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CFL Preview - Montreal Alouettes (2-4) at Saskatchewan (5-1)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Saturday, August 17, 4:00 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: No longer the last undefeated team in the CFL, the Saskatchewan Roughriders turn their attention to handling the visiting Montreal Alouettes on Saturday afternoon.

Up until last Friday night Saskatchewan was riding high as the only team in the league without a defeat, but conference foe Calgary took care of that at home with a convincing 42-27 win, avenging a loss to the Riders during the second week of the campaign.

Saskatchewan trailed by a 16-0 margin in the second quarter and was never able to fully recover, even though the Roughriders actually outscored Calgary by a point the rest of the way. Quarterback Darian Durant was finally charged with his first turnover of the season (a fumble), yet still converted 20-of-32 passing for 278 yards and three touchdowns. Durant was credited with 32 rushing yards, but was also sacked four times.

Kory Sheets continued his pursuit of the record books as he gained 133 yards on 14 rushing attempts, but that was still second to Calgary rusher Jon Cornish, who carried the ball 16 times for 175 yards and four touchdowns.

Chris Getzlaf caught three passes from Durant, two of which put the receiver into the end zone.

Saskatchewan, now tied with Calgary for the top spot in the Western Division with a 5-1 record, was troubled by a weak run defense, turnovers and far too many penalties, a total of 10 flags that set the team back 116 yards.

As for the Alouettes, they began life without Dan Hawkins at the helm last Thursday night with a loss to Toronto, a 38-13 defeat at home. Montreal is now just 1-3 in front of the hometown crowd, while being outscored by an average of nine points per contest.

Now under the direction of Jim Popp, who has taken over for Hawkins and still serves as the club's VP, GM & Director of Football Operations and Player Personnel, the Als stumbled out of the gate against the Argonauts and struggled right up until the fourth quarter, with a mere three points over the course of three periods of play.

Quarterback Anthony Calvillo completed just 16 of his 30 pass attempts, leading to 202 yards and a touchdown, a 48-yard connection with Brandon London 34 seconds into the fourth quarter. Calvillo, who watched Tanner Marsh take a couple of snaps and complete both of his passes for 33 yards, was sacked once and had a pass picked off in yet another disappointing outcome.

Jerome Messam managed to gain a game-leading 90 yards on 14 rushing attempts, but even that effort was overshadowed by the fact that Montreal lost five fumbles and watched as former Alouette Chad Owens brought back a missed field goal for a thrilling 118-yard touchdown.

Not only was the game the first for the Alouettes without Hawkins this season, it also marked the first game for Calvillo without receiver Jamel Richardson who has been put on the nine-game injured list.

Tied with Hamilton for second place in the East Division standings, the Alouettes are a shell of their former selves, to the point where Calvillo is completing just 59 percent of his passes and has almost as many interceptions (five) as he does TDs (six). The league's all-time leading passer in several categories is in rare territory at the moment, saddled with an efficiency rating of only 78.3.

To put that last number in perspective, Calvillo, now in his 20th season in the CFL, has had just one campaign since 1998 where his efficiency rating has dipped below 93.6. Losing Richardson, a receiver with at least 1,000 yards in each of the last five seasons, is going to force Calvillo to extend himself even more.

While Calvillo and the Als try to sort out their issues, Durant and the Riders don't have such problems, especially with the signal-caller having tossed a league-high 15 TDs and still without a single INT over 139 attempts. Durant's impressive start is one thing, but add to that the performance of Sheets, now with six straight 100-yard rushing games, and the Roughriders seem like a nearly unbeatable force.

Despite reaching the end zone just four times on 132 carries, Sheets is by far the top rusher in the league at the moment with 845 yards, keeping his eye on the single-season CFL record set by Mike Pringle at 2,065 yards with Montreal back in 1998.

Since 2004, the Als have won 11 of the 18 meetings between the clubs, including two straight stemming from a 2012 sweep. Montreal captured a 28-17 win at home last September and then a little over a month later delivered a 34-28 triumph on the road as well.

With respect to the all-time series, taking into account only regular-season matchups dating back to 1961, Montreal holds a 37-28-1 advantage over the Riders.

As much as the Alouettes try to fix what's broken right now, the truth of the matter is they have lost a number of valuable players to injury and Calvillo is no longer a spry, youthful quarterback who can make big plays under pressure. Expect to see the Riders respond to their first loss of the season in a big way and take care of the Als with little trouble this week.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 35, Montreal 21

08/14 15:45:44 ET

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