(N.B.: This was such a huge weekend that I decided to split this into two separate posts. This is the usual ALSternative post. For a more in-depth look at the Touchdown Atlantic weekend itself, click here.)
Not even a healthy dose of the Maritime air could halt the Alouettes’ losing streak as this snake-bitten season trudges on.
The Montreal Alouettes walked into Stade Moncton looking to halt the current slide but came up short, losing a nail-biter to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats by a score of 28-26. Josh Neiswander started this game for the injured Tanner Marsh and played pretty well, throwing for two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Troy Smith also notched his first CFL touchdown, pushing in a goal-line TD. There was a lot of positives as Duron Carter and S.J. Green each caught a touchdown and added to their offensive stats. But what led to Montreal’s eighth loss was penalties, penalties, penalties.
Just when it seemed like a drive was going great and it would be a two and out for the Ti-Cats, someone on the Alouettes’ D would take a penalty and breathe new life into the offensive series. Sitting in that stadium, surrounded by Ti-Cats fans who made this stadium their home for one day, it was a test of patience for the Alouettes faithful that made the trip to their neighboring province.
Hamilton played well, effectively using both their quarterbacks to give the Alouettes plenty of fits. Ideally as a defense you prepare for Henry Burris, who is one of the premier QBs in this league. But just as you think you have him figured out, Hamilton Head Coach Kent Austin switches it up and introduces Dan Lefevour, who has an uncanny ability of turning a 2 yard run into a 13 yard gain. With a two-pronged attack like that, you have to be prepared for anything. And this Alouettes defense clearly didn’t look prepared for BOTH Hamilton quarterbacks.
But at the end of the day, Hamilton’s A-team just barely beat what looked like Montreal’s MASH unit by 2 points. A few less penalties here and there and this Alouettes team would have been victorious. That serves as little comfort for the Montreal fans that were there as Hamilton’s fans were agog with celebration, as though the Grey Cup was being awarded to the day’s winner.
Hamiltonians haven’t had it easy this year, being displaced as Ivor Wynne Stadium is being reconstructed into Tim Hortons Field for 2014. In speaking to some Ti-Cats fans before and during the game last Saturday, this was THEIR match today as many long-time fans have simply not made the move over to Guelph’s Alumni Stadium for the other Ti-Cats games.
Guelph is a good 45 minutes from Hamilton and apparently getting there is NOT half the fun. So I think for a lot of the fans at this game, this was their one and only chance to let loose and support their team in person, making a whole weekend of it.
Now that Hamilton has solved their early season woes and found ways to wins, I imagine that the temporary stadium situation will take a back seat to seeing winning football. I will be curious to see what it will be like when the Alouettes Fan Train heads to Guelph for the game there in late October.
I couldn’t imagine having to go and watch the Alouettes play every game in Olympic Stadium or any other stadium, even if only for a year. I’m sure once Tim Hortons Field opens, things will be back to normal in Steeltown and fans will be back in droves.
This Sunday the Alouettes will be back at Percival Molson Stadium to host the Saskatchewan RoughRiders, who started this season white-hot but have come down to earth, losing heart-breaking games to both Toronto and BC. It will still be a tall order to beat this Roughriders team, but several weeks ago the Alouettes came very close to winning in Saskatchewan with Josh Neiswander subbing in for Anthony Calvillo.
Expect to see many patches of green in the stands, as Rider Nation does reach to all eight CFL cities. Mosaic Stadium would easily win a competition for loudest CFL stadium, but Alouettes fans can get pretty loud when the situation calls for it. And while the Riders and Alouettes are not major rivals despite playing in back-to-back Grey Cups, these tilts do tend to get a bit on the loud side for fans.
So the Alouettes faithful going to the game need to get LOUD when Darian Durant and the Riders are on offense. And the penalties need to stop. I don’t know how Jim Popp can make it more clear to his team that very few calls will go Montreal’s way. That all eyes are on this Alouettes team and they need to be truly disciplined.
The Alouettes nearly pulled off the win in a hostile Saskatchewan environment; here’s hoping that there truly is no place like home in September.
Remarkably, this Alouettes team can still make the playoffs. These next few games are winnable, so keep the faith Alouettes Nation! I keep saying it, but if this team refuses to quit on this season from hell, then neither should those who call themselves fans.
Enjoy the game Sunday and I hope to see you at the tailgate!