Perhaps the Montreal Alouettes should petition to play all of their games at Tim Hortons Field.
This past Friday, the Birds of Prey rolled into Hamilton to take on the Toronto Argonauts. They were faced with only one option if they wanted to post their 19th straight playoff appearance: They had to win, end of story.
Which is exactly what they did, pasting the displaced by baseball Argos by a 34-2 score. Only 3,741 fans took in the game at the “Coffee Grounds” but every single one of those fans, plus the many more watching the game on TV, finally got to see the Kevin Glenn that many felt the Tiger-Cats should have traded for.
Glenn was nearly perfect, going 27 for 35, ZERO interceptions and lobbing 3 touchdowns. And no, these were NOT the garbage time touchdowns that Alouettes fans have been forced to endure these past few weeks. In fact, Montreal’s first drive of the game resulted in a TD! Glenn was able to take advantage of some great catches by S.J. Green and Brandon Rutley to march the ball down the field. And while he’s more often called upon to run the rock, Tyrell Sutton has some good hands on him as well.
It was Sutton who opened the scoring with a receiving touchdown and he wasn’t content with only that score. The speedster had to put his muscle to work as he steamrolled over a defender to also notch a rushing touchdown later on in this game. Sutton finished the night with a mere 68 all-purpose yards, but that pair of TDs made for a terrific effort as Montreal simply would not be denied on this cool autumn eve.
Fred Stamps has been practically invisible this season but has come alive in recent weeks. He also hauled in a Glenn pass this past Friday to notch his 4th touchdown in the past 5 games. He hasn’t established the kind of rhythm that many expected with Montreal’s other QBs, but he seems to have found some quick chemistry with the well-traveled veteran QB. We’ll see if he can maintain that momentum as Stamps prepares to return to Edmonton next Sunday to face his former Eskimos teammates. A healthy Fred Stamps making those crucial TD catches will be a game changer as Montreal plows forward.
However, youth will still be served in the Alouettes receiving corps. Perhaps inspired by the insane catch Hamilton’s Luke Tasker made against the Alouettes only a few days previous, B.J. Cunningham pulled off a jaw-dropping one-handed catch that netted the youngster 43 yards of his 67 on the night. Slowly but surely, this youngster is putting together a respectable first season in red/blue/silver. As long as everyone focuses their attention on players like Green, Stamps and Nik Lewis, Cunningham will gladly lie in wait and bring in more outstanding catches like that one.
But the biggest threat that Montreal brought to the Hammer was Brandon Rutley, who posted a touchdown and 124 all-purpose yards while leaving many Argos defenders in the dust with his incredible speed on the ground. As Kevin Glenn establishes himself as the potential saviour for this neophyte offense, it will be the tireless efforts of a guy like Rutley that will be the difference maker. Montreal came out swinging last Friday and they connected with several timely shots.
On defense, the Alouettes pitched a shutout. Yes, the final score does show Toronto scoring a pair of points but that was due to Alouettes kicker Boris Bede conceding a safety. Toronto has a great offensive attack led by Trevor Harris but they were up against a defense that was angry and in no mood to be trifled with.
John Bowman, the Alouettes’ defensive captain, led by example. With 6 tackles and 3 QB sacks himself, he came into this game starving and was not going to leave until his dinner plate was cleared. Alan-Michael Cash also wanted to leave his imprint on the Argos and posted a pair of QB sacks. Harris was also picked off late in the first half by Jerald Brown, who showed that his veteran legs still has a lot of spring in them, leaping into the air to snag Harris’ hurried pass attempt.
Harris has done a tremendous job this season in leading the Argos through some murky waters, but last Friday he was the Alouettes’ punching bag for this spirited romp. It was such an onslaught that Argos head coach Scott Milanovich had seen enough and decided to enlist in the services of his usual QB ace, Ricky Ray.
In his first action of 2015, Ray came in relief and managed to move the ball well, but the elite QB also failed in putting points on the board for the Double Blue. While the Argos are now a remarkable 7-6 away from the Skydome, this simply wasn’t their night.
The Argos still have not tasted victory at Tim Hortons Field, regardless of the opponents played. Whereas Montreal has now posted TWO road victories in this barn for 2015, shocking the Tiger-Cats earlier this season and now this latest conquest. A win that was desperately needed because those same Tiger-Cats were humbled in Vancouver last Friday night by the BC Lions, who the Alouettes must be better than to qualify for the post-season.
Both the Alouettes and Lions now have six wins with two more games to play. A tied record won’t be enough; to cross over, Montreal needs to have one more win than both BC and Winnipeg, whose season likely came to an end yesterday versus the RedBlacks. They now sit helpless on a bye week then face Toronto to finish the season. They are still mathematically alive, but the odds do not favour the Blue Bombers one bit.
Which makes next Sunday’s game versus the Edmonton Eskimos extremely important. The Lions have to come east to face the Argos and the late play of Ricky Ray was all that Scott Milanovich needed to see to already announce a change at the QB position. The Lions have a young QB stud of their own in Jonathon Jennings and they refuse to go quietly into the night.
Montreal will have to play this exact same game that they did versus the Argos when they head out West. With any luck, they will be back at Commonwealth Stadium one more time in 2015 to play the Edmonton Eskimos again. But one game at a time, as Edmonton is on an unbelievable winning streak and looks to solidify home field advantage with a win against these Birds of Prey.
For now, the Alouettes will savour this win and head back to work at Stade Hebert this week to prepare for what will hopefully be one of two trips to Alberta’s capital city. For practice info, click here.
At the end of this year’s training camp, I told you good readers about a young Alouettes defensive prospect named Asante Mizan, who was a training camp invite for Montreal and made it all the way to the end of camp before being let go. I did say at the time that cracking Montreal’s D-Line would be extremely difficult and letting a young National player go is not a decision this coaching staff made so easily.
Rather than letting this dismissal get the better of him, Mizan returned to Wilfred Laurier University and has been a force of nature in helping the Golden Hawks on their drive towards the Vanier Cup playoffs. I got to see this young man in action yesterday as Laurier played Queen’s University and Mizan had himself a tremendous game, with two big tackles and a 30 yard interception to score his first career touchdown.
Mizan has become a bonafide leader for his team and now Laurier has qualified for the Vanier Cup playoffs. After the game yesterday afternoon, Asante told me he still draws much inspiration from the example set by veteran D-Line guys like John Bowman and Alan-Michael Cash in camp. I fully expect this young man to finish his university career strong and hopefully come June 2016, the rest of Alouettes Nation will see a hungry, determined young man reach his dream of playing professional football.
If you have the chance, I urge you all to take in a CIS football game. It truly is some great football and a chance to see the foundation of the future for this sport.
That’s all for now. Enjoy this crucial win and if someone foolishly jumped off this Alouettes bandwagon, don’t give them too hard a time as they seek to crawl back on.
Until later this week,
GO ALS GO!!!