Jacques Chapdelaine’s head coaching career started with a bang for the Montreal Alouettes.
On the team’s first possession, Rakeem Cato hit Kenny Stafford on a 48-yard pass up the middle and on the next play, he found Samuel Giguere in the end zone for a touchdown.
Then the Alouettes marched to a 38-11 victory over the Toronto Argonauts on a wet Sunday afternoon to snap a four-game losing streak.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Chapdelaine, a long-standing CFL offensive co-ordinator. “Like I told the players, you can’t get to the top of the ladder until you take the first step.”
He certainly impressed owner Bob Wetenhall, who removed the head coaching job from general manager Jim Popp and handed it to Chapdelaine last week. Wetenhall turned up at the coaches’ post-game news conference to congratulate him.
“This is a really important change in our coaching philosophy and we’re looking at doing much better things,” Wetenhall said.
Cato threw four touchdown passes, two to Stafford and one each to Giguere and B.J. Cunningham. Giguere also ran one in and Anthony Fera kicked a field goal for Montreal (4-9), which won for only the second time eight games.
“Jacques was an offensive co-ordinator and he knows what he’s doing,” Stafford said. “We’ve always been organized and structured, but now we have someone at the helm we trust in, that we’re moving forward with.
“There are no ‘me’ players now. It’s team players. We’re trying to get to the playoffs and we knew it’s in our control.”
With first-place Hamilton and second-place Ottawa both losing this week, the Alouettes moved five points from top spot and four points from second with five games left to play. They are only two points behind third-place Toronto.
The Montreal defence held Toronto starter Drew Willy without a touchdown in his first start since joining the Argonauts from Winnipeg on Sept. 11. Lirim Hajrullahu booted three field goals as the Argos lost for a third time in a row. They have only one win in their last eight.
“It tears your gut out,” Toronto coach Scott Milanovich said. “The problem is that it’s been tearing our guts out for three weeks now.
“The hardest thing is to stand in there and say this still isn’t over. As poorly as we’ve played there are four games left and if we win them all, we’re in the playoffs. We need guys who want to be part of this.”
Chapdelaine, Montreal’s former receivers coach, also took over play-calling from offensive co-ordinator Anthony Calvillo.
His debut helped draw the Alouettes’ first sellout in three years of 23,420, and the difference was evident in the first-possession TD. There was more variety in the pass attack, they used the running game more and executed plays better.
“I just thought we did a great job all week of preparing,” said Cato, who was sacked five times but didn’t turn over the ball. “And Jacques called a great game. He understood the shots we needed to take.”
Cato’s numbers were relatively modest, completing 18 of 23 passes for 210 yards, but Tyrell Sutton picked up 83 yards on the ground before leaving in the fourth quarter with an injury.
Toronto got a 41-yard field goal at the end of the first quarter, but Montreal scored again after Jovon Johnson picked off a Willy pass. Seven plays later, Cato completed a seven-yard TD strike to Stafford at 10:50.
The Argos marched back for Hajrullahu’s 22-yard placement at 13:13 and added two more on a safety after a bad snap went for a 25-yard loss and trapped Montreal at its seven-yard line.
Cato’s first drive of the second half produced a 25-yard Fera boot and the next ended with Stafford’s four-yard TD catch.
Hajrullahu added a 36-yard kick at 11:59 but Cato answered with a seven-play drive capped by a 14-yard TD pass to Cunningham on the final play of the third quarter.
Alan-Michael Cash recovered a Willy fumble at the Toronto 13 to set up Giguere’s one-yard scoring run late in the game.
Logan Kilgore replaced Willy for Toronto’s final drive. Willy went 24 for 35 for 226 yards.
“We had 250 yards of offence in the first half and only eight points,” Milanovich said. “We had two turnovers, drops.
“We’re just not playing well as a team in all three phases of the game.”
Toronto defensive lineman Shawn Lemon added three sacks to his record in the first half alone, giving him 13 in 12 games and 10 in the last seven since he was acquired July 2 from Saskatchewan.Report Typo/Error