Summer has arrived and it’s time for a kickoff party at the stadium sitting on Mont-Royal.
Week Two of the 2016 CFL season kicks off tomorrow evening when the Montreal Alouettes host the Ottawa RedBlacks for the first official home game of the new season. In 2014 the Alouettes dominated the season series, winning all three games played versus Ottawa. In 2015, the Rouge et Noir returned the favour and dominated Montreal en route to eventually playing in the Grey Cup.
What will 2016 hold for both teams? Starting tomorrow, we will get to see the birth of what will surely be a good rivalry. Ottawa will want to prove that last year’s Eastern division win was no fluke and Montreal will seek to make the woes of 2015 a distant memory.
Both teams got off to a good start towards those goals last week as Montreal upended Winnipeg on the road, while the RedBlacks got a small measure of revenge for last November’s Grey Cup loss by squeaking out an overtime win in Edmonton. Both teams take the field with a 1-0 mark and a win over a Western division opponent. But that’s where the similarities will end for this budding rivalry.
Montreal is coming into this match in good health and Alouettes QB Kevin Glenn will look to remind his former team (It’s true!) of what they could have had when they took him first overall in the expansion draft. Having played a solid overall game last Friday, Glenn will be looking to further establish himself against a Ottawa defense that is good on paper, but looked porous at times against the Eskimos.
Current RedBlacks DC (and former Alouettes coach) Mark Nelson will certainly want to test the young O-Line in Montreal by sending several blitzes in order to create some havoc and get to Glenn quickly. To their credit, the Als’ O-Line didn’t allow KG to be sacked at all last week. As a result, Glenn did a great job moving the ball well and creating opportunities. If he can keep Ottawa’s revamped D-Line at bay, the Alouettes will be sitting pretty.
The Alouettes will be facing the hero of last week’s Grey Cup rematch in Trevor Harris, who came in relief of the injured Henry Burris. The Alouettes faced Harris twice last season when he was with the Argos and fared pretty well against him. The last match played was a thoroughly dominant performance, as the Als actually chased him away from the game.
If Montreal’s defensive corps can have another game like they did versus Winnipeg, Harris and his crew will be in for a long night. Noel Thorpe‘s troops put on a show last week and made Drew Willy look very ordinary. Should Harris falter, the RedBlacks will have to lean on the mostly untested Danny O’Brien and Brock Jensen behind centre. Burris has been placed on the 6 game injured list and can only watch from the sidelines as his likely replacement takes the field in La Belle Province.
One Alouette who will be especially fired up for this game is ex-RedBlack Jovon Johnson, who was the captain of the secondary and leader of the infamous “D-Block” in Ottawa. Once again, he’ll be looking to lead a number of unknown rookies along the way. Look for Dominique Termansen to join both Jonathon Mincy and Ethan Davis in the new look secondary. After Davis got burned on the Blue Bombers’ lone touchdown last week, he’ll be looking for redemption and will have a tough task in trying to contain both Greg Ellingson and Brad Sinopoli.
Another rookie who will likely see action is Vernon Adams Jr., who took short-yardage reps at practice this week and will dress as the third quarterback. Canadian-born QB Brandon Bridge is on the 1 game injured list in order to make room for the former Oregon Duck. Barring something catastrophic happening to both Glenn and Rakeem Cato, we likely won’t see much of Adams in a real quarterbacking situation. But he will get to see the field and that will pay off in the long run for Montreal.
Overall, this game has the makings to be either a blowout or one where the final score has single digits. Both teams are evenly matched, with Montreal gaining the edge on defense and Ottawa likely to have the better overall attack. Don’t be surprised if the game winner comes down to being the team who will have the fewest penalties. Montreal would relish being able to go 2-0 as they enter an early bye next week while Ottawa would love to welcome their fans back to TD Place for their home opener with zero losses on the ledger.
Win or lose, I just hope that Montreal doesn’t suffer the same fate as they did one year ago against this very same RedBlacks team. That contest really set the tone for both teams last season. Montreal lost two starting quarterbacks in that game and struggled to compete while Ottawa erased all doubt from their critics as they went from worst in 2014 to first in 2015. It’s too early to call tomorrow’s game a must-win for either team, but a victory can really set things in motion.
Now it’s your turn to shine, Montreal! No one gave the Alouettes a snowball’s chance in hell last week and even the oddsmakers are still unwilling to show any love this week. But you certainly can! The Alouettes have gone to great lengths to provide a new game day experience for the fans and you can experience it all starting tomorrow.
There is a lot to look forward to this season at Percival Molson Stadium. If you haven’t already, give a listen to the latest episode of the Alouettes FlightDeck as Alouettes President and CEO Mark Weightman talks about what fans can expect in 2016 when attending games in Montreal. You can find the podcast on iTunes, Google Play Music and of course on Podbean.
That’s all for now. On a personal note, I can’t be more excited to be at Molson Stadium tomorrow. The weather will be beautiful and the tailgate will be rocking! Win or lose, there’s always a great buzz in the air and if the Alouettes can take control early and establish momentum, this little stadium will roar to life.
Be sure to check out this party if you’re close by. And be sure to follow along on Twitter for any last-minute news and notes. The Montreal Alouettes did their part last week to generate some positive momentum on the road; it’s now time for these Birds of Prey to defend their nest.
Enjoy the game tomorrow, regardless of where you watch it.