As badly as the Canadian Football League wants scoring to increase league-wide, there’s still something to be said for a good defensive football game. This past Thursday, two of the league’s best defenses battled in La Belle Province and it was an absolute dandy.
The Montreal Alouettes bested the Hamilton Tiger-Cats by a 17-13 score in front of their loyal fans at Percival Molson Stadium. Rakeem Cato faced another very tough test and was able to pass it, as well as several footballs to his receiving core. Cato went 23 of 34 and almost reached the 300 yard mark again for passing. But just like in his first CFL win versus Calgary two weeks ago, Cato committed ZERO interceptions.
It’s truly remarkable just how calm and poised this 23 year old really is. The former Thundering Herd quarterback learned from his mistakes versus Winnipeg and never panicked once in this game. Instead of always trying to make the big play happen, he spread the ball to his receivers in short effective bursts and even used his feet to gain yardage, leading the Alouettes in rushing this past Thursday with 30 yards. Hamilton’s run defense was clearly prepared for Tyrell Sutton and they kept him at bay, but they were not ready for the quick feet of Rakeem the Dream.
Cato’s lone touchdown pass to S.J. Green came in the third quarter and the drive to get the ball in the end zone was picture perfect. Just a precision drive, one down at a time. And even Green’s TD was a thing of beauty, as is often the case. I don’t know how he does it, but Cato just hucked the ball in Green’s general direction and it’s as if he knew well in advance that S.J. was going to catch it for the score. I’m still at a loss for words to describe this thing of beauty, so here’s a video of it courtesy of the CFL.
And Fred Stamps….my word. There were a lot of raised eyebrows when that trade was made last December to get him. Not only did the Alouettes give up a great talent in Kenny Stafford for him but did this embattled veteran, who was made expendable in Edmonton by Adarius Bowman, still have anything left in the tank?
Last Thursday’s game proved that not only does Stamps have plenty of juice, but he will be another terrific asset to the development of Rakeem Cato. I’ve called Stamps the Larry Fitzgerald of the CFL and with good reason; like Fitzgerald, Stamps is just such a great, hard-working receiver and he knows how to win. As long as Cato has Stamps and Green to lob passes to, he will be in good hands.
The same cannot be said for his counterpart Zach Collaros, who had a pretty rough evening this past Thursday. The Hamilton pivot was launching some wobbly ducks and 3 of those errant passes were picked off by the Alouettes. Collaros hardly looked like the quarterback who carefully dissected the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and hung 52 points on. A tip of the cap goes to Alouettes defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe for preparing his troops for this normally strong CFL pivot.
I had said in my game preview that the Alouettes would have to find a way to stop Brandon Banks from reaching the end zone on kick returns. After a sub-par special teams game versus Winnipeg, Coach Kavis Reed smartly outfoxed Banks and the Tiger-Cats. Reed directed his kicker Boris Bede to punt and kick the ball away from the lightning fast returner and Banks’ streak of returned kicks for touchdowns grinded to a halt.
Technically, Banks did score one of those TDs. But in a repeat of the 102nd Grey Cup, a marvelous return was all for naught due to a penalty. When the final whistle sounded, the dangerous returner was only able to muster a paltry 55 yards in returns. Banks is fast but it turns out that defenders like Nick Shortill, Marc-Olivier Brouillette, Nicolas Boulay and even Martin Bedard were just a shade faster on this beautiful summer night.
Chalk it up as another disappointment for TigerTown as Hamilton falls to 1-2 and will now have to wait until October 18th to try breaking their dubious losing streak at Percival Molson Stadium. Round one of three in 2015 goes to Montreal and the rematch will be at Tim Hortons Field later this summer, where the Tabbies are still undefeated since opening that barn in the middle of last season.
I’ve said on multiple occasions that the experience at Percival Molson Stadium is like no other place in the CFL. One of the reasons is that when this Montreal crowd is truly into the game, this 23,500 seat stadium can sound just as loud as the 60-70,000 seat NFL stadiums. This means you really have to make a lot of noise when the Alouettes’ defensive unit is on the field. In fact, the team constantly encourages you to do so!
This past Thursday though, I was witness to an incident that involved some attendees complaining about the noise being made on defense, making it impossible for them to enjoy the game. When the team encourages you to make noise, the idea is to scream and yell. But not everyone has the ability to produce such noise so often they will bring in air horns, drums, cowbells and other noisemakers in order to achieve that goal.
For “fans” to be upset at this is ridiculous. This stadium isn’t a library. You’re not at the ballet. This is expected to be a rowdy, wild, LOUD environment. Would you attend a concert and be upset at fans cheering/singing along during the songs being played live (which are often at an ear-splitting level of sound)? Making noise when your team asks you to do so is crucial to ruining the game play of the opposition. In fact, there were a number of penalties that Hamilton took this past Thursday as a result of the crowd noise disrupting them, so clearly it works!
It was most disappointing to hear that one security guard allegedly discouraged one fan from making excessive noise with his horn because, “You’re not at an NFL game here!” If true, that’s a pretty ridiculous statement for this guard to make because such noisemakers are actually banned from NFL games! When you get 60,000 people at a game, that should generate plenty of noise all by itself. But this is a stadium that only seats 23,500 and when half the fans still can’t figure out at what point to cheer, not making enough noise can become problematic.
If such noisemakers are supposedly frowned upon at Alouettes games, then why do the team’s souvenir stands SELL this? And this? Just two examples. And also, why did they hire a host who spends the majority of the pre-game “educating” fans that the defense needs them to make noise? If you ever want to know why Western fans of the CFL make fun of cities like Montreal and Toronto for lack of fan support, here’s a prime example of why. I bet if you went to a security guard in Regina to complain about the crowd noise being too much, they would probably throw YOU out instead!
Perhaps some better training is needed to properly educate everyone, from security guards to even these part-time fans. Or maybe the team can provide overly sensitive fans with complimentary earplugs if all that noise is too much to take. Better yet, I would even encourage the team to come out with Alouettes-branded earmuffs. A quick Google search found me this nice-looking pair of earmuffs for a decent price. Surely the team can slap an Alouettes logo on these and sell them to fans that want the live game experience, but perhaps not the excessive noise.
I might even buy a pair myself, if only to drown out the idiotic commentary from the uneducated armchair QBs that often show up to games. You know who I mean; the ones who were clearly given their game tickets for free from their workplace in hopes of seeing washed-up NFL stars playing. Thankfully, those “fans” tend to leave by the end of the third quarter to beat the supposed traffic.
With the win, the Alouettes even their record at 2-2 and go into their first bye week on a positive note. The players and coaches will now get some much needed rest and family time, then come back to prepare for a pair of road games against Calgary and Ottawa.
The ALSternative will not be taking a break during the bye week. I have a few ideas that I’d like to expand upon for you good readers to enjoy while the team is on break. Stay tuned to 3 Down Nation for more info.
No matter what, make the most of your summer, folks….it disappears way too quickly!
GO ALS GO!!!