October 10, 2011

Preview: Calvillo aims to set passing record


MONTREAL — On the brink of making CFL history yet again, Anthony Calvillo would rather play football than talk about breaking records.

But on Monday, the Alouettes quarterback will need just 258 yards passing against the Toronto Argonauts to break Damon Allen’s all-time record of 72,381 yards. It would mark the third time this season Calvillo has broken one of Allen’s career marks, the previous two also coming against the Argos.

Allen is expected to be on hand at Percival Molson Stadium, along with CFL commissioner Mark Cohon, to honour Calvillo should he achieve the milestone.

”I’m honestly not paying attention to it at all,” Calvillo said Saturday. ”I’ve had my mind ready for it this year because I don’t want it to distract how I prepare.

”I’ll just react to what happens on that field at that time, but I’m trying not to think about it.”

If Calvillo breaks Allen’s career passing yards record, he’d be the second player this weekend to eclipse a league mark. On Saturday night, B.C. Lions kicker Paul McCallum connected on his first three attempts to push his consecutive field goals streak to 30, eclipsing the previous best of 28 set in ’93 by Saskatchewan’s Dave Ridgway.

And for dramatic affect, after having his streak snapped McCallum connected from 53 yards out on the final play of the game to earn the Lions a 33-31 win over the Calgary Stampeders.

More important for Alouettes (8-5) is they’d clinch a playoff spot for the 16th straight year with a win while also eliminating= Toronto (3-10) from post-season contention.

Calvillo has certainly had Toronto’s number this season.

On July 17, Calvillo threw two TD passes in a 40-17 home win over Toronto to break Allen’s all-time record of 394 and currently has 414. Then on Aug. 4 in a 36-23 defeat of Toronto at Rogers Centre, Calvillo registered his 5,159th completion to surpass Allen in that category as well.

But Allen’s passing yards record is the most prestigious of the three. Calvillo has averaged 305 yards passing per game this season and will face the CFL’s worst pass defence so chances are good he’ll surpass Allen on Monday if he stays healthy.

Calvillo will make his 300th career appearance in an illustrious CFL career that began in 1994 with the defunct Las Vegas Posse and included three stormy seasons in Hamilton before being released and ultimately landing in Montreal in ’98 as understudy to Tracy Ham.

Calvillo took over as the starter two years later and has led
Montreal to three Grey Cup victories _ including the last two
straight _ and received three outstanding player awards over that

Last season when former Montreal slotback Ben Cahoon set a CFL record for career catches, the game was stopped to honour Cahoon’s accomplishment. The same is planned Monday should Calvillo break Allen’s mark, something the 39-year-old Los Angeles native grudgingly accepts.

”You have to roll with it,” he said. ”Whenever they’ve stopped games in the past, in the CFL or NFL, I’ve never liked it as a fan.

”Yes it’s important, but let’s move on and celebrate later. It’s hard to enjoy the moment on the field. But it’s something that I enjoyed definitely when the game was over.”

Calvillo’s new favourite target is slotback Jamel Richardson, the CFL’s leading receiver with 83 catches for 1,318 yards. His other slotback, S.J. Green, is fourth overall with 893 receiving yards and gunning for a first 1,000-yard campaign.

”It’d be a blessing for me to catch that (record-setting) ball, to be part of something great,” said Richardson, who added the Alouettes receivers are not making bets on who make the historic catch.

”We don’t want to jinx each other. If we bet, then no one will catch it and it’ll go on to next week. We just want to win the game.”

That’s been the message from coach Marc Trestman, who said pondering records only takes concentration away from the job at hand, which is to win and keep pace with first-place Winnipeg (league-best 9-5 record).

”It hasn’t been a focal point or discussion at all,” said Trestman. ”It has nothing to do with winning or losing the game.

”We go about our business each day and when these things happen, they happen. And we take the time when the time is right to celebrate them.”

Still, veteran rush end Anwar Stewart, who was sent in a few times as a receiver earlier in his career, joked he’d like to make the catch.

”It would be nice if they put me in the game at around 255 yards and let me catch a 10-yard pass,” he said. ”That would be cool.

”But I’m excited for him. When he gets this, I’m sure they’ll stop play, so I’ll go jump on a bike and root him on from there so my old bones don’t stiffen up on me.”

Toronto’s Chad Owens is also chasing a CFL record but likely will have to wait for his date with destiny.

The speedy kick returner needs 529 combined yards to become the first player ever to reach the 3,000-yard plateau two straight seasons. The Hawaiian would become only the second player to top 3,000 twice in a career, after former Argo Mike (Pinball) Clemons. Owens had 3,288 combined yards in 2010.

Special teams has been one of the few bright spots of late for Toronto, which has gone two games without scoring a touchdown.

With Stephen Jyles now starting at quarterback after Cleo Lemon was released at midseason, the Argos have a two-pronged run threat with tailback Cory Boyd.

But they will be up against a defence that has allowed league lows of 71 overall first downs and 82.5 yards rushing per game. The Montreal line is coming off a game-winning goal-line stand in Winnipeg in which they stuffed the Bombers twice from the one-yard line in the final eight seconds to preserve a 32-26 victory.

”I can’t say it was season-defining, but it showed we had the will and the fight to pull it off at the end,” said defensive end John Bowman. ”That’s a sign of a true champion.

“That’s just what we do around here.”

There was concern Montreal kicker Sean Whyte would have to sit out with an injury but Trestman said he was ready to do. Defensive back Dwight Anderson is out and Canadian Paul Waldu is to make a rare start, alternating with import Greg Laybourn.