Watt, Argonauts romp as Alouettes rest their starters

The Canadian Press
11/8/2010 12:18:02 AM
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MONTREAL -- Try telling Spencer Watt, Grant Shaw or Danny Brannagan that it was a meaningless game.

Watt hauled in the first two touchdown catches of his career and Brannagan became the first Canadian to play a down that counts at quarterback for the Argonauts in 41 years as Toronto defeated the Montreal Alouettes 30-4 on Sunday in the CFL regular-season finale for both clubs.

The game meant nothing in the standings -- Toronto (9-9) finished third and Montreal (12-6) remained first -- but it was a chance to shine for reserve players as both teams rested many of their stars to keep them healthy for the playoffs.

Toronto will travel to Hamilton to face the second-place Tiger-Cats in the East Division semifinal next Sunday. The winner of that game will play Montreal in the division final Nov. 21 at Olympic Stadium.

It was the Argonauts' youngsters that stepped up.

Watt, a North Vancouver native who turns 22 on Dec. 15, went into the game with eight catches for 61 yards in his rookie campaign, when he mostly played on special teams if he dressed at all. But in the season finale, the Simon Fraser University product caught six for 140 yards.

"I just ran my routes like we practised all week and it played out pretty good," said Watt, who scored on a 50-yard pass from starter Cleo Lemon in the first quarter and 34-yard toss from back-up Dalton Bell in the second. "For sure, it's a big game for my career.

"It was an opportunity for me to showcase my skills to see if I could actually play with the CFL starters, so it was good. I didn't really expect much this year. I'm a rookie. I just wanted to grind out this year and see what happens. A couple of coaches said this would be my breakout game and I guess it was."

He also had a key catch to help set up Dwayne Wright's second-quarter TD on a one-yard run.

Shaw was Toronto's kicker in the first half of the season, but gave that job up when Noel Prefontaine was re-aquired from Edmonton. When Prefontaine came up sore, Shaw was pressed back into service and went three-for-four on field goals, including a career longest from 51 yards.

University of Saskatchewan product Shaw and Watt were selected in the second and third rounds respectively in the 2010 draft and both look to have promising futures.

"We felt Watt was the best receiver in the draft and we were ecstatic to get him," said coach Jim Barker. "And what do you say about Grant Shaw?

"To step in pre-game when Prefontaine had a bit of a pull -- we didn't want to risk it -- and to punt the way he punted and kick the way he kicked, what do you say? A great job by our young draft picks."

The victory was sewn up with fewer than seven minutes to play when Burlington, Ont., native Brannagan became Toronto's first Canadian to take a snap that counts since Hamilton native Frank Cosentino in 1969.

He missed Watt with his first pass attempt, then hit Andre Durie to start a march capped by a Shaw field goal.

"I thought he did a good job," said Barker. "He maintained his composure and threw the ball where he was supposed to throw.

"I'm a champion not only of Danny Brannagan but of Canadian quarterbacks, period. And I hope our league at some point does something to remedy the situation we have now."

Few teams use Canadian quarterbacks because there is no incentive to have them.

"It's pretty cool," Brannagan said. "It was nice to get our there for some live action.

"It's a lot different from practice. I'm happy. I held on the ball and didn't do anything too silly. I've been around for 18 weeks competing with these guys and seeing what the level and the speed is like. Overall it was matter of confidence, to know that I can go out there and I'm not out of place. I can play."

All Montreal's scoring came from the boot of Damon Duval, even through at 1-for-3 he continued to struggle with field goals. The Alouettes have Colt David as back-up, but coach Marc Trestman confirmed that the veteran Duval will be the kicker in the playoffs.

"We've got to do better, but we don't want to kick field goals, we want to score touchdowns," Trestman said.

It was a tough day for Montreal quarterback Adrian McPherson, who completed 16 of 32 passes for only 137 yards and was picked off once. He was at his best running the ball for a team-high 69 yards on eight carries.

A year ago, McPherson replaced starter Anthony Calvillo for the final regular season game and was solid in a 42-17 win over Toronto. He also looked good in a win over Hamilton this season when Calvillo was injured.

"Adrian would be the first to admit he wasn't as sharp as he was when he played over the last couple of years," said trestman. "He showed his run capabilities tonight, but he had opportunities with some open guys that we were not able to convert and finish drives. I'm not pointing the finger at Adrian, but he can play better and we all know that."

The Alouettes were coming off a comeback 37-30 win in Toronto.

Both teams used back-ups and practice roster players liberally to give the game a pre-season feel. That and the one-sided score saw the crowd of 25,012 at Percival Molson Stadium empty out early.

Spencer Watt (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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