Once again, the Montreal Alouettes hit the road in search of their first victory away from the friendly confines of Percival Molson Stadium. This week’s business trip lands the Birds of Prey in our nation’s capital, as they will play their first of two games at TD Place versus the Ottawa RedBlacks tomorrow.
After letting a 17 point lead and probable win slip away versus the Calgary Stampeders, the Alouettes look to rebound and also climb out of the Eastern division basement. A win versus Ottawa will also even the season series at one apiece, with the rubber match to be played on October 1st.
When these two teams played last to open the season in late June, Ottawa managed to squeak out a win in Montreal and also managed to shelve both Jonathan Crompton and Dan LeFevour. This time around, the RedBlacks will get their first taste of Rakeem Cato, who has been an offensive dynamo in relief of the aforementioned Montreal quarterbacks.
Ottawa’s defense is rapidly gaining a lot of ground in the CFL, keeping the team in tight battles and even stealing victories. Most notable was when Keith Shologan was able to strip the ball from Bo Levi Mitchell in Ottawa’s overtime win versus Calgary two weeks ago. Stellar defensive play by the likes of Abdul Kanneh, Aston Whiteside and Moton Hopkins has been a huge reason why Ottawa has managed to surpass their win total from 2014. From day one of this season, the RedBlacks have maintained they do not consider themselves an expansion team and refuse to play like one.
The Alouettes will have to bring their defensive prowess and make Henry Burris and his receivers earn every single play. Ottawa has some extremely talented receivers that will get open, so the Alouette secondary will have to be prepared to stick close to these playmakers and limit them. I expect Alouettes DC Noel Thorpe to load the box and put as much heat as possible on Ottawa’s 40 year old signal-caller, who doesn’t respond well to being blitzed. Disrupting Smilin’ Hank will be one of the keys to walking out of TD Place with that first road win of 2015.
Cato will have to rely on his top receivers to make plays happen. And much like he did against Calgary in his debut, he has to make quick plays happen and keep the ball moving. Last week he tried to make the big play happen and it backfired on him. He’ll have the steady hands of Fred Stamps back in the lineup and that will be crucial as S.J. Green will have a target on his back the size of those celebratory wood cookies for every RedBlacks touchdown.
It doesn’t look like Tyrell Sutton will be able to go, so now is Brandon Rutley’s time to shine against a run defense that has had a hard time corralling speedsters on the ground. Rakeem the Dream will also put his legs to good use should he not be able to find a receiver downfield. I would also expect to see J.C. Beaulieu used more as well in second and short situations, as he can muscle it downfield and keep the chains moving for the Alouettes.
Ottawa’s special teams unit are always dangerous, as their coach Don Yanowsky is not afraid to pull a trick or two out of his playbook. In practice this week, Alouettes ST Coach Kavis Reed was getting creative with his plays, so don’t be surprised to see some audibles called from either team when it comes time to kick or punt. Tomorrow’s tilt will feature the debut of Chris Milo as kicker for the RedBlacks, replacing former Alouette Delbert Alvarado.
This will be a battle of former Universite Laval kickers as the Alouettes’ Boris Bede made a name for himself for the Rouge et Or when Milo graduated and was drafted by the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Milo is looking to prove himself after being released by the Riders for a kicker 20 years OLDER than him. Tomorrow’s match versus Montreal will be the first of hopefully many for this National kicker.
But the biggest factor that the Alouettes will have to overcome is the very loud contingent known as RNation bringing a ton of noise to TD Place. Last year, the Alouettes won their first meeting at this refurbished barn due to the crowd accidentally being loud on offence and disrupting Henry Burris as he was trying to score a game-tying touchdown. There won’t be a repeat performance of that as the RedBlacks organization have made a much better attempt of educating their fans on when to make noise.
If Montreal can strike quick and take the crowd out of the game while keeping the pressure on for all four quarters, this game is very winnable for the Alouettes. But Ottawa has managed to come back from deficits in all of their victories in 2015 so if the Alouettes show any kind of weakness or start to take this game lightly, the RedBlacks will capitalize and have their revenge from last season’s losses to further distance themselves from their Eastern contemporaries.
Whichever team can stay disciplined and not turn the ball over will be able to call themselves the winners of the second round of this 2015 season series.
If you’re planning to make the trip from Montreal to Ottawa, be sure to check out the original Montreal Alouettes tailgate, making their first road trip of 2015!
Starting at 3pm tomorrow until just before kickoff, head over to Ottawa’s Brewer Park near Carleton University and join not only the Alouettes tailgate but also make some friends with RNation at the Southsiders Tailgate, which will also be at this park located mere minutes from TD Place. As usual, bring your food to be grilled on the BBQs and plenty of cold beverages. Many of the hardcore Alouettes fans will be there, ready to support their team on the road.
Here’s a map of where the tailgate will be. For more info, check out the Les Gars Qui Vivent web site:
This game is sold out, so I really hope you got your tickets well in advance. There was a time when Alouettes fans were able to overtake this particular stadium and practically make it their own. Those days are long gone. Tomorrow will be perhaps the most hostile territory that the Alouettes will face this season, so they have to be prepared to battle not just the team in front of them, but the team around them.
I’m looking forward to an incredible night of football in the 613. Enjoy the game tomorrow, regardless of where you watch it.
GO ALS GO!!!