Alouettes dominate at home to beat Ottawa REDBLACKS on Thanksgiving

MONTREAL — The Montreal Alouettes seem to be playing their best football as we approach the post-season.

The Als kept the Ottawa REDBLACKS scoreless for three-and-a-half quarters in the eventual 29-3 win on Thanksgiving at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium.

Montreal completed the sweep against Ottawa by winning all four games between them, including two straight in Weeks 17 and 18. The result also eliminated the REDBLACKS from playoff contention and dropped them to a 4-12 record.

The home team pitched a shutout until 6:22 left in the fourth quarter with a defensive performance that included five sacks and a defensive touchdown in the final game of Thanksgiving Weekend presented by Purolator.

Linebacker Tyrice Beverette scored a major on a fumble return in the fourth as Ottawa’s offence simply had no answers for Montreal’s defence. Defensive lineman Shawn Lemon had his 100th career sack early in the second half and was part of a defensive front that collapsed the pocket all afternoon.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo also led an efficient offence and finished 28 of 32 for 272 yards, a major and a pick. Receiver Tyson Philpot caught a deep touchdown in the first half that helped Montreal take control of the game and backup pivot Caleb Evans added a score of his own as Montreal improved to a 9-7 record.

Ottawa’s pivot Dustin Crum was unable to operate under heavy pressure for most of the game, finishing five of 13 for only 72 yards before eventually being replaced by Nick Arbuckle in the fourth quarter.

A roughing the kicker penalty on a punt by Joseph Zema kept Montreal’s first drive alive and Fajardo moved the Alouettes into field goal range. Kicker Jose Maltos – replacing injured veteran David Cote – missed the 48-yard attempt and Brandin Dandridge was downed in the end zone for a rouge.

Two possessions later, Montreal’s pivot was hit while throwing and ended up intercepted by Dandridge in the end zone to stop a promising drive by the home team.

Both sides continued to trade punts throughout the first and into the second quarter until Fajardo and the Alouettes found a way to march into Ottawa’s territory. The quarterback connected with Philpot to the 38-yard line before going deep to No. 6 once again for the game’s first touchdown and an 8-0 lead with 6:24 left in the half.

Ottawa continued to struggle to move the ball in the first half, with a deep pass attempt from Crum to receiver Bralon Addison falling incomplete on a good coverage by defensive back Reggie Stubblefield to force yet another punt by the visitors.

The REDBLACKS defence tackled Walter Fletcher for a loss on first down and stopped the running back short of the sticks on second down to forced Montreal to kick the ball back and give the offence one last chance to put up points before the half with under two minutes to go. Ottawa failed to capitalize on the opportunity after gaining only one first down and punting the ball away.

The visitors had only four first downs in the first two quarters with 75 yards of net offence in another dominant effort for Montreal’s defence.

The second half began with Lemon taking down Crum for his 100th career sack and Montreal again forcing the REDBLACKS to punt it away.

The home team got things going with a decisive Jeshrun Antwi run over the middle for 35 yards and Fajardo added 29 more on a deep connection to the left to Austin Mack. Evans then converted a third and one inside Ottawa’s 10-yard line to set up first-and-goal. The scoring march was capped off by Evans himself with another quarterback sneak for the score and a 15-0 lead after the extra point by Maltos.

Two possessions later the Als were back at it with Fajardo converting a second-and-nine with his legs before finding a streaking Tyler Snead over the middle to move the ball across midfield. It wasn’t enough for another touchdown drive but it set up Maltos for a field goal attempt and the kicker split the uprights from 45 yards out to extend the lead to 18-0 at the end of the third quarter.

Arbuckle replaced Crum to start the fourth for the REDBLACKS but the offence went two-and-out on the veteran’s first drive.

Another miss by Maltos downed in the end zone added a rouge in favour of the home team to push the score to 19-0 with 11:10 remaining in the game.

Beverette continued a dominant effort for Montreal’s defence with a scoop and score on a fumble forced by Stubblefield on Arbuckle that made it 26-0.

Kicker Michael Domagala made it 26-3 with a short kick halfway through the final quarter for the first points of the game for the REDBLACKS.

James Letcher Jr. returned a punt with under two minutes to go all the way to Ottawa’s 11-yard line and Maltos added three more points for the final score of the game.

The Alouettes have not yet secured second place in the East Division and a home playoff date as the Tiger-Cats beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday and delayed a potential clinching scenario for Montreal.

The Als now head to Edmonton to face the Elks on Saturday, October 14, same day the REDBLACKS host the Toronto Argonauts in Week 19 action.

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