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From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
DATE & TIME: Thursday, July 4, 7 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: Trying to live up to the excitement of the season opener last week might be tough, but Winnipeg and Montreal will give it a shot when the two teams clash for the second time in as many weeks, this time at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium on Thursday night.
Last Thursday, these two teams kicked off the 2013 campaign against each other, with Montreal responding late in the contest in order to secure a 38-33 victory on the road. Less than five minutes into the first quarter, the Als owned a 14-0 lead over Winnipeg which was opening a new stadium, but Montreal needed to rally with 14 unanswered points in the final frame to come away with the victory, the first for new head coach Dan Hawkins in his CFL debut.
One would think that with 38 points scored that Anthony Calvillo, the league's all-time leading passer, would have had a huge game, but in truth he completed 20-of-35 passes for 264 yards and just a single touchdown. Calvillo, who also had one pass intercepted on a deflection, was sacked four times which prevented him from getting into a rhythm.
S.J. Green had a strong effort for the Als as he reeled in five passes for 119 yards and a major, while running back Noel Devine carried the ball 12 times for 58 yards and Chris Jennings scored the first points of the night on a three-yard run early in the first quarter.
Devine was filling the void left by an injured Brandon Whitaker, the team's top rusher from a year ago (656 yards, four TDs), who is still not yet confirmed for action this time around either.
Special teams were also clutch for Montreal as Tyron Carrier returned a punt 78 yards for a score in the first quarter, and kicker Sean Whyte knocked through all five of his field goal attempts and finished with 18 points.
The Montreal defense also got in on the act as the unit registered three interceptions and forced five turnovers by Winnipeg overall.
The Blue Bombers, who opened Investors Group Field on a sour note, saw quarterback Buck Pierce hobble on more than one occasion, the signal-caller connecting on 19-of-34 pass attempts for 258 yards and a couple of majors. However Pierce, who lost significant weight since last season, tossed three picks and was sacked three times, in addition to being hit several times at the end of plays.
Chris Matthews, who was questionable due to an ankle injury, stepped up with a team-best four catches for 41 yards and a score, his touchdown coming late in the first quarter on a short three-yard toss.
Winnipeg had 20 fewer offensive snaps than the Als, and gained a mere 38 rushing yards on 10 attempts, but still the hosts took the lead in the second half when they outscored Montreal by a 20-1 margin in the third period. Unfortunately, the Bombers failed to show up in the final frame, squandering an opportunity to get the season off on the right foot.
A major concern for Winnipeg moving forward has to be the team's inability to run the ball. Last season, the squad was in the middle of the pack with 106.8 ypg on the ground, but still finished last in rushing TDs with just 33. Then again, the Blue Bombers were also last in passing TDs (16) and were the lowest-scoring club in the CFL with only 20.9 ppg.
Montreal, which was tied for the most TDs scored in 2012 (51), is a team driven by Calvillo almost exclusively and why would you expect anything else from the most successful quarterback in the history of professional football? Having players like Green and Jamel Richardson, not to mention Arland Bruce this year, to throw to sometimes makes the job that much easier for Calvillo.
Dating back to 1946 and only taking into consideration meetings that have taken place during the regular season, Montreal now owns a record of 46-36-2 versus the Bombers following last week's triumph. Winnipeg had won back-to- back decisions against the Als prior to opening up the 2013 campaign.
The next time these clubs clash will be the second week of October, right back here in Montreal.
Based on the action from last week, clearly both of these teams have issues to clean up on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, each also has positive aspects as well, although Calvillo and the Als are a bit more polished and experienced.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montreal 33, Winnipeg 24
07/03 11:03:17 ET