MONTREAL – Brian Bratton sacrificed for an 8-yard touchdown just before halftime which was enough to lift the Montreal Alouettes over the Saskatchewan Roughriders 28-17 at Percival Molson Stadium Sunday afternoon.
Sunday’s matchup marked somewhat of a teacher versus student scenario as the veteran Anthony Calvillo led the Alouettes against a Roughriders squad with Drew Willy behind centre, making his first career start.
Willy got the call following two weeks where he completed 25 of 33 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns in relief efforts as he filled in for Darian Durant.
Calvillo and the Alouettes made sure that Willy would immediately start with a deficit, engineering an 8-play, 74-yard drive capped off by a Brandon Whitaker 3-yard touchdown. The Als tailback set up his own major by turning a crossing route outside for a 34-yard gain, setting his time up inside the opposition’s five yard line.
The score was Montreal’s first points of any kind in over three quarters after being shutout for the majority of their meeting last week in BC, dropping their lone visit to Vancouver 43-10.
It also signified the first offensive major score that the Roughriders had surrendered in 176 minutes after taking two straight contests versus the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Willy would take the field and engineer a solid first series on the strength of Kory Sheets’ rushing attack, setting up a 48-yard Sandro DeAngelis field goal to cut Montreal’s early lead to 7-3.
The Als would extend their lead to 11 on the next possession when Calvillo spearheaded a 6-play, 81-yard drive with backup QB Adrian McPherson adding a 1-yard touchdown out of the short yardage package.
The Als defence started to get after the Riders’ starter forcing two punts, led by Kenny Ingram who sacked the signal-caller.
Montreal seemed poised to strike again, driving into the redzone on the heels of a circus SJ Green catch down the sideline but Calvillo was flushed out of the pocket and had the football punched loose by LB Sam Hurl and recovered by DL Terrius George.
The Als would take the ball right back two plays later though, when DB Wopamo Osaisai jarred the ball free from Taj Smtih who came across the formation and made a catch before the rookie Montreal defender hit the ball with his helmet. It was recovered by Alouettes’ DL Ventrell Jenkins as the Als scrimmaged from the Riders 34 yard line.
They would come away with just a single point as Sean Whyte’s 48-yard field goal attempt was deflected at the line and traveled through the back of the endzone for a single point and a 15-3 lead.
DeAngelis would help chip away at the lead by knocking through a 46-yard field goal to cut the lead to nine.
The Alouettes would strike once more before the half was over after forcing Willy to concede a 14-yard loss. Receiver Brian Bratton gave Montreal a 21-6 lead heading into halftime with an 8-yard touchdown catch. He was hit hard on the play and was slow to get off the field after taking a big hit from a Saskatchewan defender.
Whitaker, who helped set up the major with a big gain out of the backfiled finished the first two frames with a combined 130 yards from scrimmage, while Calvillo had 235 yards passing heading to the break.
Willy finished his first half as a starter 10 of 14 for 79 yards but was sacked three times.
Veteran outduels rookie
Although Anthony Calvillo won the game, he and Drew Willy were not that far off on the stats sheet. Willy completed 22 of 34 passes for 225 yards and 1 touchdown in his first start. Calvillo, meanwhile finished with 266 yards and 1 touchdown on 14 of 27 passing.
The Riders claimed the first score of the second half, when Chris Milo boomed a punt that bounced out of bounds and set the Als offence underneath the shadows of their own goal posts, forcing Whyte to concede a safety.
With the wind staring them down, Whyte conceded another safety on the Alouettes’ ensuing possession, cutting their lead to 22-10.
Working with a short field, DeAngelis missed a 46-yard field goal but lost the field position battle when it sailed wide right and was returned by Whitaker out to his 42 yard line.
DeAngelis would miss again from 43-yards out with the wind at his back on the next series but the Riders would finally put a major score on the board when Willy made an off-balance throw while being flushed from the pocket and found Sheets for a 33-yard touchdown. It was Sheets’ 10th of the year as the Riders pulled within 22-17.
With momentum seemingly going in Saskatchewan’s direction the Als, Montreal would lose their most dangerous offensive weapon thus far when Whitaker went down with what appeared to be a right knee injury and left the game with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game. Victor Anderson took over at the tailback spot. The Alouettes already lost Bratton for the day earlier in the contest.
Willy and the Riders took over, getting one first down before the pivot threw an errant toss into the waiting arms of Montreal defensive back Seth Williams who returned the interception to the Saskatchewan 21 yard line before being pushed out of bounds.
A penalty on the return would force the Als back but they would convert on a 34-yard field goal make it an 8-point game.
The Riders had an opportunity to tie the game with just under 5 minutes left with a touchdown and two-point conversion but a Willy pass tipped off the hands of an intended target and landed into the arms of safety Kyries Hebert.
Despite being shutdown for the majority of the second half, Calvillo and the Als would put the game out of reach when Whyte made good on a 41-yard field goal attempt to take a 28-17 lead.
Next Week for Montreal: The Als host their third home game in four weeks as they welcome the Toronto Argonauts for the second time this year as the two battle for positioning atop the East Division. BUY TICKETS.
Next Week for Saskatchewan: The Riders return home after two weeks on the road to host the surging Calgary Stampeders led by Kevin Glenn. BUY TICKETS.