After what was easily the most tumultuous August that this team has ever been through, the Montreal Alouettes start a new month in a familiar place; the friendly confines of Percival Molson Stadium. And they will greet their fans with something the Alouette faithful have not yet seen in 2015: A winning streak.
Joining them for what will no doubt be a spirited romp will be the BC Lions, who the Alouettes beat a mere two weeks ago to start this streak of victories. This week’s match will have a different look compared to that last tilt, as Alouettes starting quarterback Rakeem Cato will not be in the lineup. After leaving the game last week with a hip injury, Cato was back practicing but ended up not finishing and has now returned home with what has only been referred to as “personal reasons”.
Those two words elicited a number of eye-rolls earlier this season and as a result, we won’t speculate any further because the past is the past. So instead of the former Marshall University pivot, tonight will be the first official start since 2013 for one Tanner Marsh. The first time that fans at Molson Stadium laid eyes upon this young gunslinger, he coincidentally faced the BC Lions and was the straw that stirred the drink during that rain-soaked night.
Marsh was far from perfect that late August night, but he beat the Lions and instantly became a household name in La Belle Province. He was brought back down to earth after a few starts and a hand injury had prematurely ended his rookie season. When the Troy Smith experiment fizzled last season, Marsh was never really given the opportunity to regain the reigns of this team, bypassed instead for Alex Brink briefly and eventually Jonathan Crompton, who Tanner then backed up.
It would have been easy for the former member of the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys (yes, that’s really what their team calls itself) to get down on himself, but Marsh soldiered on and ended up leading the team in rushing touchdowns in 2014. His mobility was unsurpassed, as he and Crompton became terrific read-option QBs under the tutelage of former QB coach Jeff Garcia. This duo was looking real solid to end the 2014 season and fans had reason to believe when training camp opened this past June that the quarterbacking situation would be in good hands.
Except the football gods can be very cruel. On the ninth day of training camp, Marsh rolled out to complete a pass and his knee buckled in frightening fashion. The end diagnosis was a severely sprained knee that landed the young Texan on the 6 game injury list to start the season. It was particularly gut-wrenching as Tanner had been phenomenal in camp up to that point, making smarter decisions as a pocket passer and possessing a great arm to go along with his educated feet.
Watching this young man come back to the Canadian Football League and lead this Alouettes team to victory last Thursday in such a hostile environment has been so gratifying. There are still some naysayers who clearly haven’t seen all that this guy can do and as a result are not expecting much from Marsh. He wasn’t perfect against the Tabbies but he played well and I fully expect Marsh to continue the Alouettes’ momentum against the Lions, who also got a taste of “The Madness” out on the West Coast.
Tonight’s game venue hasn’t been particularly kind to the BC Lions over the years, including the last time they played here. In case you forgot, it was the 2014 Eastern Semi-Final and those who attended were witness to a complete annihilation by the Alouettes on a snowy November afternoon.
But this evening’s tilt should be a far different affair; For starters, there is absolutely no snow in the forecast! But BC is coming off their second bye week and will have to get themselves in gear if they wish to make the playoffs again. There have been some growing pains with Jeff Tedford and his coaching staff as this team hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire yet. It is worth noting however that Travis Lulay has managed to stay healthy and that will be crucial as the second half of the season begins.
There is some real talent on this Lions team and they will have to show up. Most notable is one Emmanuel Arceneaux, whose frustrations got the better of him after the Alouettes ended their BC Place drought two weeks ago. He spouted off angrily on the Lions’ post-game radio show, stating that the Alouettes were not a good team and that he didn’t respect anyone from Montreal. He also deactivated his Twitter account, possibly due to the heat he was getting from people (Arceneaux has since returned to Twitter, under a new alias)
I dismissed it as a temporary lack of judgment brought on by the heat of the moment, but Lions fans were not impressed with Arceneaux’s churlishness. When given a chance to recant his flippant remarks, Manny stood by his original statement and refused to give any sort of credit to the Alouettes team that started his bye week off on a losing note.
Over the years, Manny has been one of the premier receivers in the league. But this year he is struggling, only notching 458 yards and three touchdowns. He hasn’t been that deep threat for Lulay and it’s got to be weighing on his mind, as guys like S.J. Green and Adarias Bowman are still considered the standard for excellence in the CFL when it comes to catching passes.
But when Lulay was picked off two weeks ago by Montreal DB Dominique Ellis late in the fourth quarter it was Arceneaux who was looked to be the intended target, but he seemed to have quit on the route he was running. If I were to venture a guess, that’s where his true frustration lay and he decided to instead shift the focus to some disdain for the Alouettes as a whole. Except very few are buying it.
I doubt Arceneaux is going to read this column, but I hope for his sake that he spent the last two weeks preparing for this particular game. If Montreal is as poor a team as he thinks they are, then he’d better post some pretty impressive numbers when he takes the field. Otherwise when Alouettes Nation hears those three words that set off a social media firestorm, “Montreal Isn’t Good”, better believe they will reply with three of their own; “Neither Are You”.
Be sure you swing by the original Alouettes tailgate if you’re heading to the game. This will be the last Thursday night game played at Percival Molson Stadium this season, as the rest will be Sunday afternoon tilts with the exception of Thanksgiving Monday.
It looks to be another hot, sunny afternoon leading up to the game, so bring your grub/bevvies to the park on the stadium’s east side for some good times with some great fans! Above all else, bring the noise for the defense! And if you don’t like noise at a football game, then definitely swing by the tailgate for your complimentary set of earplugs.
Be sure to follow along on Twitter for last-minute news and a possible Periscope broadcast from the tailgate! Enjoy the game tomorrow, regardless of where you watch it.
GO ALS GO!!!