Eskimos looking to clinch playoff spot vs. Alouettes
No one on the Montreal Alouettes expects it quite so easy this time when they face the Edmonton Eskimos.
On Aug. 17, the Alouettes came out of a bye week to take a 28-0 lead in the second quarter in Edmonton before coasting to 38-25 win, cooling off an Eskimo squad that has started the CFL season at 4-2.
The Eskimos (7-9) visit Percival Molson Stadium on Sunday looking to clinch a playoff spot against the Alouettes, who have locked up first place in the East Division.
"Maybe the first time we played them they were 4-2 and they faced an Alouettes team that was 3-3 and had to have it," said Montreal coach Marc Trestman. "We can't show up like we did against Winnipeg [three weeks ago], without an edge, and allow someone to come into our house and do that.
"We have a lot of respect for that [Edmonton] team. They play extremely hard. And they've got to have it. It makes for an interesting game. We have to continue to improve and feel that we need to have it as well."
An Edmonton victory would ensure that there will be a crossover team — either the Eskimos or Saskatchewan — from the West in the East semifinal.
The Eskimos, with 39-year-old Kerry Joseph at quarterback, have lost four in a row in Montreal and are 3-7 there in their last 10 visits. They are 2-6 away from Commonwealth Stadium this season, while the Alouettes are 6-2 at home.
But although the Alouettes are coming off road victories in Toronto and Regina, they are looking to erase the memory of their last home game, when the Blue Bombers with third-stringer Joey Elliott at quarterback beat them 27-22.
Even though they've clinched top spot, quarterback Anthony Calvillo expects to play the full game, although he may get some rest for the season finale next week in Winnipeg. It's a situation the Alouettes have been in repeatedly over the past dozen years.
All-time passing leader
"I've always played the Week 17 game when we've clinched and I don't see that being any different this year," said Calvillo.
The CFL's all-time passing leader needs 239 passing yards to reach 5,000 for a record seventh time in his 19-year career.
He'll be up against an aggressive team on defence that leads the league with 25 interceptions and is second to Winnipeg with 14 fumble recoveries.
"They don't play a lot of coverages, but they're good at what they do," said Calvillo. "When you've got defensive linemen that can cause issues, it makes the quarterback throw the ball earlier.
"And they've got playmakers back there. We've got to make sure we take care of the ball. We know they create turnovers but it's not something we're going to think about. We're just going to try to protect the ball and get some touchdowns."
The Eskimos defence is led by linebacker J.C. Sherritt, who needs three tackles to pass the single season team record of 117 set in 1998 by Willie Pless. The league record of 129 was recorded in 1994 by Toronto's Calvin Tiggle.
Some major talent will be missing from the game.
Edmonton running back Hugh Charles will sit out with a knee problem, which opens the door for 2011 Outstanding Canadian Jerome Messam to move back in as the starter.
Montreal remains with it's starting tailback Brendon Whitaker and two of its top three receivers, Brandon London and S.J. Green, although Jamel Richardson has stepped up to his 2011 form with 270 receiving yards in his last two games.
The Alouettes dodged a bullet this week when the CFL fined, but didn't suspend, Canadian middle linebacker Shea Emry for his shot to the groin of Saskatchewan's Brendon Labatte. It was Emry's second foul of the season, but the Vancouver native says he won't make him alter his game.
"I just have to learn to manage my emotions in a more respectful way," he said. "It shouldn't be a problem."