Alouettes weather the storm in the ‘Peg

It wasn’t pretty, but on their first business trip of 2016 the Montreal Alouettes did what they had to do in order to momentarily silence the critics that have picked them to finish dead last; win.

The final score of 22-14 over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers doesn’t tell the entire story, however. Both offenses took its time to get going in this game and it came down to who was going to best capitalize on the mistakes made by their opponent. On this day, it was the Birds of Prey who prevailed on a night that proved to be quite the interesting evening out on the Canadian prairies.

Mother Nature called its own timeout on the game this past Friday, as lightning was reported near Investors Group Field early in the first quarter which led to just over an hour’s delay. As a precautionary measure, both teams retreated to the locker rooms and fans in attendance at IGF were directed to the stadium concourse for their safety.

When the game resumed, it was time for Alouettes QB Kevin Glenn to go to work. He did a great job moving the ball downfield and establishimg a rhythm with S.J. Green, Nik Lewis and Duron Carter. Despite the young offensive line in front of him, Glenn was able to get the Alouettes within striking distance many times. But an INT in the end zone by Winnipeg’s Chris Randle, some untimely fumbles and a myriad of penalties meant that Montreal points were left on the field several times throughout the evening.

When Montreal did find the end zone the first time, it was as a result of the length that Brandon Bridge brings to each game. Plunging forward for a score on the one yard line, Bridge became the first Canadian-born QB to notch a rushing touchdown in a CFL game since Giulio Caravatta did it nearly 20 years ago.

Glenn did manage to notch his first passing touchdown of 2016 in the third quarter, finding the steady hands of S.J. Green for the major. There were several miscues by the Bombers on both sides of the field and this game would have been a complete whitewash if only Montreal could have not squandered so many opportunities while deep in Winnipeg territory.

To his credit, Bombers pivot Drew Willy finally gave the fans in attendance reason to cheer when he went deep and found Darvin Adams for a 63 yard touchdown very late in the fourth quarter. Adams was able to swat away his lone defender, Alouettes rookie corner Ethan Davis, en route to the score zone.

For the most part, Davis and Jonathon Mincy looked solid playing defense in their first CFL game. In this instance however, Davis was taught a valuable lesson by Willy on the importance of covering your man. If Bombers OC Paul LaPolice was able to test the young members of this Montreal secondary more often throughout the game, perhaps the end result would have been different.

But Willy was in survival mode the moment play resumed from the weather delay and it showed time and time again. By the time Willy was able to put together that touchdown drive in garbage time, the damage had already been done. In true Noel Thorpe fashion, the Alouettes defense simply became too much for Willy and the Bombers to handle this past Friday.

With a near pick-six by Chip Cox and five sacks on Winnipeg’s signal-caller by this beast of an Alouette defense, an already very long night was made even longer for fans of the Blue and Gold.

Montreal now sits tied with Hamilton and Ottawa for first place in the East. They will now prepare for their home opener versus the defending Eastern champion RedBlacks, who were in a dogfight out in Edmonton in their Grey Cup rematch. No official word yet on who the Alouettes will face at quarterback; veteran pivot Henry Burris left the game Saturday with an injury and was replaced by free agent acquisition Trevor Harris, who looked great and willed Ottawa to an overtime victory over the Eskimos.

The Alouettes will practice as per usual at Stade Hebert in St. Leonard this week. It’s open to the public, so be sure to check it out if you’re in the area.

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For the first time in recent memory, the Alouettes were involved in a game that was delayed due to lightning. Never in a million years did I think my first trip to IGF would feature such an occurrence. I’ve seen games played in torrential rainfall, bitterly cold winds and even snow.

But I have never been witness to anything like this in my 20+ years of attending football games where the action was delayed in such a manner. As the song goes, you can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather. The inclement weather led to quite a  bit of down time, which was surely a boon for the 50-50 and beer sales in Winnipeg.

The subsequent pause in the action proved to be a great way for me to experience all that the Blue Bombers have to offer their fans every single game day. Allow me to share my thoughts as an outsider of the Investors Group Field experience with you good readers:

Without question, if you attend a football game at IGF you MUST go to Shawarma Khan and enjoy one of their delicious shawarma sandwiches. Started by Blue Bombers legend Obby Khan, this Winnipeg institution serves up healthy game-day fare that does not lack in portion nor flavour.

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You’ll even be served by the former centre himself to ensure that your experience is a rewarding one. (BONUS: Alouettes fans, I can attest that you will be served by Obby in French!!) When you go, by all means order the Wrath of KHAN sandwich listed in the photo above and be prepared for a Lebanese taste sensation that reaches far beyond the standard food at your local football stadium’s concession stands.

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Every time TSN shows a game from IGF, you’ll hear the announcers and studio host talk non-stop about the Rum Hut. It truly is a sight to behold. During the lightning delay, the swarm of people around this bevvie stand was like nothing I have ever seen at a football game. The Winnipeg faithful are a blue-collar sort and they love them some rum.

So much so that fans in Winnipeg have been known to get customized Blue Bombers jerseys with RUM AND COKE on the nameplate. An informal poll taken live this past Friday night showed that of those who wore custom Bombers jerseys to the game, these were by far the most popular names on the back:

1. Milt Stegall (who retired after the 2008 season, by the way)

2. Drew Willy

3. Any name/words that are based on rum or rye whisky

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In fact, if you are looking for the CFL city with the most customized jerseys per capita, look no further than Manitoba’s lone professional football franchise. They certainly are a creative bunch in the ‘Peg and despite not having seen a Grey Cup championship since 1990, their passion for football runs farther and deeper than the Assiniboine River.

How much do they love football here in this part of the country? They sell Canadian Football League POTATO CHIPS at the gas station, for crying out loud!

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The citizens of this region work hard and they clearly love them some football, but they are a generous bunch as well. Every year, the CFL’s nine teams partner up with Purolator for the Tackle Hunger food drive. Fans are asked to bring non-perishable goods to the game that are donated to the city’s food banks.

Despite being late June, Winnipeg has set the charitable bar VERY high to start the 2016 football season. The final tally of donations at this past Friday’s game came to well over 127,000 pounds of food that will be dispersed to the local food banks in Manitoba. You read that right folks, POUNDS!

It’s a truly remarkable feat and you can’t help but admire the resolve of a community when they band together for a great cause like this. Here’s hoping that the other CFL cities take note of this when it’s their turn to host this charitable event and they try to match, if not beat, this incredible display of generosity.

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CFL fans, you owe it to yourselves to come and experience a football game at this state-of-the-art facility. Winnipeg, you really do have a great thing going at Investors Group Field. Hopefully one day, your many years of dedication and patience will be rewarded with your team hoisting the Earl of Grey’s football trophy overhead.

Just not at the expense of the Montreal Alouettes, please. 🙂

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That’s all for now. Don’t forget to tune into the Alouettes FlightDeck this week as both myself and Tim Capper break down this important first victory of the 2016 season and get you fans set up for Thursday’s home opener at Percival Molson Stadium. Be sure to download the latest episode of the FlightDeck on Podbean, iTunes and on Google Play Music.

For all your other news and notes, follow along on Twitter. I’ll be back later this week to preview this Thursday’s tilt versus the RedBlacks here at The ALSternative. A lot of people laughed last week at the idea of a Jim Popp-led team coming into this Manitoba building and escaping with a win.

I realize that it’s early still, but it’s kind of funny how I don’t hear too many laughs now.

GO ALS GO!!!

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