CALGARY — Rookie quarterback Jake Maier led the Calgary Stampeders to their first win of the season with a 28-22 victory over the Montreal Alouettes at McMahon Stadium on Friday night.
The 24-year-old stepped up in place of injured starter Bo Levi Mitchell and passed for 304 yards and a touchdown in his first career CFL start.
Montreal nearly pulled off a stunning comeback in the final seconds, but a promising drive fell short at the goal line after receiver Eugene Lewis was prevented from breaking the plane as time expired.
The Stampeders (1-2) bounced back after losing their first two games at home, while the Alouettes are now 1-1 following the Week 3 loss.
Maier got off to a rocky start in the first quarter, throwing a pair of interceptions that Montreal converted into touchdowns. But the quarterback bounced back to lead a long touchdown drive in the second quarter, and Rene Paredes’ second field of the game cut the Als’ lead down to just two points entering halftime.
Maier’s confidence continued to grow in the third as the Stamps stormed back to claim the lead following his first-ever CFL touchdown pass — a four-yard strike to Kamar Jorden. Calgary went up 21-14 after the Als surrendered a safety, and undisciplined play hindered Montreal in the second half with numerous costly penalties.
A one-yard touchdown run from running back Ka’Deem Carey extended the Stamps’ lead in the fourth quarter, but Montreal regained momentum after the three minute warning when Vernon Adams Jr. threw a 10-yard touchdown to Quan Bray following a strong drive.
David Côté kicked the convert to cut Calgary’s lead down to six points, but that was as close as Montreal would get.
Calgary’s Josh Huff led all receivers with a game-high 128 yards on five receptions, while Markeith Ambles also had a strong performance with five catches for 113 yards.
But the promising opening drive sputtered after Maier’s first throw was almost intercepted by Alouettes corner Wesley Sutton. Calgary settled for a 39-yard field goal from Paredes following another incompletion.
Sutton seized the next opportunity that came his way on Calgary’s next drive, as he picked off Maier on an underthrown deep ball intended for receiver Hergy Mayala. Adams came through with a 26-yard run on the ensuing drive, and the quarterback was bailed out when his fumble was quickly recovered by Montreal receiver Kaion Julien-Grant.
The play set up a first-and-goal, and the Als claimed the lead two plays later when Adams hooked up with Jake Wieneke for their second touchdown connection of the season. The six-foot-four receiver high pointed the ball at the back of the end zone to beat Calgary’s Branden Dozier, and Côté kicked the convert to put Montreal up 7-3.
Maier responded with a big 39-yard strike down the right sideline to Ambles for his first CFL completion, and Richie Sindani followed it up with a tremendous one-handed catch off a deflection. But the drive was suddenly shut down one play later when Montreal’s Adarius Pickett intercepted Maier’s screen pass intended for Carey, returning the pick 17 yards.
Lewis then came up with one of the biggest plays of the game to sustain the ensuing Montreal drive, as he stretched out to make a 28-yard toe-tapping catch while falling out of bounds.
Adams brought Montreal closer to the end zone with back-to-back completions to B.J. Cunningham as the second quarter got underway, and running back William Stanback capped off the drive with a three-yard touchdown run. Côté added the extra point to extend Montreal’s lead to 11 points.
Calgary’s defence stepped up later in the quarter to halt the momentum when Royce Metchie picked off Adams as he tried to complete a pass to Cunningham in tight coverage. Ambles started the Stamps drive off by showcasing his playmaking ability on a 25-yard catch-and-run, and Maier began to find a rhythm with a 15-yard pass to Ambles and a seven-yard pass to Mayala.
The young quarterback followed it up with a 16-yard pass to Colton Hunchak after evading defensive pressure, with the receiver being stopped just short of the goal line. Carey finished the long scoring drive off one play later with a one-yard touchdown run, but Calgary’s two-point conversion attempt came up short when Maier’s pass to Ante Milanovic-Litre fell incomplete.
Paredes nailed a 52-yard field goal with just over a minute remaining in the half to move Calgary within two points at 14-12.
Calgary’s defence continued to frustrate Adams in the third quarter, and the quarterback struggled to get on the same page as his receivers. Momentum continued to shift in Calgary’s favour, with Maier appearing more confident with every completion.
Penalties against Montreal helped the Stamps’ offence move into scoring range, and Maier proceeded to complete a 14-yard play-action pass to Huff with pressure in his face. Maier finished the drive with his first-ever CFL touchdown pass on a four-yard completion to Jorden. Paredes’ extra point gave Calgary a 19-14 lead.
The Stamps defence forced three two and outs in the third quarter, and Calgary added two points to its lead when the Als conceded a safety.
Calgary’s offence kept things rolling in the fourth quarter by pulling off a flea flicker for big yardage, with Maier completing an 83-yard deep shot to Huff. The Calgary receiver beat Sutton on the play and almost scored before being tackled at the one-yard line by Monshadrik Hunter.
Another untimely Montreal penalty kept the drive going after it appeared Calgary would have to settle for a field goal, and Carey made the Als pay with another one-yard touchdown run. Paredes kicked the convert to extend the Stamps’ lead to 14 points with under ten minutes to play.
Montreal added its first point of the half after a missed field goal attempt was declared dead in the end zone, and a major opportunity opened up later in the fourth when the Stamps fumbled a snap. Hindered by poor timing, the snap hit an unaware Mayala as the receiver crossed the formation in motion.
Montreal’s offence capitalized with its strongest drive off the half, and Adams capped it off with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Bray. Côté added the convert to move Montreal within six points. Adams led a final comeback drive in the final minute after Montreal forced a late punt, with the dynamic quarterback moving the ball down the field with four quick completions.
Adams kept the drive alive on third down with an 11-yard run in Calgary territory, but the drive ultimately fell short at the goal line three plays later when Lewis was unable to break the plane on a 13-yard catch.
The Alouettes will host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in their first home game of the season next Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET, while the Stampeders will face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on the road next Sunday at 7 p.m. ET.