Absolutely no one saw this coming. NO ONE.
Even as I type this, I still find myself in a state of shock. During yesterday’s CFL Eastern Semi-Final the Montreal Alouettes, a team that started the 2014 season at 1-7 and was left for dead by many pundits, came out and completely obliterated the BC Lions by a final score of 50-17.
The victory snaps Montreal’s three game losing streak in the post-season dating back to 2011 and secures themselves a berth in the Eastern Final at Tim Hortons Field next Sunday versus the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
I expected the Alouettes to win yesterday. But then again, I always do as I truly believe in their talents on the field. But to come out and pummel the opposition by a score of 50-17?! That’s right, FIFTY to SEVENTEEN. There was no possible way to predict such a complete and utter thrashing. On paper, it would completely defy logic. But as they say, these games are played on a football field and not on paper.
Ever since he assumed the role of starting quarterback for the Alouettes, I’ve said numerous times over that Jonathan Crompton was good, but good wasn’t going to be good enough and that he had to be great. Yesterday, as the first snow came falling down onto the field at Percival Molson Stadium, Jonathan Crompton became great.
I won’t go so far as to call him the next Anthony Calvillo as that would be a completely unfair comparison. But Crompton looked calm, confident and most important of all, he looked and acted like a leader. He certainly wasn’t perfect and his final numbers weren’t terrific, but Crompton played championship-caliber football for a team that was in need of direction.
This was the convincing win that JC needed to silence the critics once and for all. In doing so Crompton also accomplished a feat that, remarkably, has only been done by two other men in the past 20 years; win a playoff football game for the Montreal Alouettes at quarterback.
He wasn’t alone, however. Yesterday a lot of people stepped up and became great in that dominant Alouettes victory:
–Brandon Rutley. Subbing in for the injured Tyrell Sutton (who himself had been subbing in for Brandon Whitaker), Rutley had to be the perfect compliment for the read option that Jonathan Crompton runs so well. Rutley did just that, posting 119 all-purpose yards and notching his first CFL touchdown. Along with Chris Rainey, Rutley helped out his quarterback by establishing a strong run game and kept the Lions defense in a state of confusion.
– Jerald Brown. He was already great, but yesterday he stood out on an elite Alouettes defense that completely shut down BC for four quarters. Typically known for his ball-hawking skills, Brown absolutely destroyed yesterday. Picking off Kevin Glenn early and later turning a Lions red zone fumble into a 103 yard touchdown, JB was a true stud in every sense of the word.
– Jeff Finley. This young man hasn’t seen a lot of playing time until recently, but this 2014 third round draft pick made quite an impression yesterday with his defensive play. It would be easy for a rookie to get caught up in the moment of being in the playoffs, but Finley came through when his team needed him. I am willing to bet Kevin Glenn still has an impression of Finley’s #49 upon his skin.
– Tanner Marsh. Yes, this is Jonathan Crompton’s team and barring injury, it will stay that way for the remainder of the 2014 season and beyond. But Marsh has done a fantastic job when his number has been called in short-yardage situations. Extremely mobile and able to improvise in a nanosecond, Marsh has been sensational in his quarterbacking role this season, scoring several touchdowns. Jim Popp always finds these hidden gems and when they pay off like what Tanner has, it’s clear why this Alouettes team stays so competitive year after year after year.
Truly, this was a statement win. Earlier this season, everyone assumed that the West would crossover and walk all over whomever remained in the East. Everyone counted out both Hamilton and Montreal. And now, those very two teams will battle next Sunday to see who will represent the resurgent East in the 102nd Grey Cup.
For the first time in 3 years, the host city will not be a participant/eventual winner. And with the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ defeat to the Edmonton Eskimos yesterday, there will be no repeat champion. The Grey Cup will be contested by a team from Alberta versus a team that had to wait until Labour Day weekend to see their second victory of the regular season. There’s nothing like the Canadian Football League, I tells ya!
There was only one major disappointment to yesterday’s big win by the Alouettes: only 15,000 fans were there to witness it live. It is an embarrassment for residents of a world-class city like Montreal to thumb their noses at a team that is hosting a playoff game. So what was the deciding factor that led to these part-time fans to stay home?
That little bit of cold and snow which fell? Can’t be, Canadian citizens are known worldwide as a hardy bunch. The augmented ticket prices? I’m sure it’s a factor, but raising ticket prices doesn’t stop people from going to the Canadiens’ games when they go on a Stanley Cup run. Not knowing whether the game would be played on the 16th or the 23rd? Maybe, but playoffs happen every November. It’s not exactly a surprise or at least it shouldn’t be.
One suggestion was because the game wasn’t being played at Olympic Stadium like it always used to be. Are you kidding me? If the Alouettes were 100% guaranteed of selling 50,000 seats to their one playoff game, the game would absolutely be held there despite the Big O being as far removed from downtown Montreal as possible. Heck, the Alouettes are paying rent there regardless, might as well put it to some use if possible.
Even with their less than stellar start this season, the Alouettes have made the playoffs every single season since the team returned to Montreal in 1996. Once again, I fail to see the logic in fans missing out on attending a playoff game at home. All I am hearing are excuses and very weak ones at that.
I do agree that a serious reality check from the Alouettes’ front office and their ideology is sorely needed. Previous administrations have largely ignored the fan base and now the current front office has to reap what was sown. But I am seeing a lot of listening to fans from several members of the organization and I do hope they continue doing that going forward.
Attracting those casual fans as well as maintaining the core fan base will be priority #1 this winter. During the off-season, I’ll be detailing what changes I would like to see and what still needs to improve when it comes to the Montreal Alouettes fan experience.
Until then, I hope those “fans” who chose not to go to the game yesterday deeply regrets not being a live witness to such a tremendous event.
So the first challenge has been met by the Montreal Alouettes: Win the Eastern Semi-Final at home. Next up is a business trip to Hamilton this coming Sunday to face the Tiger-Cats, who will be rested and will have a sold-out crowd cheering them on. Since starting play at Tim Hortons Field in 2014, the Ti-Cats are undefeated.
Last year, the Tabbies had to take the scenic route to get to the Grey Cup; hosting the Eastern Semi-Final then winning the Eastern Final on the road. Will the 2014 Alouettes follow in those same footsteps or will Hamilton return again to the promised land to try and win their first Grey Cup since 1999?
I’ll be back later this week to preview the 2014 CFL Eastern Final. Today, the Alouettes’ players will enjoy yesterday’s victory. But starting tomorrow, they’ll be back to work with one goal in mind; Represent the Eastern division at the 102nd Grey Cup.
One down, two to go. The second season marches on!