Underdog Alouettes look for redemption versus RedBlacks

Two games in five days? It’s just another testing of the resolve for the Birds of Prey.

Tomorrow, the Montreal Alouettes will make their second trip to the nation’s capital to face the Ottawa RedBlacks and nobody likes their chances of walking out of TD Place with a win. This Alouettes team had a golden opportunity to even up their record this past Sunday and failed to do so. Now they walk into a very tough place to play against a team that had their ego bruised the very same weekend.

These two teams have played each other twice already, with Ottawa coming back in both games to steal victories from Montreal. If the Alouettes get out to an early lead, they have to keep their collective foot on the Redblacks’ throats. With a record of 7-5, this Ottawa team is no expansion pushover and are a real threat to host a playoff game this postseason.

With late-breaking news that Jonathan Crompton is back on the six game injured list, Montreal will pin its hopes for victory on Rakeem Cato, who came in relief of Crompton last Sunday and helped lessen the blows levied by the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Cato looked decent in trying to figure out this new offensive scheme and while he wasn’t a dynamic force when he played in Ottawa this past August, he’ll find ways to put the Alouettes in position to win.

Ottawa’s Shawn Lemon is already excited at the possibility of facing this youngster, as evidenced by his Twitter account. The strength of this RedBlacks team has long been their defense and they’ll be looking to capitalize on Cato’s relative inexperience and the pressure he’s now under to win. During the last game played in August, Cato leaned heavily on Brandon Rutley to help balance out the attack and he should have Tyrell Sutton in the backfield as well for tomorrow’s game. I just hope that the Alouettes’ co-offensive coordinators won’t abandon the run in the second half like what former OC Turk Schonert did, forcing Cato to try making the impossible possible and getting burned as a result.

Montreal’s defense will have to find a way to attack Henry Burris often. The old guy is having himself quite the season and with the season-ending injury to Hamilton QB Zach Collaros, the talk is that Smilin’ Hank is now a serious candidate for the league’s Most Outstanding Player award. And why not? He’s put up some incredible numbers this season for Ottawa and weathered some pretty tough storms. Most importantly, he’s made great use of the weapons given to him on offense.

The Alouettes will have to find ways to contain guys like Brad Sinopoli, Greg Ellingson and Ernest Jackson while keeping the refs’ flags stashed away. The RedBlacks won’t have to worry about Mitchell White tomorrow, as he’s out with a badly sprained ankle. I expect Daryl Townsend will see a lot more action in the secondary as Jerald Brown and Dominique Ellis will be covering the boundary corner for Montreal. Ellis will also be looking for redemption as he was the victim of a suspect penalty that allowed Ottawa to take the lead for good during the last Alouettes game at TD Place.

Believe it or not, the one area where Montreal may have a decided advantage over Ottawa is special teams. Despite having an explosive returner in Chris Williams, the RedBlacks have struggled to get him the blocks necessary to have decent field position. Last year, the RedBlacks were able to catch a lot of opponents napping on special teams. Not so much this year.

Meanwhile, Stefan Logan has come alive in recent weeks for Montreal and has technically already scored a kick return touchdown against Ottawa this season. The Alouettes will have to put Boris Bede to good use and have him kick the ball deep to force the RedBlacks offense to march down the field.

Considering that both previous games ended with a less than 5 point differential, this game could come down to who wins the special teams battle. But if Ottawa can fluster Cato and force him into constant overthrowing, they can prevail and sweep another season series. Meanwhile, if Montreal keeps the ball on the ground and Ottawa’s defense is constantly playing catch-up, they can steal a crucial win and get the month of October off to a great start.

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There was a major buzz going around the league these past few weeks about where heralded CFL free agent Henoc Muamba will end up. Cut at the end of NFL training camp by the Indianapolis Colts, there’s been a virtual sweepstakes to see which CFL team will land the services of this talented National linebacker.

After weeks of speculation, I’m very pleased to be able to say that Muamba will indeed join the Montreal Alouettes!

With injuries to Bear Woods and Kyler Elsworth, the Alouettes could use a good linebacker in the middle. Nick Shortill has occupied that position the past two games and has not looked out of place, but he is still a rookie playing a crucial role in Montreal’s elite defensive unit. I’m a bit surprised Montreal hasn’t moved Kyries Hebert to that spot instead, other than it being a testament to the faith that Alouettes DC Noel Thorpe has in the young McMaster grad.

Muamba will be able to step in easily and be a force, putting his six foot, 230lb. frame to good use while lining up alongside Hebert, Winston Venable and Chip Cox. This also sends the message loud and clear that the Alouettes are serious about making and advancing in the playoffs. General Manager Jim Popp doesn’t typically overpay for free agents, so this signing really drives that point home.

As an aside, I’d like to thank this Alouettes organization for breaking this news now as opposed to AFTER I post something on 3 Down Nation to read, as they tend to do.

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That’s all for now. If you’re planning on making the trip to Ottawa to see the game, be sure to swing by Brewer Park near Carleton University for the great tailgate action. For a great pre-game meal, take a walk north from TD Place along Bank St. and hit up Feleena’s for some good Mexican grub.

As always, I’ll be the one to follow on Twitter for all sorts of last minute details. Enjoy the game tomorrow, regardless of where you watch it.

GO ALS GO!!!

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