Riders top Alouettes in defensive showdown

MONTREAL — On the night where legendary defensive lineman John Bowman was honoured, the Montreal Alouettes and Saskatchewan Roughriders fittingly engaged in a defensive battle.

The fans at Molson Stadium went home unhappy, though, as the Riders ground a normally potent Alouettes’ offence to a halt in a 19-14 win. The Riders claimed a spot in the post-season with the victory and built some momentum, after topping Calgary at McMahon Stadium a week ago.

Cody Fajardo made 14-25 passes for 158 yards and rushed for 46 more and William Powell added a touchdown on the ground.

Trevor Harris made his debut with the Alouettes, after being traded by the Edmonton Elks on Oct. 17. He was 12-15 for 123 yards with a touchdown in about 15 minutes’ worth of work. Matthew Shiltz started and made 7-13 passes for 106 yards with an interception. He was pulled in favour of Harris at the end of the third quarter.

William Stanback had 19 carries for 80 yards for the Als.

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Montreal kicker David Cote opened the scoring at 7:07 of the first quarter with a 36-yard field goal and the two teams’ defences got to work. By the opening minute of the second quarter, Fajardo had been sacked for the third time. Near the 12-minute mark of the second quarter, the Riders registered their fourth sack of the game, when Pete Robertson brought Shiltz to the turf.

The Riders’ defence forced the first turnover of the game. Defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy jumped in front of a Shiltz pass and returned it 37 yards to midfield. Fajardo took the offence back out for an inspired seven-play, 57-yard drive that saw running back William Powell rumble into the end zone from three yards out with just 47 seconds left in the half. Brett Lauther‘s convert made it a 7-3 Saskatchewan advantage that the Riders took into the third quarter.

Lauther and the Riders tacked on another field goal in the third quarter made it 10-7 at 7:58 of the third, before the Riders’ d-line came through with a turnover two minutes later. The Als were stuffed on a short-yardage third-down attempt, giving Saskatchewan possession at Montreal’s 29-yard line. That turnover led to another Lauther field goal, this one from 36 yards out to push the score to 13-3.

After an Alouettes’ interception was called back, head coach Khari Jones opted to go with the freshly-acquired Trevor Harris, who made a pair plays to open the fourth quarter. Unable to get the ball into the end zone, the Als settled on a Cote 45-yard field goal that made it a 13-6 game.

Lauther struck again at 3:08 of the fourth from 41 yards to make it a 10-point Riders’ lead. Joseph Zima’s 67-yard single made it a nine-point affair, but Saskatchewan’s defence continued to dig its heels in. Harris was sacked by Robertson in a third-and-two, forcing a turnover on downs and getting Fajardo and the offence back on the field.

Montreal’s frustration only grew when returner Martese Jackson was injured in the fourth quarter and left the game, cutting his impressive Alouettes’ debut short.

Down nine inside the final three minutes of play, Harris led what might have been the Alouettes’ best offensive drive of the night. Normally a pocket-bound passer, Harris scrambled his way up the field and got the Als to the Riders’ five-yard line. On second-down, Harris found Eugene Lewis for a touchdown with just 87 seconds left in the game. Cote’s convert made it a 16-14 game.

The Alouettes’ onside kick attempt was foiled by Riders’ receiver Duke Williams, who made an athletic pay to get the ball and ran it to Montreal’s 16-yard line. That led to a 32-yard field goal from Lauther, giving the Riders a five-point lead with 52 seconds left.

Harris led the Als to midfield, but he met the Riders’ d-line, which sacked him out of field goal range. Harris threw an incompletion for a turnover on downs, the team’s fourth turnover of the night.

The Riders are off to Edmonton next, facing the Elks on Friday. The Als face the league’s top team next week when they travel to Winnipeg to face the Blue Bombers on Saturday.

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