Roughriders bust up Calvillo, Alouettes
Greg Marshall earned his first win as a CFL head coach in impressive fashion, beating the defending Grey Cup champions in their own stadium.
Marshall's Saskatchewan Roughriders picked up their first victory of the season on Sunday night with a 27-24 decision against a Montreal Alouettes team that was missing starting quarterback Anthony Calvillo for two and half quarters with an eye injury.
"It feels pretty good," Marshall said. "To come in here and get a win against these guys ... we just hung in there and battled.
"Taking Anthony out of the game was a big play for us. It slowed their offence down, but our defence was playing well even when Anthony was in the game. We felt good coming in here for whatever reason, and our guys played their butts off. I got the ball, but I wish I had one for everyone. They all deserved it."
Weston Dressler and Wes Cates scored touchdowns and Eddie Johnson went 4-for-5 on field goals for the Roughriders (1-3).
Backup quarterback Adrian McPherson scored twice and threw a TD pass to Brian Bratton for Montreal (3-1), which hopes to have Calvillo back for a tough test Friday night in Hamilton.
The Riders led 14-7 midway through the second quarter when a rushed Calvillo was taken down by former Alouette Dario Romero while throwing an interception to linebacker Sean Lucas.
The 18-year veteran who is chasing a few of Damon Allen's all-time passing records, said he suffered blurred vision in his right eye on the play, even though he was wasn't poked in the eye.
He was to go to hospital to have the eye examined after the game.
"I don't think it was [a poke]," he said. "I've been poked before.
"It was just a weird feeling. The trainer said it was similar to a time last year when I came off the field and I couldn't see. It may be related to that. I couldn't see. Since then, it's a whole lot better but it's not 100 per cent."
Romero denied doing anything shady to cause an eye injury. The burly tackle had a straight path to the quarterback on the play.
"It was just a play action to the right and I just guessed right," said Romero. "I had a free run to the quarterback. He hung in the pocket to try to get one off and I got a great hit on him.
"I thought it might have been a rib or something like that. I do hope he's OK though."
Dejected Montreal centre Luc Brodeur-Jourdain took the blame, saying it took only a moment's hesitation to let Romero go by. The Montreal line was also missing its regular left tackle Josh Bourque to injury, with import Jeraill McCuller playing his first CFL game.
"It's one isolated play — you turn around and you feel it's your fault and it is," said Brodeur-Jourdain.
With McPherson behind centre, the Montreal offence all but stalled for more than two quarters. But the crowd of 24,434 was on its feet as he led a late drive capped by a nine-yard TD pass to Bratton that closed the gap to seven points with 4:11 left to play.
The Riders looked to have put the win away with 1:21 left when Johnson booted his fourth field goal from 36 yards to give Saskatchewan a 27-17 lead, but it only set the stage for a wild ending.
After James Patrick intercepted a McPherson pass that deflected off two players in the Riders' end zone, Hugh Charles fumbled on the next play and Montreal's Billy Parker ran it to the seven yard-line.
McPherson scrambled into the end zone from there for his second touchdown of the night.
Montreal tried to recover a short kickoff, but it failed.
"I felt OK," said the lanky McPherson, who usually only plays on third-and-short plays. "Early on I felt I was trying to place the ball too much. I'm just disappointed that we didn't get the win. We had opportunities out there. A couple of throws I could have made better."
McPherson, who had scored a touchdown on a one-yard plunge before the Calvillo injury, ended the game completing 12 of 19 passes for 98 yards, while Calvillo was 7-for-14 for 91 yards.
The Montreal defence held the home side in the game, as Durant was only 14-for-20 for 177 yards, although he also rushed for 71.
Sean Whyte opened the scoring with a Montreal field goal five minutes in, but Johnson matched that moments later. A Johnson single on a missed 34-yard attempt gave the Riders their first lead of the season at 13:47.
Calvillo didn't look sharp before the injury, at one point throwing five straight incompletions, but a pass to S.J. Green to the Riders' one yard line set up McPherson's touchdown 6:18 into the second quarter for a brief 10-7 lead.
One play after the ensuing kickoff, Darian Durant found Dressler alone for a 75-yard touchdown pass.
The Lucas interception set up a 10-yard Johnson field goal.
Durant marched the Riders 73 yards to open the second half and Cates capped it with a one-yard TD plunge.
McPherson answered with a drive to the Saskatchewan 24 yard line, but Montreal turned the ball over on downs after trying a pass to S.J. Green on a third-and-three. That ended up being the margin of defeat, but coach Marc Trestman said he had no misgivings about going for it while trailing by 14 points at the time.
Durant also left the game briefly after he was shaken up during a 22-yard run to the Montreal four yard-line in the second quarter.
Ryan Dinwiddie was unable to punch the ball in as the Riders settled for a field goal. Durant was back for the next series.
Saskatchewan linebacker Chris Graham left in the second quarter with what looked like a serious ankle injury suffered in kickoff coverage. Marshall said the injury did not appear to be as bad as it looked at the time.
Riders guard Gene Makowsky played his 270th career game, one fewer than Roger Aldag's club record.