REGINA – It wasn’t pretty but, at this point, the Alouettes are hardly looking for style or artistic points.
Montreal won its first game of the season — and, in the process, ended a 13-game losing streak dating back to Aug. 19 — defeating the Saskatchewan Roughriders, 23-17, Saturday night before a capacity crowd of 33,350 at Mosaic Stadium.
Both teams have 1-2 records.
It also marked the Als’ first road victory since the 2016 season finale at Hamilton. Montreal went 0-9 last season.
But the victory might have come at a heavy cost. Both quarterback Drew Willy and offensive-tackle Phil Blake suffered undisclosed second-half injuries.Related
The Riders designated the game to Humboldt Strong in honour of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team that was involved in the tragic bus accident last April that left 16 members of the Broncos dead.
More than 200 people associated with the team attended the game, which began with a video tribute before the opening kickoff. White ribbons were painted on the 29-yard lines in honour of the 29 passengers that were seated on the bus that day. As well, all Canadian Football League teams wore Humboldt Strong decals on their helmets during games this week.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie was part of the ceremonies along with Broncos president Kevin Garinger.
The game began with Als receiver Ernest Jackson dropping a pass on Montreal’s opening series. On the Riders’ first play from scrimmage — and with Canadian Brandon Bridge at quarterback for the injured Zach Collaros — tailback Marcus Thigpen dropped what most certainly would have been a touchdown reception since he was behind the Montreal defenders.
Willy connected with B.J. Cunningham on a 48-yard pass on the Als’ next possession to the Saskatchewan 17, but the visitors failed to generate another first down. They settled for Boris Bede’s 17-yard field goal at 5:04, taking a 3-0 lead.
On the final play of the opening quarter, Bridge’s pass for Naaman Roosevelt was slightly high and was intercepted by linebacker Branden Dozier, who returned it 63 yards to the Riders’ 37.
But on the opening play of the second period, Willy was hit by Willie Jefferson and fumbled. The ball was recovered by Tobi Antigha, but Saskatchewan couldn’t capitalize on the turnover and failed to produce a first down.
The home team tied the score, 3-3, on Brett Lauther’s 39-yard field goal at 10:18, but the Als rebounded nicely on their next possession.
Willy isolated Chris Williams on boundary cornerback Duron Carter, who normally plays receiver, and the two connected on a 79-yard touchdown pass at 11:35, providing Montreal with a 10-3 lead.
Two plays later, Bridge’s pass for Roosevelt was intercepted by Jermaine Robinson at the Saskatchewan 51.
Bede ended the first half with a 32-yard field goal on the final play, giving the Als a 13-3 lead at the intermission. It marked a season-high points production for the visitors.
Bridge was benched in favour of rookie David Watford to begin the second half.
On the Riders’ second series, Watford completed a 34-yard pass to Shaq Evans, then gained 15 yards on a quarterback sneak. Saskatchewan eventually advanced to the Als’ 14-yard line before beginning to self-destruct, taking a holding penalty and losing yards.
The Riders had to settle for Lauther’s 32-yard field goal at 5:57, narrowing the deficit to 13-6.
Blake was injured on the next series and didn’t return. He was replaced by Xavier Fulton. And Willy, who ran on both first and second down but failed to generate a first down, went to the Als’ dressing room following the series. He was replaced by Jeff Mathews.
A Joe Burnett interception led to a 38-yard field goal by Bede at 8:58 an a 16-6 lead. Burnett, the Als safety, was playing his first game of the season after being signed as a free-agent from Calgary last February. He missed the opening two games with a quad injury.
Montreal increased its lead to 17-6 on a 69-yard punt single by Bede but were undoubtedly hoping for more after Mathews passed 47 yards to Williams.
The Als went into the final quarter with an 11-point lead.
A long, 56-yard punt return by Saskatchewan’s Christion Jones to the Montreal 17 eventually led to a six-yard touchdown pass from Watford to Roosevelt three minutes into the quarter. Roosevelt beat defensive-back Dominique Ellis on the play.
The Riders attempted an unsuccessful two-point convert, meaning the Als continued to lead, 17-12.
The Als dodged a bullet following a fumble by tailback Tyrell Sutton. He attempted a spin move and was hit by Samuel Eguavoen, causing the turnover that was recovered by Jefferson deep in Montreal territory.
But the Riders couldn’t get into the end zone and settled for a 24-yard Lauther field goal at 6:16, making the score 17-15 for Montreal.
The Als increased their lead to 20-15 on Bede’s 22-yard field goal, his fourth of the game, at 10:17. He added a fifth, from 45 yards, at 12:16.
Montreal entertains the Ottawa Redblacks Friday night.
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