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Versatile Owens looking forward to matchup with Alouettes

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The Canadian Press
9/21/2012 4:02:56 PM
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MISSISSAUGA, Ont. -- Facing the Montreal Alouettes brings out the best in Chad Owens.

The five-foot-seven, 180-pound Owens began his CFL career with Montreal in '09 before being dealt to the Toronto Argonauts prior to the 2010 season. In seven games against his former team, the speedy Owens has amassed 1,534 combined yards (219-yard average) and six TDs.

The Honolulu native will be a prominent figure Sunday when Toronto visits Montreal, but he says he's never had an axe to grind against the Alouettes.

"I go out each and every week and try to be the very best I can be," Owens said. "I've had pretty good games against them but it's nothing more than that because I'm not that type of person.

"I just go out and enjoy what I do. I'm blessed to have this opportunity to play and I'm trying to make the best of it every time I have the chance to."

Owens quickly became a CFL star in Toronto, being named the league's top special-teams performer in 2010 and last year becoming the first player in pro football history to surpass 3,000 combined yards in consecutive seasons. But the 30-year-old has been even better in 2012.

Through 11 games, Owens has amassed 2,695 all-purpose yards (245-yard average) and is on pace to finish with a whopping 4,410 yards. That would obliterate Mike (Pinball) Clemons's league record of 3,840 yards.

Owens remains a special-teams dynamo, leading the CFL in kickoff returns and third in punt returns. But he's also become a significant offensive producer, standing second overall in receiving with 67 catches for a career-best 938 yards and five TDs.

Owens needs just four more catches to achieve another career-high. He credits his offensive production to new head coach Scott Milanovich's approach and quarterback Ricky Ray -- obtained from Edmonton last December -- successfully executing it.

"I pride myself in working hard every off-season and coming back better than I was the year before," Owens said. "With coach Milanovich here and bringing in this offence and Ricky being here, it really gives me an opportunity to showcase what I can do offensively with a quarterback in the offence who suits my abilities.

"We've struggled for a few years but it just feels so good to be able to go out there and be one of the best in the league offensively."

Sunday's game is important to both teams as Montreal (7-4) leads the East Division, two points ahead of Toronto (6-5). An Argos win would give them the season series, meaning they'd finish ahead of the Alouettes in the event of a tie.

Toronto won the first meeting 23-20 at Molson Stadium on July 27. Owens had seven catches for 97 yards and two TDs and accumulated 277 all-purpose yards in that contest.

The two teams play again Oct. 14 at Rogers Centre.

"This is a playoff game for us and I know Montreal is approaching it that way," Owens said. "It's a must-win game for both of us."

Finishing atop the East not only clinches an opening-round playoff bye but also home-field advantage for the division final.

"It's huge game, a playoff-calibre game," said Toronto safety Jordan Younger. "The team that wins the tiebreaker is probably going to have a great opportunity to have that week off and two weeks to prepare (for East final).

"There's nothing better than only having to win one to get to the (Grey) Cup."

A fact not lost upon Milanovich, who before joining the Argos spent five seasons as an assistant in Montreal, including the last four as the offensive co-ordinator.

"You can't deny the importance of this game," he said. "We're aware of what it means.

"It would be a nice win to go on the road and get it coming back home."

Toronto halfback Chad Kackert (leg) is expected to play after missing last weekend's 28-23 road loss to B.C. Kackert was hurt in the Argos' 45-31 home win over Hamilton, a game that saw him amass 239 combined yards (172 rushing, 67 receiving) and three TDs.

But slotback Andre Durie (thigh), the club's third-leading receiver with 46 catches for 518 yards and a TD, remains questionable after missing Toronto's last two games.

Discipline will be important for Toronto, which is the CFL's most penalized team (124 for 1,147 yards). Montreal has the second-fewest called penalties (100) and is fourth in accumulated yards (866).

Owens and his teammates held a players-only meeting this week to address the issue, agreeing to adopt an internal disciplinary system.

"For us, the key is penalties," Owens said. "It's about accountability . . . we have to think about the guy next to us and being more disciplined.

"If we're disciplined and do what we're supposed to do in all phases I believe we'll win the game."

Milanovich has continually preached discipline this season and likes that his players have taken ownership of the matter.

"Any time they take accountability for their actions and the team it's much better than when a coach stands up in front of them and says," Milanovich said. "When it comes from their peers it's much more important."

Chad Owens (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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