The ALSternative—Pre-Season Game 2 Recap

Credit: Mathieu Lariviere

After a solid showing in Quebec City versus the Ottawa RedBlacks, the Montreal Alouettes were supposed to put their best foot forward in front of their hometown crowd and set the stage for what fans could expect from their team in 2015. Instead, much like the weather at Percival Molson Stadium last evening, the skies turned dark and the downpour came, lasting until the bitter end.

Losing their final pre-season match to the Toronto Argonauts by a score of 30-10, Montreal did little to satisfy the concerns of those who wondered about the shaky start of QB Jonathan Crompton. After completing a beautiful pass to Cody Hoffman which lead to Jonathan Bryant scoring his second pre-season TD for the Alouettes, the former U of Tennessee Volunteer seemingly forgot how to football.

He had two interceptions, one which was returned for a touchdown. Both times he well overthrew his target and was easily read on his pick-six. Just when it seemed like he was ready to silence his critics of the past seven days with that first beautiful TD drive, Crompton failed to impress and only lasted one quarter before Dan LeFevour was summoned to duty. With Crompton’s underwhelming play against Ottawa the week previous, many felt a strong showing from the former Ti-Cat would be more than enough to unseat JC as starting pivot for the Als.

Except that LeFevour really wasn’t much better. He too, fell victim to a very inspired Toronto secondary, as they also were able to hang an INT on LeFevour. One can make the argument that Sam Giguere’s inability to secure the ball thrown to him was the reason the Argos were able to eventually notch another TD against Montreal. But in reality, it was a pass that LeFevour had no business trying to make and one that he’d easily take back if he could.

When all was said and done, LeFevour will not be the next Ricky Ray. At least, not for a while. After the game, Head Coach Tom Higgins stated that Crompton would be the starting quarterback when the season officially kicks off next Thursday at home versus the RedBlacks. But JC is not out of the woods by any stretch. Whether it’s adjusting to OC Turk Schonert’s playbook or general insecurity about his place on the depth chart, Crompton has to rise above it all and bring back the form that brought the Alouettes to within one game of playing for the Grey Cup in 2014.

Yesterday’s rain-soaked match also brought to light the glaring inability to keep the penalty flags in the referee’s pockets. It will be a period of adjustment league-wide, as both rookies and veterans will have to pay extra attention to not only where they line up, but what happens when the ball is in play. Geoff Tisdale is arguably the best shutdown corner this league has to offer, but he seemed to have a hard time adjusting to these new rules as well.

It’s double-tough for this league’s defenders, as these new rules are meant to open the field up even more and give teams better opportunities to put points on the board in 2015. One thing I did read about during Argos training camp was that coaches were throwing their own penalty flags if players weren’t abiding by the new rules. I’m thinking that Montreal should have done likewise during their own training camp sessions. Ignorance will not be an excuse when the game results actually count for something.

When all was said and done, last night was again more about evaluating the players that were on the bubble. This was their chance to make one final case to stay on the team, be it as a back-up or on the practice roster.

Two names that I’d be surprised to see staying with Montreal are Darrin Kitchens and Jonathan Bryant. While Bryant did notch two touchdowns this pre-season, he also had some very untimely drops in yesterday’s game. As a rookie international receiver, you pretty much have to be perfect in order to even warrant a practice roster spot. Perfect, he was not.

Kitchens managed to get him thrown out of the game for spitting on an Argos player during a heated moment. That lack of discipline, coupled with an average camp at best are sure-fire ways to be shown the door come Saturday. I probably would have had Kitchens’ plane ticket already printed out for him as soon as he finished showering and getting dressed. Nothing wrong with playing gritty and with an edge, but has anyone ever won a job in ANY field by hawking loogies at a fellow man? No? Didn’t think so.

After his impressive showing last Saturday, Boris Bede didn’t exactly deliver in the sequel. The rain-slicked football certainly gave young Boris some issues yesterday. After shanking a punt and not holding well for fellow kicker Drew Basil’s field goal attempts, I’m guessing it doesn’t rain very often in Quebec City during Rouge et Or games.  With that, I’m fairly confident that incumbent kicker Sean Whyte’s job is safe and Bede may have to grab a spot on the practice roster for the time being.

Truthfully, the weather didn’t do anyone playing any favours yesterday. It’s unfortunate that the Alouettes didn’t take advantage of all the rainy days they had in Sherbrooke during training camp! Instead of holding training camp indoors, perhaps they should have practiced at least once or twice out in the rain! Then they would not have been so affected by the constant rain coming down yesterday.

But kudos to those who fought through it, as well as the fans that refused to run away and hide because it got a bit wet during the game. And don’t let yesterday’s attendance of 16,000+ discourage you; there is a lot to be excited about and this team will bring the proper personnel to compete when the bright lights come on next Thursday.

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So as I’ve stated before, there’s plenty of tough decisions that need to be made before Saturday at 10pm. As this column hits the Interweb, players are already being told whether or not that they have made the team. There’s no better sense of accomplishment if you are one of those who get that welcoming call; it instantly means that all your hard work and sacrifice has paid off and you’ll continue to pursue that dream of playing pro football.

The flip side of that means that you’ll get a plane ticket back home and be told to stay in shape in case someone who made the team gets hurt. It’s an extremely bitter pill to swallow, after making the same sacrifices as those who made the cut. For some, that exchange from the coaching staff is usually the final nail in the coffin of their football career.

Once the dust has settled and we know who will join the squad and who won’t, I’ll be back to expand on it some more.

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As training camps comes to its end, it’s time to focus on the regular season! This season, I am planning to bring you the fans along for one heck of a ride! Now only will there be the usual preview and recap of each game, but I am also planning to give you more of an in-depth look at your Montreal Alouettes!

There are many great stories from these players just waiting to be told and I am privileged to be the one doing it for you, the fans! But don’t forget to check out the other great writers here at 3 Down Nation. Not only do you get coverage of all 9 CFL teams, but you get analysis, stats and so much more! And if reading isn’t your thing, then give all the great CFL podcasts a listen! Many are informative while some are entertaining but all of them have one goal in mind; strengthening the CFL community nationwide.

The Canadian Football League is starting to reach towards newer heights in order to be more than just a niche league; its ultimate goal is to be a global brand. That will take some time but with the people that contribute to this league, I have zero doubt that one day, this lofty goal will be reached. And I’m glad to be along for the ride.

GO ALS GO!!!

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