June 16, 2011

London Calling: Receiver delivers in Als win


MONTREAL — Brandon London has made a serious bid for a regular receiving job with the Montreal Alouettes.

The second-year wide receiver caught six passes for 145 yards and a touchdown as the Grey Cup champion Alouettes downed the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 27-15 in CFL pre-season action on Thursday night.

And while the six-foot-four London shone, so did five-foot-nine newcomer Bo Bowling with seven catches for 67 yards and a TD as three Alouettes quarterbacks went to the air in the first exhibition test for both teams.

Former Saskatchewan Roughrider Preachae Rodriguez and Canadian Eric Deslauriers also made some big catches to further intensify the battle.

“I’m not going to get into who the frontrunner is, it was easy to see what happened,” said coach Marc Trestman. “There were a lot of good plays and Brandon was just one of them. I thought a lot of guys stepped up.”

Emmanual Marc ran in a touchdown for Montreal.

Alex Henderson and Chris Garrett had rushing TDs for the Bombers, who are looking to bounce back from a 4-14 record in 2010.

Alouettes kicking candidates Sean Whyte, who missed on his only field goal attempt from 38 yards, and Sandro DeAngelis, who was good on his two attempts, each played half the game.

Both teams rested several veterans, including top quarterbacks Anthony Calvillo of Montreal and Buck Pierce of Winnipeg.

The result was that Montreal dominated through the air with 407 total passing yards but only 35 yards on the ground, while Winnipeg’s three pivots mustered only 179 passing yards but got 163 on the ground. Sixty-four of those came on one run by Henderson.

“They were loading the box,” Trestman said. “We didn’t get a lot of time to use our running backs because they were overloading, which is why you saw all the long balls and big plays – because there was nothing left inside.”

Adrian McPherson started for Montreal and Ricky Santos and newcomer Josh Neiswander also saw action at quarterback, while Joey Elliot played the first half and Alex Brink played most of the second for Winnipeg, giving way to Justin Goltz with less than three minutes left in the game.

Coach Paul LaPolice said Elliot and Brink, vying to become Pierce’s backup, both had their moments. And he saw good and bad in the team’s overall performance.

“In the first quarter when Montreal played more veteran players I thought we managed OK, but I didn’t like our overall execution,” he said. “I wish it could be better.

“They didn’t run a lot, but our front four played well. As a defence, we played physical. We were hitting them. Our special teams were physical. And we had a couple of nice runs offensively.”

McPherson played one quarter. After a Perry Floyd fumble of a punt was recovered by Walter Spencer on the Bomber nine, he hit Bowling for a pass and run TD 14:01 into the game.

Santos took over and completed long balls to Rodriguez and Deslauriers to the Winnipeg two, where Marc ran it in at 5:57.

Winnipeg struck back after punter Mike Renaud couldn’t handle a low snap from Pierre-Luc Labbe, filling in for the injured Chris Cvetkovic, and gave up the ball on downs.

Two plays later, Leslie Majors picked off a Santos pass. Henderson set up his own three-yard TD 1:36 before the half with a 64-yard scamper.

Another interception by Deon Beasley allowed Winnipeg to tie it. A nine-play drive aided by a pass interference call on Seth Williams saw Garrett run it in from the one 7:03 into the third.

Santos bounced right back as London got behind Johnny Sears for a 41-yard TD catch at 10:50.

Neiswander took over at quarterback for Montreal in the fourth quarter and moved the ball enough to set up a pair of DeAngelis field goals from 28 and 27 yards.

Brandon Whitaker, tabbed to replace Avon Cobourne at tailback, was minus-2 on three carries, while Yvenson Bernard got three yards on two carries.

With tailback Fred Reid not playing, Garrett and Henderson both ran the ball for Winnipeg. Henderson gained 81 yards on six attempts. And Floyd made up for his fumble by leading the team in receiving with three catches for 57 yards.

LaPolice said Cvetkovich strained a calf muscle early in the game and linebacker Henoc Muamba hurt a knee, although it was too early to assess if the injuries were serious. It was the same for Montreal’s Spencer, who injured an elbow.

The crowd was announced as a less-than-capacity 21,223.

Notes: New Als president Ray Lalonde is making his mark. The names of the eight players whose numbers are retired are now honoured on a banner running the length of the south grandstand. They are Herb Trawick (56), Sam Etcheverry (92), Hal Patterson (75), George Dixon (28), Pierre Desjardins (63), Peter Dalla Riva (74) Junior Ah You (77) and Mike Pringle (27). . . Ah You was supposed to attend the game as honorary captain, but wasn’t allowed onto his flight in Denver due to a typographical error on his passport.