SPORTS

Berry looking to get Calvillo, Alouettes offence back in a groove

08/07/2013 05:36 EDT | Updated 10/07/2013 05:12 EDT
Doug Berry and Anthony Calvillo are together again.

Berry is back in charge of the Montreal Alouettes offence following last week's dismissal of head coach Dan Hawkins. One of the first moves GM Jim Popp — the club's interim head coach — made was get Berry, a former Alouettes offensive co-ordinator who had returned as an adviser to Hawkins, back on the field coaching.

The first game for Montreal's new-look coaching staff is Thursday night when the Alouettes (2-3) host the East Division-leading Toronto Argonauts (3-2)

Berry certainly knows what makes Calvillo tick.

The 20-year veteran threw for over 17,000 yards from 2003 to '05 with Berry as Montreal's co-offensive co-ordinator and quarterbacks coach. That includes a career-best 6,041 yards in 2004.

Despite Calvillo, pro football's all-time passing leader, guiding a veteran-laden offence, Montreal is last overall in total yards, first downs and passing yards. Calvillo, fourth overall among CFL passers this season with 1,035 yards, rarely looked comfortable running Hawkins' offence.

Having a familiar face — and more importantly a familiar offensive scheme — could provide Calvillo and Co. a certain comfort level heading into their contest versus Toronto.

After starting the season dropping two of their first three games, the defending Grey Cup champions have recorded two consecutive wins. What's more, the Argos will also have their offensive leader back with veteran quarterback Ricky Ray expected to start.

Ray missed Toronto's 38-12 home win over B.C. with a knee injury. But sophomore Zach Collaros stepped in nicely, completing 21-of-25 passes for 268 yards and three TDs in his first CFL start.

Toronto's offence has been its strong suit this year, with the Argos scoring an average of 31.2 points a game. Ray has been a big part of that success, completing over 75 per cent of his passes for 1,203 yards with eight TDs and no interceptions.

This is the first meeting of the season between Toronto and Montreal, who split their season series last year 2-2 before the Argos downed the Alouettes 27-20 as the visiting squad in the East Division final.

The coaching change was certainly big news for Montreal but Toronto's offence is more in sync right now. In fact, Ray completed 19-of-20 passes in the Argos' 35-19 road win over Winnipeg on July 19 before being injured. And even without Ray, Toronto's offence put up 38 points against B.C.

Pick — Toronto.

Saskatchewan (5-0) versus Calgary (4-1) on Friday night.

Quarterback Darian Durant is expected to return under centre for the unbeaten Riders after missing the club's 32-20 road win over Hamilton on July 27. Sophomore Drew Willy stepped in and completed 14-of-25 passes for 269 yards and three TDs.

But Durant has been very solid leading the Riders' offence. He's 74-of-107 passing (69.2 per cent) for 1,021 yards, with a league-leading 12 touchdowns.

More importantly, he has thrown no interceptions and as a team the Riders have committed just one turnover. Saskatchewan not only leads the CFL in scoring (36.6 points per game) but boasts the league's stingiest defence (17.4 points a game).

Durant and the Riders have also beaten Calgary this year.

Durant finished 26-of-34 passing for 258 yards and two TDs while CFL rushing leader Kory Sheets ran for 133 yards and a touchdown in the Riders' 36-21 home victory July 5.

That's also the last game Calgary starter Drew Tate played in. He was 19-of-25 passing for 231 yards and two TDs before suffering a strained right forearm.

Earlier this week, Calgary coach/GM John Hufnagel proclaimed Tate his starter for this game, but Tate suffered a setback Tuesday and isn't expected to play. That would give veteran Kevin Glenn the start despite No. 3 Bo Levi Mitchell's impressive performance in the Stampeders' 37-24 win over Winnipeg on July 26.

Mitchell was 29-of-33 passing for 376 yards and three TDs to claim offensive player of the week honours.

This game features two offences that like to hold on to the ball. Calgary is tops in time of possession (just over 33 minutes a game) while Saskatchewan is second (32:58). Not surprising, both offences feature prominent running backs in Sheets (league-high 712 yards rushing) and Canadian Jon Cornish (second with 501 yards rushing).

Saskatchewan's defence has struggled against the pass, allowing a league-high 323 yards through the air per game. Yet no team has been able to exploit that weakness enough to hand the Riders their first loss.

Calgary has had a knack, having knocked Saskatchewan from the ranks of the undefeated three times in the last five years. However, the Riders can clinch the season series with a win and earn the tie-breaker if the two teams ended the season tied.

Pick - Saskatchewan.

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