Johnson: Alouettes legend Calvillo struggling, but Stamps aren’t letting guard down
Club will be walking ‘into a hornet’s nest’ when it plays in Montreal on Friday against sure-to-rebound Als
He’ll have 41 birthday candles, a virtual bonfire, to blow out come August. His longtime mentor, head coach Marc Trestman, has set sail for Chicago to try to establish a similar kinetic rapport with Jay Cutler of the NFL Bears.
He’s been stalked, hunted down and sacked a disturbing 11 times over two starts. Threw for a pauper’s 121 yards, nothing more than a decent quarter on his best days, last Thursday.
While always glacial in the pocket, as mobile as a grinning gargoyle atop a medieval cathedral, rarely before had Anthony Calvillo appeared so vulnerable, so unsure, at such loose ends.
Only a one-off?
Can a new regime and an old star quarterback find harmony and happiness together?
Shawn Lemon, for one, isn’t letting one sub-par performance catch him off guard.
“He’s thrown for how many yards during his career?” asked the Calgary Stampeders’ rush end. “He’s a Hall of Fame quarterback. A champion. One thing about him, you know he’s always going to come out swinging, come out throwing.
“Is it fun to chase him down? It’s fun to chase down any quarterback in this league. But the unique thing about Calvillo, as you’ve heard so often, is how quick he gets rid of the ball. Great release. Great timing.
“He had a bad game? Yeah. So. How many times has he bounced back from a bad game in his career?”
Salient point, that.
But while Stampeder partisans nervously awaited word on the availability of their own quarterback, Drew Tate (as well as D-lineman Micah Johnson and DB Jamar Wall) — the team had Sunday off and no update was forthcoming on the results of the MRI performed on Tate’s painful right elbow the day before — Montreal Alouettes’ disciples, used to watching the evergreen A.C. and his crazy flipper fingers pile up points, set scoreboards a-tilt, like the Pinball Wizard, were left wondering about what on earth might be in store Friday when Calgary comes to visit.
The Stamps, of course, melted down in the second half like Margaret Hamilton doused with a bucket of water at Mosaic Stadium on Friday, full value for a 36-22 slapdown courtesy the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Not that the Als’ are apt to be in any sunnier a mood.
Calvillo was dropped on his britches seven times and the offence could only turn FIVE Bomber turnovers into FOUR measly points as Montreal was manhandled 19-11 right inside its perennial stronghold, Molson Percival Stadium.
“We’re heading,” promised Stamps’ coach John Hufnagel on rundown Saturday at McMahon Stadium, “into a hornet’s nest.”
Calvillo, for one, not being afraid to show his stinger.
“I can come up with a lot of words — embarrassing, disgusting across the board,” Calvillo told the Montreal Gazette. “I have no explanation. We’ve got to play better. It starts with the players and the coaches.
“We’ve all got to pick it up. We know the team we are. We have the talent, but we’re not playing to our potential. We’ve got to fix it. It’s frustrating. We’ve got no choice but to get better.”
Sounds suspiciously like a group of dissatisfied Stamps in the wake of that squandered halftime lead in Regina.
“I’m not sure you learn ‘more’ (from losses),” hedged Hufnagel. “Each year, you learn how to win football games and you discover how to lose football games. That’s why you have training camp. That’s why you have pre-season games. Because even though you have veterans back, it’s always a teaching process.
“We didn’t play the type of football we needed to in the second half to beat that type of football team. They didn’t change their schemes from the first half to the second half, they just played at a higher level.”
Much higher. A sputtering offence, Tate’s injury, a defence that spent far too much time on the field and, yes, more poor penalties at inopportune times — that too-many-men indiscretion by the punt return team and a 15-yard roughing sentence slapped on middle linebacker Juwan Simpson being instrumental in their doom — conspired to aid a rabid bunch of Riders that really, it must be said, didn’t need any assistance whatsoever.
“Losing always leaves a bitter taste in our mouth but you’ve got to get over it – quickly,” said Stampeder wideout Joe West. “We understand what we did wrong. They’re coming came off a rough week, too. They’re going to be motivated to come out and answer, just like we are.”
“I expect him to come out and play the way he always does,” cautioned Lemon. “Be fearless. That was only one game. For them. For us. It’s a long season. There’s a lot of football left.
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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