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Alouettes crush Redblacks 47-21 after unveiling Grey Cup championship banner

Montreal Alouettes wide receiver Reggie White Jr. (84) makes a touchdown catch as Ottawa Redblacks' Ty Cranston (33) during second half CFL football action in Montreal, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (Christinne Muschi, The Canadian Press) Montreal Alouettes wide receiver Reggie White Jr. (84) makes a touchdown catch as Ottawa Redblacks' Ty Cranston (33) during second half CFL football action in Montreal, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (Christinne Muschi, The Canadian Press)
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Cody Fajardo was eager to have a strong start after the Montreal Alouettes waited three weeks to raise their Grey Cup banner.

The Grey Cup MVP and the Alouettes did that and then some on Thursday night.

Fajardo threw three touchdowns and rushed for another while Montreal dominated on defence, and the defending champions crushed the Ottawa Redblacks 47-21 before a sellout crowd of 23,035 fans at Molson Stadium.

"Running out of the tunnel, seeing the crowd and seeing how packed it was, the electricity in the building, we wanted to make a big play early," Fajardo said. "We went up 14 points real quick, right? And then never really looked back."

Moments after two fighter jets flew over the venue as a part of a celebratory ceremony, Fajardo ran in a touchdown on the game's opening drive.

On the ensuing possession, Montreal linebacker Tyrice Beverette picked off Ottawa quarterback Dru Brown on his first passing attempt and ran the ball to the Redblacks' 10-yard line.

The interception led to a one-yard TD for backup QB Caleb Evans and a 14-point lead five minutes into the game. By halftime, the Alouettes had forced three turnovers and led by a jaw-dropping 30-1.

"We had a couple things that didn't go our way early in the game, and that kind of shook us throughout the game," Redblacks defensive back Adarius Pickett said. "That was kind of the story the game, for real.

"It was hard."

Fajardo completed an efficient 28-of-35 passes for 393 yards as Montreal started the season 3-0 for the first time since 2011 after road wins in Winnipeg and Edmonton.

A pair of Canadian receivers were his main targets. Kaion Julien-Grant had a game-high 139 receiving yards while Tyson Philpot added 127 yards and one touchdown.

Reggie White Jr. also caught two TDs and had 61 yards in his first game in 619 days due to knee surgery.

"We're trying to be the best receiving corps in the league," Philpot said. "I think we made a statement tonight."

On the other side of the ball, the Alouettes smothered Brown.

Beverette led the defensive unit with a complete effort of one interception, one forced fumble, one recovered fumble, one sack and six defensive tackles.

"They create turnovers and I'll say this, they create opportunities," Alouettes head coach Jason Maas said of the defence. "Every single time -- we've talked about as a team, when the ball is in someone else's hands, we expect that's an opportunity for us."

"We hustled to the ball, and when you hustle to the ball and you have bad intentions when you're getting there, good things generally happen," he added. "I'm not surprised when we get turnovers. I'm not surprised when we hit people hard, and things happen well for us. That's how we play."

Brown went 21-of-35 for 263 yards with one TD pass and one pick in his second start for Ottawa (1-1), which beat Winnipeg 23-19 at home last Thursday. DeVonte Dedmon completed a 101-yard kick return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Montreal kicker David Cote was a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals, including a 41-yarder. Ottawa's Lewis Ward went 2-for-3.

Brown's only completed pass of the first quarter was tipped by Beverette before a Jake Harty reception.

Beverette added to Brown's nightmare early in the second, poking the ball from the QB's hands for a fumble recovered by Darnell Sankey.

The 29-year-old Beverette caught another victim when he recovered a fumble by running back Ryquell Armstead.

On the next play, Fajardo sent a 51-yard touchdown pass to Philpot to give the Alouettes a 27-1 lead with 7:40 remaining in the second quarter, highlighting a lopsided first half where punter Richie Leone scored Ottawa's only point.

"They're the best defence in the league, I know that for sure facing them every day," Fajardo said of his defensive unit. "That old saying iron sharpens iron. That's exactly it. I'm thankful we get to go against them in a practice atmosphere and not a real-life game situation."

Brown completed a 25-yard TD pass to Jaelon Acklin at 11:23 of the third quarter.

Fajardo connected with White for a 16-yard touchdown at 13:47 of the fourth quarter before Dedmon returned Cote's kickoff for a score. White then hauled in his second TD of the game on a 19-yard pass with 10:03 remaining in the game.

"Obviously I gotta do a better job of getting these guys ready to come out and start faster," Ottawa head coach Bob Dyce said. "It's tough to win any game when you have three turnovers in the first half, and we did."

Up next 

Alouettes: Visit the Toronto Argonauts on June 28.

Redblacks: Host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on June 30.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 20, 2024.

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