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Backup running backs make most of starting opportunities


MONTREALArgonauts running back Chad Kackert made the best of his chance when he replaced Cory Boyd five games ago as quarterback Ricky Ray’s main ball-carrying weapon.

Now, Victor Anderson is getting his opportunity, although under completely different circumstances with the Montreal Alouettes.

Backups when the season began, both are now their respective teams’ No. 1 backfield threats.

On Sunday, Anderson scored two touchdowns — one on a 40-yard pass from Anthony Calvillo and another on a nine-yard run — as the Alouettes beat the Argos 31-10.

In just five games, Kackert, 25, has rushed for 418 yards on 61 carries, made 20 catches for 188 yards and scored five touchdowns.

He was named the CFL’s outstanding player of the week following his combined 239-yard performance and three touchdown runs in the Argos’ 41-35 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats earlier this month at the Rogers Centre.

With Brandon Whitaker, 27, out for the season with a torn ACL, Anderson, 24, is getting the best opportunity of his career. Reports out of Montreal last week suggested Edmonton offered Jerome Messam to the Alouettes but the price was too high.

Anderson filled in for Whitaker earlier this season against Edmonton and rushed for 102 yards on 18 carries and also caught three passes for 32 yards and a touchdown. He was used sparingly in three other games. Judging by the way he played against the Argos, the Alouettes might not skip a beat with Anderson.

When the season began, Kackert was prepared to back up Boyd. After starting in the season opener he never saw the gridiron again until Boyd’s surprising release on Aug. 12.

“It’s a tough mindset to have. You’re not travelling with the team. You feel like you’re really not doing your part,” Kackert said. “But at the same time you have to be ready at any moment.”

Kackert’s running and receiving ability has been a big reason why Toronto has won three of the five games he has played since Boyd was released after an 18-9 loss to the B.C. Lions.

After ripping the Ticats, Kackert missed the next game in Vancouver because of a calf injury. The Argos lost 28-23. Gerald Riggs Jr. replaced him in the lineup and had a decent outing, gaining 43 yards on four receptions and 39 yards on five rushes.

Was Kackert concerned about losing his spot?

“The priority is winning the Grey Cup so whoever is in there, that’s great,” Kackert said. “I try not to have a selfish attitude. I hoped Riggs did great. I want to see our team win.”

Whitaker was the backup guy for two years when Avon Colborne was Montreal’s No. 1 running back. He became the main man last season when Colborne signed with Hamilton as a free agent. Last season, Whitaker led the league in rushing with 1,381 yards and four touchdowns and also had 638 receiving yards and six TDs.

This season, he had 631 yards on 123 carries and four touchdowns and another 516 yards on 49 catches and two touchdowns before being injured.

Montreal coach Mark Trestman won’t know whether his team will be able to survive such a devastating loss until the end of the season, should the Alouettes get to the Grey Cup without him.

“This team has a great mindset of when somebody goes down, it’s an opportunity for the next guy so we try to turn it into a psychological positive,” Trestman said. “Brandon Whitaker is a difference-maker. He’s an elite player. But I think our team will capture the moment.”

Anderson spent a lot of time watching films in preparation for Sunday’s game so he knew what to expect from Toronto’s attack-oriented defence.

“In my opinion, Brandon Whitaker is the best running back in the league,” Anderson said. “But this is a great opportunity for me. It’s something I’ve been dreaming about all my life. I’m fortunate to be playing football professionally. But I have to approach every game as if it’s my last game.

“God’s blessed me with this opportunity so I can praise him by going out and giving 100 per cent on every play.”

thestar.com – Sports