The week prior to the Alouettes – Argos Eastern Finals was filled with the usual trash talking back and forth. It started with Montreal linebacker Diamond Ferri firing the first salvo with his statement that the defence was going to go after Argo quarterback Cleo Lemon. Now on the surface that seems innocent enough as it is the strategy of all teams to go after the opposing team's quarterback. Somehow it was taken personally by the Toronto team and running back Cory Boyd fired back that the Als would have to come through him to get to Lemon. Let the games begin. Those two comments began a back and forth that Als running back Avon Colbourne and Adriano Belli (former Alouettes player) of the Argos joined in. Despite the fact that this was the number one ranked team in the East versus a team with only a .500 record (Toronto was 9-9 this season) it looked like it could be a war with all the animosity. Fans, on either side, must have been hoping for a good old Montreal-Toronto donnybrook.
Well, that hope only lasted about 9 minutes into the 1st quarter as the Alouettes, led by their superior quarterback Anthony Cavillo, already were up 17-0 very early. For all essential purposes the game was over. The Als offence was clicking and the defence was getting to Lemon forcing him to rush his passes or picking himself up off the field turf and they were also stopping the Argos number one offensive weapon, running back Cory Boyd. The romp was on and 58,021 were enjoying it.
On their very first offensive foray the Alouettes marched down the field, but could not punch the ball in so they had to settle for a David Duval 32 yard field goal. Then the Als quick strike offence did what it is known for with two quick touchdowns. At the 6:36 mark Cavillo hooked up with wide receiver Jamel Richardson on a beautiful 53 yard touchdown bomb. That was quickly followed two minutes later by an 85 yard punt return by Tim Maypray. It was essentially game over at this point.
Argo kicker Noel Prefontaine put his team on the board finally in the 2nd quarter with a 32 yard field goal. Answering back powerfully and loudly, the Alouettes then had a 10 play, 79 yard drive that ended with a 1 yard touchdown by back up quarterback Adrian McPherson. Prefontaine and Duval then traded field goals to end the first half 24-6 in favour of Montreal.
The Alouettes then were in cruise control mode for the rest of the game with running back Cobourne getting plenty of work. He responded by having a career game of 163 rushing yards. Those yards included a 22 yard rumble into the end zone in the 3rd quarter to make the score 34-6.
Calvillo hooked up one more time in the 4th quarter with Richardson on a short pass and long run that ended up being a 44 yard touchdown.
In mop up duty Adrian McPherson came in for Calvillo with just over 5 minutes remaining in the game and Dalton Bell came in for Lemon. McPherson directed a drive that stalled on the Toronto 1 yard line. After the change of possession due to downs Bell gave it right back to the Als by throwing a ball that was intercepted by Jerald Brown, who scampered into the Toronto end zone from 10 yards out. Bell connected with Jermaine Copeland for the team's only touchdown in the final minute of the game to make it 48-17.
It was not that surprising that the Alouettes were able to win the game, but what was surprising was the fact that they had their way with the Argonaut defence. The pride of the Toronto team is their defence. All we saw on this day from the Argonauts defence was blown coverage, missed tackles and guys out of position. After collectively shooting their mouths off all week the Toronto team was shooting blanks defensively in this game.
The Alouettes came up with a good game plan offensively and it seemed to have the Argos off balanced all day. They started off with an aerial attack, then switched to a pounding running game and when Toronto put an extra man up front to stop the running game, Cavillo then switched to screens, swings and little dink passes to his running backs.
The offence could not take up the challenge either as Lemon was often running for his life. Lemon was never allowed to get into any kind of rhythm and Toronto coach Jim Barker seemed hesitant to go to his backups as an option. Star running back Boyd was held to almost no gain every time he touched the ball. Suffering plenty of punishment when he did get the ball, Boyd was banged up and finally had to leave the game permanently in the 4th quarter due to injury. The Alouettes even took kick returner Chad Owens out of the equation by simply refusing to kick to him. This was a game of total domination by a team that is more talented at every position that the Toronto side.
The only bad news for the Alouettes in this game was that safety Mathieu Proulx hurt his knee in the second quarter and came out on crutches to watch the rest of the game. An MRI will be done on Monday to see if he can play on Sunday. Cornerback Mark Estelle also suffered a bruise on his leg, but he said he will be fine for the Grey Cup.
The Alouettes are off to play in the Grey Cup game for the third year in a row and eighth trip since 2000 (do I hear any mumblings about dynasty?). There they will face off against the very team they defeated in last year's game. The Saskatchewan Roughriders defeated the Calgary Stampeders by a much closer 16-10 score to advance. Will the Roughriders and their vaunted Canadian Air Force (wide receivers Andy Fantuz, Chris Getzlaf, Cary Koch) be able to exact revenge for the Alouettes last second victory of last year? We shall see as the game in Edmonton next Sunday should be a more entertaining (and close) one than the Eastern Finals was.
-Quarterback Stats: Montreal: Anthony Calvillo: 19 for 26, 336 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, Toronto: Cleo Lemon: 11 for 21, 169 passing yards, 2 interceptions, Montreal: Anthony McPherson: 1 rushing touchdown, Toronto: Dalton Bell: 4 for 8, 71 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception
-Passing Yards: Montreal – Avon Colbourne: 4 catches/53 yards, Montreal – Jamel Richardson: 5 catches/153 yards, Kerry Watkins: 4 catches/80 yards, Ben Cahoon: 3 catches/ 24 yards, SJ Green: 1 catch/10 yards, Brian Bratton: 1 catch/9 yards, Darren Diedrick: 1 catch/5 yards, Toronto – Jermaine Copeland: 5 catches/77 yards, Reggie McNeal: 3 catches/83 yards, Spencer Watt: 3 catches/36 yards, Dwayne Wright: 2 catches/9 yards, Andre Durie: 1 catch/25 yards, Chad Owens: 1 catch/10 yards
-Rushing Yards: Montreal – Avon Colbourne: 17 carries/ 163 yards, Darren Diedrick: 8 carries/42 yards, Anthony Calvillo: 3 carries/16 yards, Adrian McPherson: 2 carries/2 yards, Brian Bratton: 1 carry/11 yards, Toronto – Cory Boyd: 8 carries – 43 yards, Cleo Lemon: 2 carries/11 yards, Andre Durie: 1 carry/8 yards, Dwayne Wright: 1 carry/5 yards
-Total Yards: Montreal: 569
-Field Goals: Montreal: 2
-Sacks: Montreal: 5
-Turnovers: Montreal: 3
-Final Score: Montreal: 48