Alouettes outlast Stampeders in opener
Calgarians hoped to see some Canada Day fireworks at a sold-out McMahon Stadium on Wednesday, and both the hometown Stampeders and Montreal Alouettes happily obliged.
Damon Duval tied a career high with six field goals and linebacker Chip Cox recovered a fumble and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown as the Alouettes beat the Stampeders 40-27 in a rematch of last year's Grey Cup.
Quarterback Henry Burris, the most outstanding player in Calgary's 22-14 Grey Cup triumph at Montreal, was stripped of the ball by Alouettes defensive tackle Keron Williams as he tried to pass.
Cox scooped up the loose ball and shed a couple of tacklers as he sped to the end zone to put the game out of reach.
"The knock on us last year was every time we came out West, we weren't going to get a victory," Duval said. "It is definitely a big start for our team."
Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo completed 24 of 32 pass attempts for 255 yards and one touchdown with one interception.
"On the road against an excellent opponent, we're excited about this win," he said. "They're the defending champs and we came here and got two points."
Calvillo, one of five quarterbacks in pro football history with more than 50,000 passing yards, is closing fast on a couple of career milestones.
Calvillo has thrown for 5,000 yards five times in the CFL, trailing only Doug Flutie's six, and needs five more TD passes to move past the late Ron Lancaster (333) into second place all-time behind Damon Allen (394).
Running back Avon Cobourne carried 19 times for 107 yards and one touchdown, while slotback Ben Cahoon had six receptions worth 65 yards.
"This game had so many series of events with both teams creating adversity for themselves and overcoming adversity," Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman said.
Calgary never led in the much-anticipated showdown, but rallied from a 20-point deficit in the second half to even proceedings at 27-27.
After Duval put Montreal ahead 33-27 in the fourth quarter with his fifth and sixth field goals, Burris engineered a lengthy drive to put Calgary in position to take the lead.
But Alouettes cornerback Mark Estelle picked off a looping pass from Burris in the end zone to negate the threat.
'We didn't go undefeated last year'
The Stampeders refused to fold, however, and blocked a punt inside Montreal's 30-yard line with less than four minutes left.
But the Burris fumble proved too much for them to overcome and Calgary suffered its first loss in seven games, dating back to last Oct. 3.
"If this isn't a wake-up call, I don't know what is," Burris said. "I know this team well; we will be fine.
"We didn't go undefeated last year. It is always good to have one of these early on just, so you can get things corrected."
Burris finished 17 of 33 for 247 yards and one touchdown with one interception.
Nik Lewis led all receivers with 87 yards, and rookie Titus Ryan electrified the crowd of 35,650 with a 104-yard kickoff return for a major in a losing cause for Calgary.
"Our coaches had six months of coming up with new plays and we ran some plays they had never seen before, which kind of got them off balance," Calvillo said. "We were able to move the ball enough to get some points.
"But we have to put a better job in that score zone. We have got to score more touchdowns than field goals."
Calvillo completed his first 15 passes of the contest — and the season — as Montreal stormed out front 20-0 Wednesday night.
Kerry Watkins opened the scoring 2:25 into the first quarter, hauling in Calvillo's 37-yard pass with one hand for a touchdown.
Cobourne's 10-yard TD romp upped it to 14-0, and Duval kicked field goals from 48 and 36 yards to make it 20-0 less than two minutes into the second quarter.
But Ryan sparked the comeback with a spectacular 104-yard TD return on the ensuing kickoff, and Burris eluded the rush long enough to sidearm a four-yard TD toss to a diving Jermaine Copeland at the pylon at 5:41.
Duval countered with field goals from 32 and 15 yards and an 87-yard single, but Stampeders kicker Sandro DeAngelis replied with a 34-yard field goal to trim it to 27-17.
Less than three minutes into the second half, Burris scampered seven yards into the end zone on an uncontested keeper to bring the Stampeders to within three points, and DeAngelis kicked a 41-yard field goal to knot it 27-27 with 4:06 left in the third.
With files from The Canadian Press