MONTREAL — Anthony Calvillo celebrated his 40th birthday in style, orchestrating a last-minute drive that was capped off by a last-second 37-yard field goal by Sean Whyte, giving the Alouettes a 31-29 win over the Tiger-Cats on Thursday night.
Calvillo finished the night by completing 25 of his 36 passes for 329 yards and one touchdown, extending his streak of 300-yard passing games to a career-best seven.
The Als also received solid outings from both Brandon Whitaker and SJ Green.
Green stepped up in the absence of fellow slotback Jamel Richardson, hauling in 10 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown, while Whitaker shined in his return to game action, racking up 158 total yards, in addition to one touchdown.
Tonight’s matchup marked the second meeting of the season between the two clubs, with the Tiger-Cats notching a convincing 39-24 win at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Week 4. However, a lot has changed since that day in late July, as the Als and Ticats are now in a dogfight in a very tight East Division.
It also marked the return of Avon Cobourne to the gridiron. Cobourne had been pushed to the sidelines due to the strong play of fellow running back Chevon Walker, but was placed into the lineup after Walker suffered a minor injury during last week’s outing in Winnipeg.
After the Alouettes won the pre-game coin toss, ultimately opting to return the opening kickoff, Calvillo took to the field, hoping to extend Montreal’s win streak to three games.
But the 19-year veteran and his offence would be contained on Montreal’s first two drives of the game, playing to a pair of two-and-outs, with rWhitaker taking on a bulk of the load.
While the Als’ offence were looking to find their stride, Henry Burris and the Tiger-Cats offence enjoyed a relatively successful second possession, one that was eventually capped off with a 36-yard field goal by kicker Luca Congi.
The field goal was set up by a 32-yard reception by receiver Samuel Giguere, who was making his on-field professional debut in his home province, after spending his collegiate career with the Sherbrooke Vert et Or.
During last week’s loss to the Blue Bombers, the Ticats found themselves victimized by penalties – and that trend continued into tonight’s game, with the Black and Gold committing four penalties in the opening quarter alone.
The first quarter would come to a close with the Ticats leading 3-1, after Alouettes kicker Sean Whyte’s 50-yard punt sailed into the endzone for a single.
After a relatively quiet opening frame, the pace would pick up in a big way in the second.
After the Als were once again unable to generate any traction on offence, Whyte was forced to boot his fourth punt of the half from his own 20-yard line, allowing the always dangerous Chris Williams to corral the kick with plenty of room ahead of him.
The return marked Williams’ fifth kick return for a touchdown of the season, setting a new Tiger-Cats franchise record in the process. He would also tie Henry ‘Gizmo’ Williams for the most touchdown returns in a single season.
But the Alouettes would be quick to respond, as Calvillo took advantage of yet another penalty by the Tiger-Cats.
After Hamilton defensive back Carlos Thomas was called for pass interference on Montreal receiver Brian Bratton, Calvillo would take over with a fresh set of downs on the Tiger-Cats 10-yard line.
One play later, Calvillo connected with Green for a 10-yard score, cutting Hamilton’s lead to just two. The pass vaulted Calvillo above Warren Moon on pro football’s all-time touchdown pass list.
With the three-minute warning out of the way, the Tiger-Cats would finally benefit from a Montreal pass interference penalty, as Wopamo Osaisai was flagged for interfering with Giguere on a deep pass from Burris.
While the Ticats were unable to find the endzone, with Burris being sacked by Montreal’s Alan-Michael Cash on one play, followed by an unsuccessful QB draw on the other, Congi would connect on his second field goal of the game, this time splitting the uprights from 15 yards out.
The second half got underway with the Ticats hoping to increase their slim five point lead. Heading into tonight’s matchup, Hamilton had not won a regular season game in Montreal since Oct. 20, 2002.
However, the Tabbies would get off to a rocky start in the third quarter, with Burris being picked off by Alouettes defensive back Jerald Brown.
Whyte Walks Them Off
Als kicker Sean Whyte connected on three of his four field goals against the Ticats, but none more important than his boot with no time left, giving the Als a last-second win.
On the play, Alouettes safety Kyries Hebert placed a spectacular block on Tiger-Cats receiver Onrea Jones, allowing Brown to return the interception 24 yards into Hamilton territory.
But Montreal would be unable to find the endzone following the turnover, as they were forced to settle for another field goal by Whyte, cutting Hamilton’s lead to just two points in the process.
Hamilton would restore their five-point lead on their very next possession, with Congi connecting on his third field goal of the night, giving the Ticats a 16-11 lead in the process.
On Montreal’s next drive, the Als ran into some injury trouble, as Brandon London left the field after falling awkwardly to the turf on a tackle by Rey Williams.
But the absence of London would not affect Montreal’s rhythm on the drive, as Calvillo connected on a 39-yard pass to Green, bringing the Als well into Hamilton territory.
Green was also facemasked on the play by defensive back Matt Bucknor, giving Montreal even better field position with a fresh set of downs as well.
After Calvillo and Green hooked up yet again to bring the drive onto the Hamilton one-yard line, backup QB Adrian McPherson punched one into the endzone, giving the Als their first lead of the night.
Montreal’s lead was short-lived, however, as Jones returned to mark his revenge on the Als with a 37-yard grab that ultimately led to Congi’s fourth field goal of the night, giving the Tiger-Cats a slim 19-18 lead at the end of the fourth quarter.
Hamilton would eventually increase their lead early on the fourth quarter, as Cobourne would stick it to his former club in impressive fashion, rumbling 15 yards for a touchdown to give the Tiger-Cats a 26-18 lead.
In a matchup that was being billed as a quarterback duel, the play by Cobourne and Whitaker quickly shifted the focus to the tailbacks, especially following Whitaker’s answer to Cobourne on the very next drive.
Following another big reception by Green, Cobourne’s former understudy, Whitaker, would rumble five yards into the endzone, bringing the Als back within one of the the visiting squad.
Whitaker’s touchdown seemed to inject a surge of momentum in the Montreal defence, who proceeded to shut down Burris and the Ticat offence on their ensuing drive, paving the way for the Als offence to try and re-gain the lead.
And they would do just that.
Calvillo hit Green for another big gain, leading the way for Whyte to connect on another field goal, giving the Als a two-point lead.
However, with under three minutes remaining, Burris and the Ticat offence would embark on perhaps one last drive, as they tried to get themselves into field goal range to reclaim the lead yet again.
Burris would connect on three consecutive passes to Williams, Jones and Giguere, paving the way for Congi to connect on another field goal, this time from 47 yards out to give the Ticats a 29-28 lead.
Congi split the uprights with just over 80 seconds remaining in the game, allowing Calvillo plenty of time to try and set up Whyte for a game-winning field goal.
Seven plays later, Whyte would connect on a 37-yarder, giving the Als a late 31-29 win over the Ticats.
Next Week: The Alouettes will take on the BC Lions on Friday night to kickoff Labour Day Weekend. BUY TICKETS The Ticats will play host to the Toronto Argonauts on Monday for the annual Labour Day Classic. BUY TICKETS