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CFL Preview - British Columbia (5-2) at Montreal (2-5)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Thursday, August 22, 7:30 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: The 2013 campaign continues to slip away from the Montreal Alouettes, but the squad still needs to suit up to battle the Lions of British Columbia on Thursday night at Molson Stadium.

Since winning the season opener by a mere five points against Winnipeg at home (38-33), Montreal has been spinning out of control. On the field, the squad has lost five of the last six contests and fired first-year head coach Dan Hawkins, replacing him with Jim Popp a few weeks back.

Last weekend, the Als dropped to just 2-5 on the campaign as they bowed to Saskatchewan on the road, 24-21, in the final seconds. However, perhaps more important than another tally in the loss column, Montreal also lost the services of quarterback Anthony Calvillo who suffered a head injury. Calvillo, who converted 4-of-8 passes for 85 yards, with a long of 74 yards going to SJ Green before giving way to Josh Neiswander, continues to be evaluated for possibly suiting up this week.

Neiswander stepped in and converted just 12-of-30 passes for 147 yards and was picked off twice as the offense again struggled for the Alouettes. Montreal scored only one touchdown in the matchup on a 54-yard fumble return by Jerald Brown in the fourth quarter.

The Als also hurt themselves with a total of 11 penalties (101 yards), which means they have now been flagged a total of 76 times through seven games.

If Calvillo is unable to go, coach Popp says the team could trot out Neiswander or Tanner Marsh, but as of Tuesday afternoon there was still no definitive answer as to which route the Als planned to take.

Coincidentally, Montreal just last week signed former Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith.

Unfortunately, it appears as though the Als might have to make some other changes to their roster after Jonathan Beaulieu-Richard (ankle), Martin Bedard (shoulder), Josh Bourke (knee), Mike Edem (shoulder), Kyries Hebert (knee), Brandon London (head) and Bryn Roy (knee) all suffered injuries versus the Roughriders as well.

On a more positive note, linebacker Marc-Olivier Brouilette was named the CFL's Canadian Player of the Week after posting two sacks and forcing a pair of fumbles versus Saskatchewan.

While Montreal sits third in the East Division standings, ahead of only the Blue Bombers who have just a single victory in seven tries, the Lions are still very much in the hunt over in the West Division where a 5-2 mark has them tied with Calgary for second place, behind Saskatchewan (6-1).

After scoring 21 points in the first half versus Calgary last week, the Lions were limited to only five points through the final 30 minutes of action at home. Luckily the squad held the visitors to just six points, enough of a margin to give BC a 26-22 triumph. The win was the team's second in a row and the fifth in six games.

BC quarterback Travis Lulay started off well enough for the Lions as he tossed a 40-yard touchdown to Andrew Harris in the first quarter to kick off the game's scoring, but he ended up with just that single major through the air and tossed three interceptions. Lulay ended up 16-of-28 for 223 yards, while Thomas DeMarco used his lone rushing attempt to record a one-yard TD in the second for the group as well.

A huge play for the Lions, who suited up in commemorative uniforms as they celebrated their 60th anniversary, came following the first score by Calgary as Tim Brown fielded the ensuing kickoff and raced 97 yards to the end zone.

Harris posted not only 56 yards to lead the Lions on the ground versus Calgary, he also caught three passes for a team-best 61 yards as well. Coming out of the backfield, Harris continues to be one of the most productive players in the league, placing third in yards from scrimmage with 765 yards after seven games.

With 515 yards on 96 rushing attempts, Harris is third on that particular list as well at this point in the campaign. His efforts have taken some of the pressure off Lulay who is currently in the middle of the pack when it comes to total passing yards (1,691) and is tied for third in passing touchdowns (11). Unfortunately, because of several misfires last week, Lulay now has the most interceptions of any signal-caller in the league with seven.

After two decades, Calvillo is showing signs of breaking down, something that started before the 2013 campaign even began, but has been magnified due to the squad's inability to land in the win column these days. Calvillo's efficiency rating of 78.7 is dismal when compared to what he is accustomed to putting up. Montreal as a team is last in the league with just 1.502 passing yards, has one more INT (seven) than passing score and has the second-lowest efficiency rating (72.7) after seven games.

Adding to the woes of the Alouettes is a laundry list of other injuries, most notably that of receiver Jamel Richardson who has been one of Calvillo's favorite targets over the last several seasons.

Tracing back to 2004, the Lions own an 11-7 advantage in the series with Montreal, claiming victory in the most recent encounter last September by a score of 43-10 at home. The teams are slated to meet each other one more time during the regular season on Sept. 15 during Week 12 action in Vancouver.

Even if the Alouettes do get Calvillo back on the field on Thursday night, there's no telling how he will perform and how much pressure he will be under when the British Columbia defense goes on the attack. Calvillo could give the home team a fighting chance, but with the Lions trying to remain in contention in their division, this is the sort of game that they cannot take lightly.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: British Columbia 35, Montreal 17

08/21 10:39:04 ET

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