Right from the get-go, the Alouettes saw what kind of night they were in for – and it wasn’t good.
Noel Devine’s fumble on the opening kickoff set the tone for a night of turnovers as the Alouettes fell 38-13 to the Toronto Argonauts on Thursday night at Molson Stadium. The loss dropped Montreal’s record to 2-4 on the season and 1-3 at home for the first time since returning to the CFL in 1996.
The Argonauts capitalized with an offensive touchdown on a short offensive following the turnover, one of six the Alouettes – several by Devine – would commit.
“We haven't been helping our defence out. We just can't do that,” Anthony Calvillo said of the turnovers. “Here we are trying to get things turned around and we fumble on the first play of the game and all of sudden they go up. We've got to do a better job taking care of the ball – no matter if it's special teams or offence.”
Toronto closed out the first quarter with a 21-0 lead, all three touchdowns coming off a Montreal turnover.
“You can't turn the ball over four times, dig a hole like that and get way behind. It changes the whole game plan,” explained general manager and interim head coach Jim Popp, making his return to the sidelines after firing Dan Hawkins a week ago.
Ball security has been an issue with Devine this season. Against the Stampeders in Calgary in Week 4, the second-year Alouette was closing in on the end zone as he ran a kick return back when Calgary defensive back Fred Bennett punched the ball out of Devine’s hands. Had he struck for the touchdown, the Alouettes would have gone ahead on the scoreboard. Instead, the Stampeders recovered and drove down the field to extend their lead.
While Devine sat out some punt returns against the Argonauts, he wasn’t glued to the bench, returning to the field several times. And despite a rough night, the 25-year-old hasn’t lost his spot on the roster just yet.
“We have other options if we decide to go that route,” Popp said of potentially replacing Devine on returns. “That's something we're discussing. It was even part of the discussions going into this week.”
There may not be a choice but to make a change, however, after Devine was injured late in the game. Ankle and wrist, according to Popp.
The second half offered an inkling of hope offensively, the Alouettes showing more consistency in sustaining drives. But still, they managed only one touchdown in the fourth quarter to go with another field goal.
“We've got to go look at the tape on Sunday but I still think everybody competed,” said receiver Brandon London, who picked up the Alouettes’ lone major. “We messed up; we turned the ball over six times. You'll never win the game like that.
“We just got put in a hole and it's hard to call plays when you're down 28 already. We've just got to take what we take from this game and move on.”
And move on quick, a visit to Saskatchewan to face the unbeaten (heading into their game against Calgary) Roughriders looming large next Saturday.
Notes: The Argonauts’ first series touchdown marked the first time this season that the Alouettes have given up points on their opponent’s opening drive. … Calvillo’s strike to London extended the quarterback’s streak to 23 games with at least one touchdown pass. … Calvillo surpassed 300 yards against Toronto for the ninth time in his last 10 games against the Argonauts. … Toronto has now won four of its last eight games in Montreal, including last season’s East Division Final.