to put together a vintage performance throughout the first two quarters. The 19-year veteran would lead the Als to yet another score with time winding down in the half, as he led a six-play, 80-yard drive that was ultimately capped off by a one-yard plunge into the endzone by backup QB Adrian McPherson.
However, the Eskimos would finally get on the board, as Dales’ punt sailed into the endzone for a single point with 3:52 left in the second quarter.
The single seemed to give the Eskimos a much-needed boost.
Down 28-1 with less than three minutes remaining in the half, Jyles and the Edmonton offence would put together an impressive late drive, as they hoped to begin chipping away at Montreal’s big lead.
With only 4 carries under his belt heading into tonight’s game, Victor Anderson did everything he was asked of and more as Brandon Whitaker’s replacement, rushing for 102 yards, while also registering a receiving TD.
Two completed pass by Jyles, aided by two 15-yard penalties by the Alouettes – the first a roughing the passer call on Mike Lockley, the second a pass interference flag on Billy Parker – would lead the drive to the Montreal one-yard line.
On the very next play following Parker’s penalty, backup QB Kerry Joseph would punch one in to cut the Als’ comanding lead to 20 points.
The Alouettes carried over their first half dominance into the second, as the defence swarmed Jyles and the Esks offence on the half’s opening drive, highlighted by a two-yard sack by former Eskimo linebacker Rod Davis.
On Montreal’s next drive, they would continue to pad their lead, with kicker Sean Whyte getting in on the action with a 27-yard field goal.
For much of the season, the Alouettes have received hefty criticism for their lackluster defensive performances.
However, Friday night saw a different Als unit. Defensive coordinator Jeff Reinebold’s unit limited Jyles to a mere 173 yards and one touchdown, registering a season-high five sacks as well.
After Edmonton cut Montreal’s lead to 20 thanks to a 40-yard field goal by Grant Shaw, the Alouettes offence struck again.
First, Calvillo completed a 62-yard strike to receiver SJ Green, bringing the drive inside the Edmonton 15-yard line. Green then followed up his big grab with a 13-yard reception in the endzone for his second touchdown of the season, extending Montreal’s lead to 27.
The Eskimos, however, would not go down without a fight. With the fourth quarter barely underway, the Esks defence began showing its true colours, as defensive back Rod Williams picked up Edmonton’s second interception of the night, returning it 22 yards inside Montreal’s 35-yard line.
Three plays later, Jyles would cap off a quick drive with a quick 13-yard strike to receiver Greg Carr – his first major of the season.
Shortly after the offence managed to cut into Montreal’s lead, the special teams unit decided to get in on the action as well.
After Calvillo and the Als offence played to a two-and-out, Clint Kent managed to get a hand on Whyte’s offering, and also managed to scoop up the loose ball and return it 17 yards to the house, cutting Montreal’s lead to 13.
The Esks attempted a two-point conversion, but Matt Carter was unable to haul in a pass from Joseph.
However, it was a classic case of too little, too late for the Eskimos, as the Alouettes defence was able to contain the Edmonton offence from that point on, securing their fourth win of the season in the process.
Prior to Friday night’s clash, Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed announced that Boyd would likely see between 10-15 touches – whether it be on the ground of through the air.
But Boyd managed to register just three total touches – two runs and one reception – for a combined nine yards. Edmonton’s starting tailback, Hugh Charle collected 37 yards on seven carries of his own.
Without Richardson in the lineup, Calvillo looked towards two other big men in Green and Brandon London, who hauled in a combined 227 yards on 14 receptions.