HAMILTON — It wasn’t a game for the ages, but it was certainly Trevor Harris’ best performance since joining the Alouettes in October and one of the main reasons the organization re-signed the veteran quarterback last winter. .
The 36-year-old completed 25 of 31 passes for a season-high 341 yards along with two touchdowns in last week’s win at Ottawa. Harris was named one of the CFL’s top weekly players following his 39th career game topping 300 yards. Harris threw for more yards against the Redblacks than any of his contemporaries last week, as he distributed the ball among nine players.
“It was football without mistakes; that’s what it all boils down to,” Harris said Wednesday. “Making sure we get in position to end every drive with a kick, staying on the field and pushing the ball down the field. I felt like we did a good job on those things.
“He starts out front and distributing the ball to our playmakers,” he added. “When you get everybody involved on offense … that’s amazing.”
The mark of any great quarterback is consistency, and Harris will look to build on that performance Thursday. (19:30, TSN1, TSN3, TSN4, TSN5, RDS, TSN Radio 690) as the Als look for a second straight victory, against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field.
While the regular season has only reached the one-third mark, the game has huge implications in the Eastern Division, where it’s becoming apparent that only two teams will make the playoffs. Montreal has a 2-4 record, while the Ticats, despite reaching the Gray Cup and losing to Winnipeg the past two seasons, have struggled to get to 1-5.
Harris was acquired in a trade from Edmonton after Vernon Adams Jr. suffered a season-ending broken arm. Harris was released early last winter to explore free agency but returned to Montreal. It’s probably no coincidence that he performed well against Ottawa, considering Harris spent three seasons with the Redblacks, where he established himself as a franchise quarterback. He passed for 68 touchdowns and more than 13,000 yards, including a career-high 5,116 for him in 2018.
“I don’t want to say that (against Ottawa) it didn’t cross my mind,” he admitted. “They could have signed me and brought me back. But he didn’t make me play harder. If someone says that he is going to play harder (against a particular opponent), you are weak-minded. That means you’re not giving your best effort every week.”
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It was wild and crazy, but the Alouettes somehow found a way to beat the Redblacks winless.
Harris began the season as Adams’ backup, but replaced him early in the second quarter of the Als’ second game, at Toronto. When running back William Stanback suffered a serious ankle injury in Calgary in the first game, it meant Montreal’s offense had to be more pass-oriented, which favored Harris, a prototypical pocket passer. Adams has rarely seen the field since and has been placed on the one-game disabled list (elbow).
“Coming into this season, I wasn’t sure I’d get that (opportunity),” Harris said. “I never knew that would happen again, going into the season and possibly being a backup all year. I am thankful and grateful for those moments.”
Harris has completed 96 of 135 passes (71.1 percent) this season for 1,312 yards along with five touchdowns. He has also been intercepted five times. General manager and interim head coach Danny Maciocia said Ottawa was Harris’s best game since he threw for 262 yards at home against Saskatchewan. When Harris came off the bench against the Argonauts, he passed for 270 yards in a loss and was intercepted once.
“I just think it seems to be in sync with what we’re doing offensively,” Maciocia said. “In tune with the players out there. And there seems to be a particular relationship being established with (Anthony Calvillo). They probably see things the same way. They’ve both been a part of this offense and played in it, obviously at different times in their careers.”
In the two games since quarterbacks coach Calvillo started calling plays, the Als have scored 71 points while increasing their competition in the end zone. Against Ottawa, the Als punted three times in the first quarter, when they held out a point. But then Joseph Zema wasn’t called up again until the fourth period.
While Harris was sacked twice by the Redblacks, he also threw the ball faster than at any time this season, another Calvillo trademark. And that encourages Maciocia.
“I’m a firm believer in this, especially the big guys, before the snap they know where they’re going to be working as far as throwing the ball,” Maciocia said.
Meanwhile, Adams’ injury means Dominique Davis becomes the Als’ backup quarterback. Davis is used in short-yardage situations, but has only attempted two passes this season.