On his 40th birthday, Anthony Calvillo found some youth in his legs.
The Alouettes’ quarterback ran 17 yards in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, the start of a drive that ended with Sean Whyte’s 37-yard, last-second field goal to give Montreal a 31-29 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Thursday night at Molson Stadium.
“Early in the game I wasn’t running, there weren’t guys open and I was just throwing the ball away,” Calvillo said. “I felt in the second half if I had a chance, especially in the fourth quarter, I told myself I was going to go.
“Whatever you can do to pick up first downs, that’s what it’s all about. It just happened to be on that last drive.”
It was a turnaround from the Alouettes’ last home outing back on July 27, when they trailed Toronto by three in the late stages of the game. A stalled drive forced Whyte to attempt a 54-yarder, which he missed, sending Montreal off without any points.
“It’s huge for me. It’s a huge confidence builder. I trust those guys around me so much,” said Whyte, who was carried around the field by his teammates after the kick. “We all fought hard tonight.”
The Alouettes (5-3) spent much of the night playing catch-up, with their first lead of the night coming late in the third quarter. It would be short-lived, erased by none other than former Alouette Avon Cobourne – making his first start of the season – early in the fourth.
It was the only offensive touchdown the Tiger-Cats would get, Montreal’s defence continuing to show signs of coming together after a rough start. The other strike came when Chris Williams ran a Whyte punt 70 yards into the end zone. It was Williams’ fifth kick return of the season, tying him with Henry “Gizmo” Williams (1991) for the CFL record.
Kicker Luca Congi provided the rest of the scoring for Hamilton (3-5), which has now dropped three straight.
“It was a great team win for us, no doubt about it,” coach Marc Trestman said. “We didn’t come together until the second half and we started to look like the football team that we can become.”
The final 30 minutes haven’t always been kind to the Alouettes. And prior to Thursday’s tilt, the team hadn’t yet pulled out a win this season when trailing at halftime.
But on this night, they found a way, outscoring the Tiger-Cats 23-16 in the second half. This despite not having receiver Jamel Richardson (sidelined with an injury) for a second straight week and losing receiver Brandon London early in the third quarter with a knee sprain.
“That’s good for us. We haven’t really done that since the Calgary game here,” Trestman noted. “There were a lot of good signs. We did some good things; some young guys played a lot of plays tonight, we had some guys get dinged up, guys had to replace other guys and step in. Just a really good, complete team win.”
The Alouettes are known for their complex offensive playbook. That’s what makes the effort all the more noteworthy.
“You’ve got to give them a lot of credit for being locked into our game plan and knowing who they have to back up. That’s what it takes,” said Calvillo, whose second quarter strike to S.J. Green moved him past Warren Moon into second place on pro football’s all-time touchdown passing list. “It’s those little things of not only memorizing the plays that you know you’re the primary guy but also where you have to be a backup.”
Defensive back Jerald Brown got the crowd roaring with his interception early in the third quarter. But it was free safety Kyries Hebert who made the most noise on that play, delivering a punishing hit on Hamilton slotback Onrea Jones.
“We beat a very good football team tonight,” Trestman said. “It said a lot about where we are right now.”
They’ll find out even more when they host the defending Grey Cup champion and league-leading B.C. Lions a week from Friday.