The only thing that will be won during tomorrow’s game on the mountain is bragging rights.
The Montreal Alouettes’ nightmare of a season will mercifully come to an end tomorrow as they host the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Percival Molson Stadium. The Riders will also look to finish their own season from hell, hopefully by sweeping the season series against the Birds of Prey.
History will finally be made tomorrow, as the Alouettes have decided to give Kevin Glenn the day off and let Brandon Bridge be the first Canadian-born quarterback to start a CFL game in nearly 20 years. At this point, what harm could come of it? Bridge has already seen action during the first game of the season when both Jonathan Crompton and Dan Lefevour both went down to injury in the season opener. Bridge wasn’t particularly effective, but he was also ice-cold with having zero reps that week in practice.
He’ll be better prepared this week, having gotten all first team reps at practice. He will also have a lot of younger receivers lining up. Veterans like SJ Green, Nik Lewis and Fred Stamps will sit in favour of names like Cody Hoffman, Jonathan Rumph and B.J. Cunningham, who’s quietly put together a stellar first season for the Alouettes.
Bridge will still hand the ball off to the best one-two punch in the backfield in Tyrell Sutton and Brandon Rutley. Should the young Canadian not be able to move the ball downfield with his cannon-like arm, he can put the ball in the hands of either of these powerful runners and get some yardage. During the pre-season, Bridge showed some serious potential in using zone reads and being very mobile. He hasn’t seen very much action this year, so this will be a good chance to see what exactly he can bring and what he’ll need to work on during this upcoming off-season.
It was the hope when both Crompton and Lefevour went down that Brandon would be that great Canadian hope under centre. Instead, then-Alouettes head coach Tom Higgins decided to go with fellow rookie QB Rakeem Cato and it worked initially, as Cato played great versus the Calgary Stampeders in Week 2 and for the most part never looked back. Once Tanner Marsh and Crompton healed from their early injury woes, Bridge was pretty much put on the backburner for the rest of the season.
If Bridge can play well in what will surely feel like a preseason game, it will give the Alouettes brass a lot to consider as they head into their first off-season without having played a postseason game. Kevin Glenn is signed through 2016 and the starting job is his unless someone is able to rip it out of his hands next June at training camp. After that, that’s where things start to get murky when it comes to the Montreal signal-callers.
Was Cato’s success just luck or does he have the tools to be turned into a starter in this league? Can Marsh shake off what was some awful luck this year and be turned into a decent QB? Will Crompton recover from his injuries and possibly be the dynamo that led the Alouettes to the Eastern final last season? Also, now we add the names of rookies like Anthony Boone, Tajh Boyd and Bridge to the mix as the search for the next leader under centre continues for Montreal.
Meanwhile, the Roughriders have woes of their own to contend with. Tomorrow will also see the Riders start a rookie under centre, as Keith Price will get the call for the Green Riders. Both he and Brett Smith are essentially competing for the title of backup to Darian Durant when he returns next season. A strong showing against Montreal’s elite defense will look very good on their resume.
One player who will get a lot of looks tomorrow is Ryan Smith, who started the season on fire but has settled into a viable option for the Riders. The always dangerous Weston Dressler will see action tomorrow and he can be that steady pair of hands for the young QBs tomorrow. He’ll also draw a lot of attention away from Naaman Roosevelt, who’s come alive in recent weeks for the Riders.
The Riders certainly don’t have the dreaded running game that they used to have since trading Jerome Messam to Calgary at the deadline, but Anthony Allen is still a threat on the ground. He played well in the tilt versus Montreal earlier this season and should also see a lot of touches tomorrow afternoon.
At this point, both teams will essentially use this game as a look into what they have for the future. It’s a shame that it’s come to this for these teams, who both came into this season with a ton of expectations and instead occupy the basement of their respective divisions. At this point, you may as well let the youngsters play. See which player is that diamond in the rough that may just need a little more seasoning and playing time before training camp opens next June.
The CFL released its list of players from each team nominated for the CFL Outstanding Player Awards this week. The nominees from the Alouettes are as follows, with my thoughts:
Most Outstanding Player & Most Outstanding Special Teams Player: Stefan Logan
A bit of a surprise pick, but he really has had an incredible season with Montreal. For years this team has been searching for a decent returner. They found that in spades with Logan, who has literally run roughshod over teams in returning punts and kickoffs this season. He has rewritten the record books for Montreal returners, with over 1000 yards in both punt and kick returns. Despite being a spry 34 years of age, there’s clearly a lot of zip left in this guy’s step.
Most Outstanding Defensive Player: Winston Venable
What a year 2015 turned out to be for this guy! Spending most of last season on the practice roster, Venable got onto the field last year and made it very tough to keep him off this season. His play helped keep Montreal’s defense among the most feared of the CFL even if the record should suggest otherwise. Winston racked up 104 defensive tackles, third in the CFL this season. With five quarterback sacks as well, Venable has cemented himself as a bonafide star in the Montreal linebacking corps for many years to come.
Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman: Jeff Perrett
It’s hard to pick just one of these O-Line guys as the most outstanding, but you can’t go wrong with this mountain of a man. Perrett has been an anchor on the O-line for years and shows no signs of slowing down. I said that earlier this year that with this line, it would be very difficult for defenders to get to the Alouettes QB. And it was, with Perrett and his peers allowing a mere 32 quarterback sacks all season.
Most Outstanding Canadian: Luc Brodeur-Jourdan
The very definition of a warrior is this native of St-Hyacinthe, Quebec. His season ended last week in Edmonton as he tore his ACL and MCL yet somehow finished the game, but Luc has endured so much while anchoring this offensive line. Day in and day out, he’s had to provide a veteran’s perspective as the quarterback carousel meant that he probably never knew 100% just whose hands would be underneath him on game day. Not even the birth of his first child a few weeks ago would prevent him from playing this game. This guy is a lunch-pail carrying, hard-working Canuck in every sense of the word.
Most Outstanding Rookie: Boris Bede
How good was this guy in 2015? To supplant a National player that gave the Alouettes a ton of flexibility with the ratio, you’d have to be nearly perfect. And the former member of the Laval Rouge et Or was, with a mind-blowing field goal percentage of 90%. To kick for the Alouettes, you need to be not only an outstanding kicker but punter as well. Bede was certainly that, averaging 65.2 yards per punt in his rookie season. As tough as it was for Alouettes fans to see Sean Whyte be released it meant that Boris had to be, in a word, outstanding. This is one position that will be secure for a long, long time in Montreal.
Will any of these players be recognized by the league as one of the very best? We’ll find out Grey Cup weekend.
That’s all for now. If you’re going to the game tomorrow, swing by the tailgate put on by Les Gars Qui Vivent. As it’s become tradition for this time of year, the final game of the season brings about the annual “cabine a sucre” experience! Enjoy real maple syrup served on snow, Quebec baked beans cooked on the fire and so much more from the premier tailgate crew from La Belle Province! Just keep your eyes peeled for the silver trailer on the east side of the stadium.
There are no playoff implications, but this is the Fan Appreciation game for the Montreal faithful. The Alouettes will want to at least send the fans home happy on a winning note. So focus on that and for one more game this season, pack the house and bring the noise Alouettes Nation!
Enjoy tomorrow’s game, regardless of where you watch it.
GO ALS GO!!!