It was a case of good news, and potentially very bad news for the Montreal Alouettes on Friday night.
The good was that Brandon Whitaker was a one-man wrecking crew, scoring three touchdowns as Montreal defeated the Edmonton Eskimos 34-21.
The bad was that they may have suffered a huge loss, as veteran quarterback Anthony Calvillo was knocked out of the game in the third quarter on a crushing hit.
With just seven seconds left in the third, most of the Alouettes players were on their knees offering up prayers as Calvillo looked to be badly injured following a massive hit by Marcus Howard after a fumble. Howard connected squarely with Calvillo's left shoulder and knocking the future Hall of Famer's head against the turf.
Although he remained on the Montreal bench, Calvillio was clearly dazed.
“That was the first time I have ever been completely knocked out,” Calvillo said. “I've had concussions before, but I have never been knocked out. That was a bit scary.
“I remember fumbling the ball and getting hit but after that I don't remember anything until the trainers were talking to me. I guess I was completely out for about 20 seconds. It's way too early right now to determine if this will keep me out or not.”
Despite the injury to his star quarterback, Montreal head coach Marc Trestman had no problem with the play.
“It was a clean hit from everything I could see,” Trestman said. “He got blind-sided. He's moving around. He's talking. But he is certainly going to be questionable for next week as we make sure he is cleared by the doctors.”
The Alouettes improved to 7-5 and moved two points back of East-leading Winnipeg with just their second win in their last five outings.
“We've asked the team to continue to work and to stay focused and they played for each other tonight,” Trestman said. “It was a great football game for us. We beat a very good football team tonight that was at full strength.”
Edmonton dropped to 7-5 and could fall out of a tie for first in the West if Calgary can defeat Hamilton on Sunday.
“We were horrible,” Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed said. “We did not execute and Montreal executed very well and we did not and I'm very disappointed in myself right now.
“I think in every phase of the game, Montreal out-executed us, and that's on me. That's a lack of preparation, and I take full and sole responsibility for that.”
It was Edmonton's third consecutive loss, something that does not sit well with quarterback Ricky Ray.
“That's been the most frustrating part,” he said. “We haven't played well at home the last few weeks and that's where you should play well. This was another one of those situations where we didn't execute.”
Montreal led 4-1 after the first quarter and stretched the lead to 11-1 early in the second as Calvillo capped off a long drive with a 23-yard pass to Whitaker.
Montreal scored a carbon copy touchdown four minutes later as a wide-open Whitaker reeled in another 23-yard touchdown pass from the veteran QB.
Edmonton finally got close enough to the Montreal end to record a 41-yard Derek Schiavone field goal with three minutes remaining in the half before Edmonton got back into the game on a Jason Armstead 72-yard punt return TD with 22 seconds remaining to cut Montreal's lead to 18-11.
Edmonton had an impressive drive from its own four into Montreal territory in the third that included some impressive ground gains and two fumble recoveries, but only got a point out of it as Schiavone missed a 36-yard field goal. Montreal responded with a 42-yard Sean Whyte field goal to go up by eight.
The Eskimos got to within one scoring play of the lead on a field goal with one minute left in the third to make it 21-15.
Adrian McPherson came in to replace Calvillo to start the fourth and he drove the team downfield, culminating in a three-yard TD run by Whitaker for this third score.
The Als added pair of field goals before Edmonton made the score look a little more respectable as Ray threw a short one-yard TD pass to Fred Stamps on the heels of a massive 74-yard passing play to Adarius Bowman.
Both teams return to the field next Friday as the Alouettes travel to Winnipeg and the Eskimos are in B.C. to face the Lions.
Notes: In their only previous meeting this season, Montreal beat Edmonton 27-4. Kicker Damon Duval had all of Edmonton's points. Montreal won both games last season but Edmonton had won its home game against the Als the previous three seasons. ... In the previous meeting in Montreal, Edmonton rushed for minus-one yard ... The Alouettes came into the game having allowed only three 100-yard rushing games against, losing all three of those games. They had also allowed the fewest turnovers in the league at 17 ... Eskimos slotback Jason Barnes returned to the lineup, joining Stamps, Bowman and Marcus Henry to give Edmonton its starting four receivers for the first time since they were 4-0.
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