There’s one thing you can say about this 2015 version of the Montreal Alouettes; they are close.
But as the saying goes, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. This team gets oh so close to victory, only to have it snatched away. And in all honesty, they have no one to blame but themselves. They truly are their own worst enemy.
In losing again to the Ottawa RedBlacks, this time by a 26-23 score (At least there have been no blowout losses this year!), the Alouettes were served yet another slice of humble pie. This time the loss was only by three points as opposed to by four after their first match-up in late June. So I guess that’s an improvement?
Rakeem Cato did throw for over 300 yards and even scampered into the end zone for his first professional touchdown. But he threw two costly interceptions, each time being picked off in the end zone after successfully marching his team down the field with some outstanding passes. After looking so masterful against Calgary and Hamilton, he’s been brought back down to earth time and time again. So are these actual rookie mistakes or is the bloom starting to come off the rose for this enigmatic signal-caller?
The first half featured some decent play by both teams but Montreal was looking real solid with the ground game of Brandon Rutley, who more than held his own as a starter. He’s had to wait his turn with Tyrell Sutton playing well this season. But with Sutton out of the lineup, Rutley established himself as a force with 123 all-purpose yards, crushing through Ottawa’s D-Line and also hauling in a few passes as well to move the chains.
The play of Rutley in the first half was terrific. So it begs the question, why was the run game virtually ignored in the second half? Cato usually reads the defense so well, but yet he still feels the need to do something outstanding and it feels so forced. And worse, teams are now picking up on it. The RedBlacks were playing cat-and-mouse with the former Marshall pivot, letting him run roughshod at first to feel him out then letting him expose himself at the worst possible times.
After the game, I said that Rakeem had to own up for this one as those two INTs were strictly on him and the points he left out on the field would have made a world of difference. Later in the night, Cato took to Facebook and did exactly that:
I’ll give this guy a ton of credit, he holds himself more accountable that any of us ever could. At the risk of sounding like a broken record….Rakeem Cato is still a rookie, he’s gonna make mistakes, he will get better. Lather, rinse, repeat.
There were a lot of highlight moments from this tilt for you Alouettes fans. For some, it was the debut of Michael Sam in an actual pro football game. But if that was your highlight of this particular match, you may want to invest your time in another sport. I’m glad he got some reps in, but Sam did nothing of note in his debut. He still has a ways to go, but at least he got onto the field as a professional football player.
Stefan Logan nearly had his second touchdown on special teams, but a penalty nixed that. If you like highlight reel catches, then S.J. Green, Fred Stamps and even Alex Charette had some of those for your viewing pleasure this past Friday. When I complain about Cato trying to make the big play, it is surely what these fellas can do with their hands that makes him think they can make something out of nothing every single time. A crime that even I can be guilty of every now and again.
I would be remiss to not mention the play of the Quebec-born Alouettes like Samuel Giguere, Jean-Christophe Beaulieu and Nicolas Boulay. All three were major contributors to why Montreal was able to lead up until the last 90 seconds of the game. It was Giguere’s touchdown in the fourth that put Montreal ahead and realistically should have been the game-winner.
That TD was set up beautifully with a great catch and run by Beaulieu, who not only has good wheels but a great set of hands. With Montreal inexplicably abandoning the run game late in the second half, they could have put this young man’s versatility to even better use, keeping Ottawa’s defense guessing. A few more games like this and J-C’s name will be on everyone’s lips league-wide.
And young Nicolas registered his first career QB sack, proving he’s not solely a special teams star. Both he and Beaulieu took a major step forward in this game as they seek to reach that next level of superstardom in Quebec football. I should also mention that all three of these studs were standout stars at the Université de Sherbrooke, proving that it’s not only Laval’s Rouge et Or that can produce top-tier talent in La Belle Province.
The biggest play of the game came late in the fourth quarter, as the RedBlacks marched down the field on a mission to score the go-ahead touchdown. A series marred with remarkable Ottawa catches and Montreal penalties led to a 3rd and 10 where Henry Burris tried to connect with Ernest Jackson but Alouettes DB Dominique Ellis leapt into the air to break up the play and it should have been a turnover on downs.
However, that dreaded penalty flag had been tossed as the referee and ultimately the league’s command centre determined that Ellis had interfered with the pass, which put the ball at the one yard line and allowed Smilin’ Hank to plunge forward for what would be the game-winning touchdown.
Watching it live, I didn’t see anything that showed Ellis actually interfering with Jackson’s ability to catch the ball. The ball had actually bounced off Ellis’ head! The more I reviewed the play afterwards, I suppose the argument that Dominique didn’t turn his head towards the ball implies that he wasn’t playing to intercept it. But if that were the case, why didn’t the side judge who was RIGHT IN FRONT OF BOTH PLAYERS reach for HIS flag? He had the best possible view of the play and saw nothing wrong.
It’s a moot point now, but in all reality the Alouettes should have never been in that position in the first place. Once again in this still young season, they were in control of the game and their rookie QB hit yet another speed bump on the road to a long football career. As they say, on to the next one.
I’ll give RNation and its fans a lot of credit; they sure make a lot of noise. But passionate as they are, this fanbase still has to figure out how to make it work to their advantage.
During those final three minutes of the game this past Friday, the fans at TD Place got up and started cheering, screaming and making a LOT of noise. Which your defense wants from you, the fans. However, the offense does NOT want you to do that. The boisterous, rowdy crowd was making noise and cheering loudly even when the RedBlacks had the ball.
I was all prepared for a repeat performance from last year’s first Montreal/Ottawa game, where Henry Burris was trying to tie the game and the crowd noise on offense led to miscommunication, which prevented Ottawa from scoring to tie the game.
Admittedly, I got a good chuckle out of watching the Ottawa players motioning for fans to be quiet while the offense was on the field. This time around it didn’t deter the RedBlacks, but there’s still some learning to do for this football market.
That said, you can’t argue with these results:
It’s not the level of crowd noise you’d find at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, but it’s still pretty impressive to generate that much sound and trust me when I say that every team wishes they had an ambience like the one in the nation’s capital. Eventually, the fans here will get it right. Football has been a huge part of Ottawa for many decades, but once in a while it’s easy to forget the little things.
I will say that it’s nice to have a stadium’s patrons participating in the game by making noise. Unlike at Percival Molson Stadium, where the team sells noisemakers and then security frowns on you actually using them.
The Alouettes will get two more chances for their first road win later on this August, but first they have to head home and host the Edmonton Eskimos for their sole home game this month. We’ll see what this week in practice brings as this Montreal team now sits in the Eastern division basement.
Never a good feeling but at this point last year, the Alouettes were 1-5 and were in far more disarray than what they are now. There’s still a lot of racetrack left so keep the faith, Alouettes Nation…. As a certain team out West can attest to, things can be always be a lot worse.
GO ALS GO!!!