Things were looking good after the first half on Thursday night. The Alouettes held a 24-14 lead going into the break. Despite being down 7-0 and 14-7, they found a way to answer both of Calgary’s opening half touchdowns with one of their own.
Unfortunately, the offence simply didn’t click in the second half. The Als were held to just three points in the final 30 minutes of the game and they ended up dropping a 30-27 decision to Calgary at McMahon Stadium.
Here are five things that stood out to me on Thursday:
Turnovers and lack of production in the second half:
I wrote about it a little earlier, but it’s tough to win on the road in the CFL. It becomes even more difficult when you don’t score much in one of the two halves and you turn the ball over.
The first turnover came in the opening quarter, as a Vernon Adams Jr. pass was tipped by Stamps defensive tackle Mike Rose and then tipped into the hands of Rose a few seconds later.
The second turnover came in the third quarter when Adams Jr. was intercepted by Stamps linebacker Jameer Thurman.
“We weren’t on the same page,” the Als QB told reporters after the game. “There were little mistakes here, whether it was me or a little thing up front or a little thing here. It’s the first game, we’re going to watch this film and we’re going to get right. It’s on me. I’ve got to take care of the ball. These interceptions are not flying. It’s giving a good team like Calgary the ball. I’ve got to be better.”
Adarius Pickett was lights out:
Strong side linebacker Adarius Pickett stood out for all the right reasons.
Not only did he come up with an interception, but he also added seven tackles on defence (one for a loss) and one on special teams.
This was Pickett’s first game as the starting SAM linebacker. He started all over the secondary last year and also played some SAM in 2021. This year, it looks like he’s going to be a fixture at one position, which should help him get even more comfortable at the CFL level.
He also came up big in the return game on the final kickoff of the night, as he took it to the Calgary 43-yard line and gave the offence a chance to come back and tie or win it in the final minute.
“I’m trying to do anything I can to help my teammates out,” Pickett said. “I was supposed to come out (of the game) on that last kickoff return, but I’ve got to be out there with the game on the line. I’ve got to help my team as much as I can. I just try to do the best I can and be that leader out there.”
Injuries hit the Als hard:
The Alouettes lost three different players to injury early in this game, which didn’t help matters.
Returner Mario Alford, defensive back Greg Reid and star running back Williams Stanback all exited the game in the first half. Stanback returned to the sideline with crutches, after he suffered the lower-body injury near the Stampeders goal line.
Head coach Khari Jones didn’t have all the details on the injury after the game but admitted there was quite a bit of swelling.
“We’re not sure yet,” Jones said of the Stanback injury. “He hurt his ankle there. We don’t think it’s broken, but we’ll find out pretty soon.”
There were no further updates on Reid or Alford.
Jeshrun Antwi stepped up:
With Stanback sidelined, Jeshrun Antwi filled in with the starting offence and he didn’t disappoint.
The Canadian running back had a terrific training camp as a runner and as a blocker. And for a running back that doesn’t get a lot of carries when Stanback is healthy, he made the most of his opportunity against the Stamps.
With the score tied 14-14 in the second quarter, Antwi ripped off a 70-yard run into Calgary territory. The Als had to settle for a field goal on that drive, but they still managed to come away with their first lead of the game.
Rumble @Jantwi21 rumble!
— CFL (@CFL) June 10, 2022
In all, the 24-year-old finished with 98 yards on seven carries and he also added three receptions for 16 more yards.
With Stanback likely sidelined next week, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Alouettes add an American running back to their practice squad.
Earlier this week, Jones mentioned that it was a hole that needed to be filled even before Stanback went down. But Antwi’s solid camp and regular season opener could lead to him getting the benefit of the doubt as the starter in Toronto next week.
If he were to keep running the way he did in his hometown on Thursday night, he could keep the starting job until Stanback returns.
Tyson Philpot makes an impact in return game
With Alford going down early, Philpot stepped into the role of primary returner on punts and kickoffs.
The 21-year-old, who was making his CFL debut last night, managed to protect the football and gain positive yardage on all of his returns. He finished with five punt returns for a respectable 38 yards and he added two kickoff returns for 63 yards. He even fought through contact on one of the returns to pick up some extra yardage.
This was a homecoming of sorts for Philpot, who like Antwi, played at the University of Calgary during his college days.
This was supposed to be the first time Philpot played in a meaningful game against his twin brother, Jalen, but the Stamps rookie missed the game because of a hamstring injury.
It’ll be interesting to see what the Als do with the return position next week. They signed Chandler Worthy during training camp, and he had a nice performance in the preseason finale against Ottawa last week. They also have Warren Newman on the practice squad.
For at least one night, it was nice to see a Canadian have some success returning kicks.