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CFL Preview - Toronto (3-2) at Montreal (2-3)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Thursday, August 8, 7:30 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: The Dan Hawkins experiment in Montreal lasted all of five games, and now the Alouettes head into Week 7 of the 2013 campaign with general manager Jim Popp taking to the sidelines when the team hosts the Toronto Argonauts on Thursday night.

Hawkins, who previously coached at the college level with Boise State and Colorado, saw the Als turn in just two wins in five tries during his brief tenure and even though the squad posted a 32-27 victory over Edmonton in their most recent outing on July 25 and three of his players were selected for a weekly CFL award after Week 5 action concluded, it still was not enough to keep Hawkins from being cut loose.

Hawkins, who most recently spent time as an analyst after departing Boulder, took over the Als in February, taking the spot vacated by Marc Trestman who was hired away by the NFL's Chicago Bears.

It is not uncommon in the CFL to see a general manager take over as a head coach and with nearly two decades with the club it makes sense that, at least for the time being, Popp is again filling the position. For Popp, this marks the third time he has taken over as head coach for Montreal, the other two instances coming in 2001 when he replaced Rod Rust and five years later following Don Matthews.

Overall, Popp has a regular season record of 10-13 and is 1-3 in the postseason.

More news to come out of Montreal since the last time the Als actually played a game was delivered on Aug. 2 when it was announced that linebacker Jordan Verdone was placed on the nine-game injured list after sustaining a knee injury against Edmonton the last time out.

Even worse was the announcement that came three days later when the team lost slotback Jamel Richardson for the remainder of the season after suffering a torn LCL and ACL in his left knee during Sunday's practice. Richardson, who has led the team in receiving yards in three of the last five seasons, has totaled 197 yards receiving on 18 receptions this year.

But back to the Alouettes on the football field.

The club snapped a three-game slide late last month with their five-point victory over the Eskimos, thanks in large part to the efforts of running back Brandon Whitaker who gained a game-high 162 yards and scored once on 24 carries, while Edmonton as a group produced just 69 rushing yards in the affair.

Anthony Calvillo converted 19-of-29 passes for 202 yards and another major, his scoring pass going to S.J. Green for six yards in the first quarter as the team built up a 20-6 halftime advantage and then held on down the stretch.

Named the CFL Special Teams Player of the Week, kicker Sean Whyte hit all six of his field goal attempts and finished with 20 points overall for the Alouettes.

On the other side of the ball, Kyries Hebert was named the league's defensive player of the week after registering 10 total tackles, including two sacks, while Shea Emry logged a pair of interceptions in order to earn Canadian Player of the Week honors.

While the Als cornered the market on off-the-field news after five weeks of play, Toronto probably had the story of the week when, even with a backup quarterback and running back, the Argos completely dominated the visiting British Columbia Lions last Tuesday night by a final of 38-12 at Rogers Centre.

With signal-caller Ricky Ray on the shelf with an injury and Chad Kackert joining him in civilian clothes on the sidelines, Toronto inserted Zach Collaros under center and lined up Curtis Steele behind him and the squad didn't miss a beat. In fact, Toronto was one point shy of matching its season- high for points while also holding a foe to a season-low.

Collaros, making his first CFL start, missed on just four of his 25 pass attempts, leading to 253 yards and three touchdowns. The young quarterback was sacked twice and did lose a fumble, but overall his performance was very strong. Giving Collaros even more reason to feel comfortable in the pocket was Steele who ran the ball 12 times for 74 yards and two scores, adding a team- best five receptions for another 35 yards.

All-everything performer Chad Owens caught four passes for 47 yards, but accounted for just 54 yards on punt/kick returns. The top offensive force in the league for the last several years, through five weeks of play Owens led the CFL in combined yards with 907 and was tops with 39 receptions for 427 yards, but he's only made it into the end zone once on those catches.

While everyone on the defensive side of the ball for the Als will be trying to slow down Owens, the sprite Hawaiian will have to keep tabs on where linebacker Kyries Hebert is lining up after being recognized as the top defender in the league for the month of July. Hebert enters August having logged seven sacks already and 31 stops overall. But, in addition to Hebert, Montreal also has Chip Cox who owned the most tackles in the league after five games with 39, almost half of his entire total from a year ago (82).

In 2012, the Argos won the first meeting between the squads by a score of 23-20 on the road in late July, but Montreal responded by posting victories in both September (31-10) at home and then three weeks later at Rogers Centre (24-12), which means the all-time series now numbers 108-83-3 in favor of Montreal and taking into consideration only games played during the regular season dating back to 1946.

The teams are set to face off against each other at least three more times this season, with back-to-back matchups taking place during a five-day span in early September. In Week 19 Toronto will host the Als in the regular-season finale as well.

With lackluster play and now injuries piling up all around the Alouettes, to expect the home team to survive this or almost any other meeting is a huge stretch.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 27, Montreal 18

08/07 10:32:19 ET

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