CFL Preview - Winnipeg (0-1) at Montreal (0-1)
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
DATE & TIME: Friday, July 6, 7:00 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: With the prospect of losing the first two games of the 2012 season
a reality for one team this week, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Montreal
Alouettes both try to put their best foot forward on Friday night at Stade
Winnipeg, which lost to British Columbia in the 99th Grey Cup last season at
BC Place, was back in the same building to kick off the new season last week
and unfortunately suffered a similar fate in a 33-16 setback to the Lions.
Taking a loss is tough enough, but losing a starting quarterback less than 30
minutes into the season might be even more troubling, and that was the case for
the Bombers and Buck Pierce.
Even though he finished with more interceptions (18) than passing touchdowns
(14) last season as he connected on 63.5 percent of his attempts, Pierce was
supposed to be the guy that the Blue Bombers were going to lean on all season
long. However, late in the second quarter against BC he suffered a lower-leg
injury and never returned.
Up until that point, Pierce had been largely ineffective as he completed just
three of his nine pass attempts for a total of 11 yards, while being sacked
four times. Backup Alex Brink came on and finished the night 14-of-26 for 121
yards and a couple of touchdowns, but by then the Lions were running on all
cylinders and were not going to be caught.
Pierce and Brink combined for 42 of their team's 72 rushing yards, but you can
be sure that head coach Paul LaPolice will try to keep his quarterback,
whomever that might be, out of harm's way for the time being.
It was assumed that even though Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo had not
played a significant role in the preseason games for the Alouettes, he would be
more than ready to get the regular season off on the right foot, but that
simply wasn't the case on Sunday. In fact, Calvillo connected on barely 50
percent (16-of-31) of his pass attempts and was limited to just 174 yards and
a single major, compared to a pair of interceptions as he and the Als were
dealt a 38-10 loss at Calgary.
Last season, Calvillo tossed a total of only eight picks and had more than one
in just a single game, so already he is having to dig himself out of a
Jamel Richardson, the league's leading receiver from a year ago after putting
up a staggering and career-best 112 catches for 1,777 yards and 11 touchdowns,
finished with five grabs for 78 yards versus Calgary. The lone major for the
Als in the opener came from Brian Bratton, who recorded two catches for 45
Working against the Alouettes as they get set to play their home opener is a
short week in terms of practice and preparation. Head coach Marc Trestman also
acknowledges that the roster is filled with new faces and they may take some
time to gel together, something that was evident in the season opener.
If anyone can get ready in time to play it is Calvillo who has seen it all
since joining the CFL's Las Vegas Posse back in 1994. It took a few years for
Calvillo to get his footing in the league, but since 2000 he has thrown for
less than 4,200 yards only twice. Granted, the league's all-time leader in
passing yards (73,586) and touchdowns (419) did complete just 61.8 percent of
his attempts a year ago, which was his lowest since 2003, but there is
something to be said for being able to place your confidence in a proven
winner and that's what the Als have going in their favor.
Dating back to 1946, and taking into account only regular season matchups,
Montreal currently owns a 43-34-2 edge in the series against the Bombers,
although Winnipeg has won two of the last three encounters, including a narrow
26-25 final in late October of last year.
The clubs have three more dates with each other remaining on the schedule
after this week, the next coming on August 3 in Winnipeg.
The last time the Alouettes opened the season with a loss on the road was two
years ago and the final result several months later was a win in the Grey Cup,
so maybe shaking off the rust here early on isn't such a bad thing for
Calvillo and Montreal.
Losing a game or two this early may not kill an entire season, but not knowing
what is going on with your quarterback is not how you want to be moving
forward, and that's where the Bombers are right now.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montreal 32, Winnipeg 17
07/04 11:35:52 ET
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