MONTREAL – Anyone who thought the Montreal Alouettes would let up because they already had first place clinched in the CFL East Division were badly mistaken.
Jamel Richardson caught three touchdown passes and Andrew Hawkins grabbed the first of his career as the Alouettes pounded the punchless Calgary Stampeders 32-11 Monday afternoon for their fifth consecutive victory.
Montreal (12-2) won both games this season against the Stampeders (8-6) after losing to them at Olympic Stadium in the Grey Cup game last November to post a 6-2 record against West Division teams.
“We’re not letting up anything,” said rush end Anwar Stewart, whose team clinched a bye to the East final with a win last week in Toronto. “We feel we still haven’t played our best game.
“We want to get better and better. We’re not sitting anybody out. The coaches are serious about that. We prepare every week the same.”
Sandro DeAngelis booted three field goals and punter Burke Dales had a pair of singles for Calgary (8-6), now tied with the Saskatchewan Roughriders for first place in the West. The Stamps play host to the Roughriders on Saturday and face them again to close out the regular season on Nov. 7.
The Stampeders went a second straight game without scoring a touchdown, although they beat Hamilton 15-14 last week without one. They have not scored a TD in nine quarters since Jeremaine Copeland’s catch at 10:24 of the third quarter of a 27-18 win over B.C. on Sept. 25.
“This is the first time since we’ve all been together that we’ve dealt with something like this,” said Calgary quarterback Henry Burris. “It’s a new challenge for us that we have to take head on.
“We have to figure a way out of this fast because we’ve got a big game against Saskatchewan in Calgary. We know what we’re capable of, but now we’re up against a different monster. But we’re going to be fine. We’ll get it done.”
As Burris spoke to reporters, tension on the club was evident as a shoving and shouting match broke out at the back of the cramped visitors dressing room at Percival Molson Stadium, mainly involving defensive back Brandon Browner and running back Tayo Johnson, but order was quickly restored.
The story line going into the game was that Montreal was vulnerable because it could afford to lose, while Calgary needed the win to stay on top of a tight West Division.
But the Alouettes, perhaps looking to make a statement against the defending league champions, showed from the opening kickoff they were ready to play hard.
The defence held the Stamps to only 59 yards on the ground, including 43 on 11 carries by Joffrey Reynolds, although Burris ended a run of three games with fewer than 200 yards passing with 228 on 16 completions. But Burris was also sacked twice and threw two interceptions to Jerald Brown.
“The guys want to play football – you saw that today,” said coach Marc Trestman. “We want to find out what kind of team we have and the only way to do that is to play the game each week.
“That’s what we’re encouraging each other to do – not get caught up in anything else but preparation, work ethic, focus and then having fun playing football.”
As they did in a 40-27 win at Calgary in the opening week of the season, Montreal scored on the first drive of the game as Brian Bratton’s 47-yard one-handed catch on the first play from scrimmage was followed six plays later by Anthony Calvillo’s three-yard TD toss to Richardson.
Brown’s interception on Calgary’s first play from scrimmage then led to a punt single by Damon Duval.
Burris did not complete a pass until late in the first quarter. The Stamps moved the ball better in the second, but settled for three field goals and a single.
Late in the half, a 45-yard run by Dahrran Diedrick set up another three-yard TD catch by Richardson and on Montreal’s next possession, Calvillo found Richardson at the back of the end zone with a 25-yard pass.
Early in the four quarter, the Stamps tried their second fake punt of the game, both direct snaps to Wes Lysack. The first one worked, but Lysack was stuffed on the next to turn the ball over on downs. With a 15-yard roughing penalty, it gave Montreal the ball on the Calgary 15.
Calvillo found Hawkins with a six-yard TD pass and a 29-11 lead. Brown picked off another Burris pass on Calgary’s next possession, setting up Duval’s 12-yard field goal.
That brought quarterback Drew Tate in for his first game action with Calgary and he turned the ball over on downs twice. Back-up Adrian McPherson mopped up for Montreal and there were shoving matches on the field as he threw into the end zone and made a play instead of kicking on a third down even though the win was out of reach for Calgary.
When asked about it, Burris just said: “Well see them on November 29th.”
That is the date of the Grey Cup game, which this year is in Calgary.
Calvillo defended his young understudy.
“As a backup, Adrian’s going to go out and make his reads,” he said. “He has to get his work in and that’s where the read took him.”
To underline the woes of the Calgary offence, receiver Nik Lewis was wide open in the third quarter with a clear path to the Alouettes end zone, but lost the ball in the bright sunlight and couldn’t make the catch. The Stamps’ top receiver was Romby Bryant, with 118 yards on six catches.
Montreal tailback Avon Cobourne sat out with a groin problem, but Brandon Whitaker stepped up with 90 yards on 17 carries in his first CFL start.
Calvillo threw for 289 yards on 26 receptions and no interceptions. The offensive line did not concede a sack after Calvillo went down four times last week.
A problem for Montreal was the 13 penalties they took.
“We probably had more penalties today than we’ve had in the last month,” said Trestman. “We have to do a better job of that, and we will.”
Richardson’s TDs gave him eight for the season. He led the CFL with 16 in 2008.
“I’m not worried about that at all,” he said. “It’s a long season and we’ve got a lot of weapons here. As long as my teammates pick it up and make things happen, it’s all good to me.”
Stewart’s sack in the first half put him past Elfrid Payton with a Montreal team-record 53 in his career.
Slotback Ben Cahoon got the eight yards he needed to pass former Roughrider Donald Narcisse for sixth place all time in career receiving yards. Narcisse had 12,366.