James Wilder Jr. turned heads against Edmonton last week, running for 190 yards and a touchdown in a 34-26 Toronto win.
The big Argo running back delivered again Saturday night, rambling for 141 yards and a TD in a 33-19 victory over Montreal that sent the Alouettes tumbling to their sixth straight defeat.
“I challenge myself if I did this last week, do it again,” Wilder said with a smile. “Don’t be a one-hit wonder.”
Wilder’s two-game rushing total of 331 yards is the highest by an Argo in some 35 years since such records were kept. Cory Boyd had 290 yards over two games in 2010.
Mike Pringle holds the league record of 425 yards rushing over two consecutive games, set in 1994 with the Baltimore Stallions.
Wilder’s 190 yards against the Eskimos is the fourth-best single-game rushing performance in Toronto history. His two-game total rises to 475 yards if you include his receiving total (257 combined yards against Edmonton and 218 against Montreal).
Toronto (6-7-0) improved to 5-2 at home and 5-2 within the East Division after posting its first back-to-back wins of the season. Montreal (3-10-0) fell to 0-6 on the road and 1-5 against East rivals.
Saturday’s win moved the Argonauts into first place in the East, while leaving the Alouettes mired in the basement.
“I thought tonight we played better,” said Toronto coach Marc Trestman. “We played smarter, we played more disciplined … We weren’t perfect, we’ve got a bunch of things to critique.”
Here’s betting the Alouette coaching staff has more to mull over.
Darian Durant’s woes at quarterback continued for Montreal with two interceptions turning into touchdowns in a lopsided first half that saw the Als outscored 26-0 before a BMO Field crowd of 12,862 on a steamy September night.
After Montreal reeled off 11 straight points in the third quarter, Wilder sealed the deal with an 85-yard TD run late in the quarter for a 33-11 lead. It was the league’s longest carry of the season, erasing his 76-yard TD run in the third quarter last week.
Durant was picked off three times on the night, with the third by Mitchell White in the end zone in the fourth quarter. White had an Argo debut to remember with two interceptions.
His receivers did him no favours, repeatedly dropping balls. Durant completed 25-of-38 passes for 231 yards.
“It’s like a snowball effect a little bit,” said Durant. “When things are going bad, they seem to continue to get bad.”
Montreal got a late consolation TD on a one-yard Samuel Giguere run with 1:23 remaining.
“There’s no quit in this team,” Durant added. “We showed that in the second half.”
The Als arrived with a five-game losing streak that cost head coach Jacques Chapdelaine and defensive co-ordinator Noel Thorpe their jobs on Sept. 13.
Montreal was beaten 29-11 by Ottawa last week in GM Kavis Reed’s first outing as interim coach.
“I stopped thinking about playoffs weeks ago,” said Reed. “Not that we’re throwing in the towel. It’s about winning a football game before we can even start to have those conversations.”
Wilder’s breakout has been a revelation on a team that was last in the league in rushing. Helped by a surging offensive line, the revamped running game has made the whole offence better.
Toronto started the season with Brandon Whitaker at running back, before switching horses.
“It wasn’t that Brandon wasn’t playing well,” said Trestman. “It’s just that we felt we wanted to kind of change the chemistry … We knew James had it in him. But we were trying to find out football team.”
While Toronto managed field goals on four of its first five possessions, Montreal punted five times in succession. That 12-0 lead quickly became 19-0 on Alden Darby’s 75-yard interception return for a touchdown with four minutes remaining in the first half.
Another interception set up a 16-yard Ricky Ray pass to S.J. Green for a 26-0 lead in the dying seconds of the half.
Lirim Hajrullahu kicked four field goals for Toronto. Boris Bede had a field goal and a single for Montreal.
The Als stuck with Durant, who was pulled in favour of Drew Willy after missing his first six passes against Ottawa last week. And a bristling Argo defence made his night miserable.
The Als were blanked in the first quarter for a sixth straight game.
Montreal’s Nik Lewis, who had just passed Terry Vaughn to move into fifth place on the CFL’s all-time receiving yards list, had to be helped off with an injured leg on White’s first interception.
Toronto wins the season series with Montreal 2-1.