Need a streak of any sort ended? Just call the Montreal Alouettes!!
Last night, another mystical streak came to a screeching halt as the Alouettes survived a very spirited affair with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, posting a 26-23 victory. Hamilton is no longer undefeated at Tim Hortons Field and the Alouettes put yet another futility streak to bed, posting their first road win versus the Tiger-Cats since 2010.
On a night where Hamilton legend (and former Alouette!!) Angelo Mosca had his #68 retired by the Tiger-Cats, this ended up being the sort of game that the former pro wrestler was famous for; a knockdown, drag ‘em out affair. There’s not a lot of love lost between these two squads and it showed last night with vicious hits, penalties flags and even a few fists a-flyin’ to end both halves of this game.
When teams came into Tim Hortons Field, they were greeted with deafening noise from fans and some brutish play from the Tabbies. Last season, Montreal visited this barn twice and had their collective behinds handed to them. But this go-around, they were well-prepared and came out swinging first.
On their first series, the Alouettes scored thanks to a brilliant play by QB Rakeem Cato. Despite Hamilton blitzing with everything they have and getting right in Cato’s kitchen, he casually executed a screen pass to Brandon Rutley, who took it 65 yards to the end zone for Montreal’s first score. This rookie signal-caller schooled the league’s most dominant team with a brilliant play. It’s early, but that was a move straight out of QB Coach Anthony Calvillo’s bag of tricks.
But the Cato show turned out to be short-lived, as the former member of the Thundering Herd took a wicked shot by Eric Norwood and had to be helped off the field, favouring his hip. As much as it hurt to see this promising youngster leave the game prematurely, thankfully the Alouettes had a great backup plan in Tanner Marsh.
Hmmm… Wait a minute. An Alouettes team dealing with inner turmoil? Coached by Jim Popp in a game played in late August, against a dominant opponent that no one gave Montreal a fighting chance to even compete with? Where have I seen that before?
It turns out that the only thing missing was the rain. Marsh came into this game and put together some great drives, putting his mobility to good use and making some terrific reads against a defense that wasn’t expecting to see the former Wonder Boy from Arkansas Tech. He also added to his TD total by plunging into the end zone in the second quarter. Marsh’s lone misstep was a batted ball that turned into an interception by Simoni Lawrence.
Last week versus BC, it was all about the ground and pound of the Alouettes running backs. This week was a bit more varied when it came to the play calls. Another tremendous help came in the form of former Tiger-Cat Samuel Giguere, who has been an absolute treat to watch in running fly sweeps these past few weeks. I’ve lauded the team for using this play to pitiful results last season but with Sam’s toughness and surprising quickness, he has pulled off this play effectively time and time again.
Combine all that with some clutch rushes from Rutley along with some timely snags from S.J. Green and Montreal’s once inept offence managed to do what seemed to be impossible: Outscore, lead and eventually defeat the Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field.
But this Alouettes defense….talk about dominant! The chatter this past week has not only been about how Hamilton has never lost at THF, but how their defense has simply decimated the opposition in 2015. And last night proved that sometimes the best way to deal with a bully is to be a bully yourself.
Both Winston Venable and Kyler Elsworth were dishing out some punishment last night with some bone-jarring hits and both accounted for 50% of the six QB sacks that Zach Collaros endured as the night went on. Michael Klassen was in fine form as well, especially with stripping the Hamilton pivot of the football and recovering it for a turnover. This time last year, these young men were barely getting any playing time. Good luck trying to take them out of the lineup this year.
But as much as youth was served last night, redemption was also on the minds of the heart and soul of this Alouettes defense, John Bowman and Kyries Hebert. These two veterans have been dealt a pretty lousy hand in 2015, but soldiered on and always stayed upbeat. Last night was their reward for their perseverance.
Bowman played fantastic football and led by example, with three tackles and a monstrous sack on Collaros. Hebert set the tone early in the game with a QB sack in the Tiger-Cats’ first series. He also took a very selfish penalty towards the end of the first half that allowed Hamilton to cut the lead down to five. But The Angry Bird is all about redemption and making things right. So with 35 seconds left in the game and with Hamilton pressing, Hebert stepped up and made a terrific interception to seal the Ti-Cats’ fate and end their winning streak at the “Coffee Grounds”.
Once again, the Alouettes kept special teams dynamo Brandon Banks grounded for the better part of the evening. They also benefitted from a misjudgment from Banks, as a punted ball bounced off his face mask and became a live ball. Montreal recovered the ball and maintained possession but in all honesty that should have been a no-yards call as Chip Cox was in that 5 yard halo that is given to kick returners. An oversight by the referees, who are human and prone to human errors. Sometimes the worst calls in football are the ones that are NOT made.
At the end of the day, Montreal came to play and they had a ton of critics to silence. All the talk of dissention and locker room discord? To quote Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, “That’s all in the past/like a check that’s in the mail”. Montreal has hung tough in every single one of their game and sometimes that wasn’t good enough. Last night, it was and there’s little doubt that this team can hang with anyone in the Canadian Football League.
If you would have told me before the season started that Montreal would win the regular season series versus Hamilton before Labour Day, I would have laughed in your face. Not that I don’t have faith in this team, but these games are so tough to predict. And it’s even tougher this year with the parity that is running rampart within the league. All nine teams can truly say that they have a chance to win. Even Saskatchewan with their winless record has been competing in every single match. No team is ever as good or as bad as their record indicates. And that bodes really well for Montreal.
This has not been a great season to start. There have been a number of events that this team would surely love a do-over on. But right now, it’s about winning. For the first time this season, the Alouettes are on a winning streak. And they had to slay two massive dragons in order to claim that. They end August on a winning note and now settle in for the second half of the season.
Montreal hosts the BC Lions next Thursday and they will have to prepare for a team that was embarrassed by the Birds of Prey a mere two weeks ago. This time, the Lions will have to try and end their own futility streak on the mountain in downtown Montreal. The last time BC played at Percival Molson Stadium, they were looking to be the first crossover team to make it to a Grey Cup game. They instead got obliterated 50-17 by the Alouettes.
BC will be coming off the bye week and will be looking for revenge. You know Coach Jim Popp will be looking to build on the confidence that last night’s win brought and he’ll have his charges ready. If you want to see the team at practice, be sure to get the schedule here.
Enjoy the weekend, Alouettes Nation! But be ready to bring the noise home this coming Thursday, your team will need it!
GO ALS GO!!!