Damon unable to deliver

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

MONTREAL -- His classroom work may have been sharp for much of the past three weeks, but did Damon Allen pass last night's final exam?

Facing a blitzing Montreal Alouettes defence and playing behind an offensive line that had its weak moments, Allen did little to move to the head of the class.

That the Argos lost 34-26 at Percival Molson Stadium in the final pre-season game for both was of minimal concern.

That the offence waffled under the command of its incumbent quarterback throughout the first half could compromise his bid for the starting job.

It is also possible that Mike McMahon shot up the charts when he took over in the third and promptly delivered a quarter and a half of productive play.

McMahon's second possession concluded with a snazzy 21-yard touchdown pass to go-to receiver Arland Bruce III, capping off an impressive 75-yard drive.

Playing into the fourth quarter, McMahon got more confident by the series. A second scoring drive of 91 yards was nicely finished with a 29-yard strike to Michael Washington.

The evaluation process gets serious today, likely starting on the team's early morning train ride home. The Argos braintrust must now decide whether McMahon or Michael Bishop have done enough to sack Allen.

Whatever they decide, it may not be permanent.

"I don't think as we move forward to game one that the guy who starts is going to be the starter for the next 17," Argos coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons said. "You are really going to have to play and be accountable.

"At some point, a true number one will emerge. I don't think we can say that definitively at this point."

Clemons said he will have to decide on a Week 1 starter by Sunday when the team begins preparations for Thursday's opener at home against the Grey Cup champion B.C. Lions.

Visually it was an unsightly night for Allen. It began on the opening snap when he had the ball stripped by Als defensive end R-Kal Truluck.

There was more damning evidence from a half in which he was also sacked twice and hit hard several times. The fact that Allen, who completed 10 of 17 attempts for 112 yards, didn't take his first snap in Alouettes territory until 1:13 remaining in the first half might be difficult to ignore.

"What do you want me to say?" Allen said.

"To me, it wasn't that good because you never got in your rhythm and we had protection breakdowns. It's really hard to assess."

With guard Jude St. John not dressed due to a minor leg injury, the Als defence picked on Brian Ramsay -- making his first start as a pro -- and got to Allen repeatedly.

McMahon wasn't bothered by any such issues, completing eight of 13 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns and looked in command.

"I feel a more comfortable every time I'm on the field," McMahon said. "I just go out there with my best and see what happens."

Bishop, who made his case with a solid first half in the pre-season opener, only appeared in the final four minutes of mostly mop-up play.


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