One group of felines have been de-clawed. It’s now time to make it two!
The Montreal Alouettes ensured that they will continue to play at least one more football game with their impressive 50-17 win this past Sunday. Their reward for pummeling the BC Lions? A free trip to Hamilton, where they will play the Tiger-Cats in the CFL’s Eastern Final. The winner of this Sunday’s match will then head across the country to Vancouver and represent the Eastern division in the 102nd Grey Cup.
We shall see by game’s end on Sunday whether the bye week was an advantage or deterrent for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. You do get a week off to rest any nagging injuries and then play this important game at your home stadium, but you also run the risk of being lackadaisical as well.
Having gone to the Grey Cup last season, I doubt that Tiger-Cats head coach Kent Austin would allow any of his charges to grow complacent. I would even suggest that by the end of the third quarter of the Eastern Semi-Final, Hamilton’s coaches were furiously preparing to face these Alouettes. I am expecting Hamilton to come out of the gate hot to try and dampen Montreal’s spirits.
Both of these team split the 2014 season series, each winning at home. To punch their ticket to the Grey Cup the Alouettes will have to find a way to beat the Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field, a task that no team has been able to accomplish since the doors opened on Labour Day 2014. No small feat, but the Alouettes have been battling against the odds all season long. I think they have at least one more game in them.
The biggest factor in this game will be the special teams play. Looking back at both regular season games, strong special teams play were the reason each home team won. Who would have guessed after being turfed by the Alouettes as defensive coordinator that Jeff Reinebold was such a special teams guru? His coaching for Hamilton has made a tremendous difference compared to having Alouettes head coach Tom Higgins pull double duty for the Alouettes.
Montreal won last week because they took care of the ball. Yes, Jonathan Crompton threw an interception but aside from that Montreal wasn’t careless with the rock. They will have to repeat that versus Hamilton and their strong defense. The run game was prevalent versus BC and it’s looking like Tyrell Sutton will be able to play on Sunday. He’s got some unfinished business versus the Tiger-Cats after they were able to contain him two weeks ago.
Both Sutton and Brandon Rutley, who had a major coming-out party versus the Lions, will factor in considerably with the read option. Crompton has used that style of play to much success since taking the reins of this Alouettes offense, but he’d better have it perfected by the time he takes the field Sunday. With an extra week for Hamilton’s coaches to prepare, JC won’t catch the Tiger-Cats napping.
Both Crompton and Tanner Marsh will be major contributors to this Eastern Final for the Alouettes; when both play their game the way they do, they are a force to be reckoned with. After years of seeing just one man take the snaps in Montreal, it’s been jarring for Alouettes fans to see a sort of QB committee. But it’s worked well this season and in using both QBs the way they have, Tom Higgins and Jeff Garcia has done a marvelous job with their young signal-callers.
Kent Austin doesn’t have that luxury of multiple quarterbacks, rather he’s chosen to push all his chips to the middle of the table with his hand-picked quarterback Zach Collaros. In one calendar year he’s gone from unknown Ricky Ray understudy to being a single game away from being a starting QB in the Grey Cup.
Like Crompton with the Alouettes, Collaros has earned the respect of his teammates and despite missing time with a head injury early on, he’s played some great football for the Tiger-Cats down the stretch. Montreal’s elite defense was able to best him and also be humbled by him, so they will really have their work cut out for them.
The defense will have to tune out what should be a boisterous Hamilton crowd and find ways to get to Collaros early and often. This Montreal defense has shut out Ricky Ray at home and sent several teams packing. This Sunday, they will have to bring the same fire and intensity that they did versus BC the week previous.
This will be quite the matchup no matter what. Recent history might favour the Alouettes and their path to Vancouver, as last year the Tiger-Cats won versus Montreal in the Eastern Semi-Final and beat the Toronto Argonauts to pay in the 101st Grey Cup. In 2012 the Argonauts beat the Edmonton Eskimos in the Eastern Semi-Final and Montreal in the Eastern Final. It’s very much a coincidence but there IS a pattern here, folks.
However, the Montreal Alouettes haven’t won a road game of any kind versus the Tiger-Cats since 2010! That includes road games played in FIVE different buildings such as Ivor Wynne Stadium, Ron Joyce Stadium and Tim Hortons Field (Right in Hamilton itself), Stade Moncton (Touchdown Atlantic) and Alumni Stadium (Guelph). Despite their forced nomadic ways since the end of the 2012 season, the old saying rings true for the fans of TigerTown: There’s no place like home.
This Sunday’s game at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field is sold out, but Alouettes fans in the Montreal area will still be able to watch their team try to secure another trip to the Grey Cup by attending this Sunday’s official viewing party.
As usual, the good folks at Station Des Sports will have the game on several televisions as well as providing ice-cold beverages and delicious food. Fellow Alouettes fans will be there so if you’re able, come support this great endeavor and cheer on your Alouettes to the Grey Cup! For more info, click here.
That’s all for now. I’m not one for predictions, but I did say at the start of the year that Montreal was going to play in Vancouver in late November. It hasn’t been the easiest road to get to that particular game but I just can’t help this feeling that this team is not ready to stop playing football in 2014 just yet.
Like I said earlier, I believe the Montreal Alouettes have at least one more good game of football in them. Enjoy the game on Sunday, regardless of where you watch it.