This Sunday, the second half of the 2015 season gets underway for the Montreal Alouettes as they host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Percival Molson Stadium. Both bye weeks are done and now the task from now until late November is clear; this team has to win as many games as possible.
There’s been one significant change since Montreal last played a game; Gone is Turk Schonert as offensive coordinator, replaced by the tandem of Anthony Calvillo and Ryan Dinwiddie, the team’s QB and RB coaches. Tomorrow will also see a different albeit familiar face behind centre; Jonathan Crompton will be starting in place of rookie phenom Rakeem Cato at quarterback.
Already suffering from a hip injury, Cato was excused before the team’s last game to tend to a family emergency in his hometown of Miami and only returned to Montreal this past Wednesday. Rakeem will likely be the immediate backup to Crompton and should only see action if the former Tennessee Volunteer gets into serious trouble. In the limited reps he took, Cato looked like he has recovered from that hip injury he suffered against the Tiger-Cats a few weeks ago.
But for Sunday at least, the task of turning around this Alouettes’ team falls on Crompton’s shoulders, a role he was all too familiar with last year. It was right around this time that he stepped in as starting quarterback and despite not playing the greatest football, he led the team on an impressive run to salvage a tumultuous season.
It has to feel like déjà vu for Jonathan, as he goes in to the second half of a season with a new quarterback coach and OC yet again. Last year, it was Jeff Garcia who guided JC and helped turn him into a winner. This time around it will be another Grey Cup winning quarterback in Anthony Calvillo who will be the one expected to help Crompton start a new winning streak.
If nothing else, AC is certainly up for this lofty goal. Most coaches would probably be overwhelmed if they had to endure the changes that Calvillo has had to since agreeing to a coaching role within this organization. If anyone is going to make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear, it will be Anthony Calvillo. People have doubted him from day one of his football career and he has a knack for making people eat their words.
I’m still very much of the opinion that this is too much too soon even for a winner like AC, but I suppose we’ll see just how this story plays out starting Sunday afternoon. The Alouettes will be facing an opponent that had high hopes going into this season and also had to contend with some suspect offensive play-calling as well.
The Blue Bombers, for any number of reasons, are standing by their man when it comes to their offensive coordinator Marcel Bellefeuille. The former Alouettes and Tiger-Cats OC has come under fire in recent weeks as the Bombers struggle to put together any sort of decent attack. Winnipeg also has the dubious honour of handing the Saskatchewan Roughriders their first victory of 2015.
Expected to contend for the Grey Cup as host city, Winnipeg’s offensive woes are very similar to what Montreal has had to deal with in 2015; Quarterback injuries, uninspired play calling and points being left on the field. It has not been a great season for either team but miraculously, both are still very much in the playoff picture.
Incredibly, both of these teams are jockeying for the same playoff berth! With the Riders all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and the BC Lions with a very tough stretch coming up, Sunday’s game will be a very crucial one. If Montreal wants to crossover to the West, they need to have a better record than the aforementioned Western squads. After this game the Alouettes will face the Riders in Regina and then head to Ottawa to play the Redblacks, who are vastly improved but had to battle back twice just to squeak by Montreal in their last two matches.
Winnipeg is hoping that recently acquired QB Matt Nichols will remain the calming force that will keep the Blue Bombers in the hunt. He did exact revenge for the Riders’ sole victory last week in Winnipeg and is looking to carry that momentum into Percival Molson Stadium, where he already has a victory this season.
Despite all the woes that the Bombers have had in recent years, they always find a way to win in La Belle Province. The last time that these two teams met it was a defensive showcase on both sides of the field, with Montreal’s special teams failing them at a crucial moment. However, I don’t expect a repeat performance of the blocked punt into a touchdown for the Blue Bombers, as Montreal worked extra hard this week on special teams play.
Simply put, Montreal is going to have to lean heavy on the run game. Tyrell Sutton had a terrific game against the Bombers earlier this year and I don’t think these new OCs will abandon the run quite as quickly as what the former OC did. Will we see the return of the read option with Crompton or will he be forced to throw more? Also, could we see Crompton and Cato each take turns with the offense to keep Winnipeg guessing?
There are many unanswered questions for this Montreal team coming off their last bye week. But winning cures all and a win by the Alouettes will definitely keep the doubters of this offensive coordinator roller-coaster at bay. A loss will be another nail in the playoff coffin. You could probably replace Montreal for Winnipeg as well for those last two sentences.
No matter what, tomorrow’s game will be the start of a serious playoff push. Montreal managed to pull itself out of the wreckage last year. We’ll see if history can repeat itself.
If you’re going to the game tomorrow, don’t forget your non-perishable goods as it’s the Purolator Tackle Hunger game. In exchange for your goods or a cash donation, you can get your photo taken with the Grey Cup. You will also be entered in a draw to win an autographed Alouettes jersey. All donations will go to support Moisson Montreal, Canada’s largest food bank.
As always, be sure to visit the original Alouettes tailgate, put on by the good folks from Les Gars Qui Vivent. If you haven’t tried their delicious hot sauce yet, swing on by and have a taste. While you’re there, be sure to grab a set of earplugs to hand out to any part-time fans in your section that still don’t like excessive noise on defense. Located in the park at the east side of the stadium, just look for the silver trailer and sizzling hot grill!
The sun will be out and it’s still technically summer, so the time has come to fill the stadium and be ready to make a ton of noise! Don’t forget to check out 3 Down Nation for all your CFL news and notes as well as following along on Twitter.
Enjoy the game tomorrow, regardless of where you watch it.
GO ALS GO!!!