After two weeks away, the Montreal Alouettes look to end the month of August on a winning note in front of some hopefully very noisy fans.
The Birds of Prey come back to defend the nest Friday night as they host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. These two teams met back in Week #1, with Montreal playing hard and completely owning the Bombers on their turf. But these teams have come a long way from that first game.
Both the Als and Bombers have gone through similar woes in 2016; both have had issues with their offense clicking, both feature a much heralded offensive coordinator struggling to find his form and both have head coaches that have been on the hot seat and had their futures in doubt.
But Winnipeg has done a complete 180 with their season so far and are now serious contenders in a very tough Western division. Montreal has struggled but are coming off a major win versus Ottawa last week and the confidence level is at an all-time high. Both of these teams have been making a lot of noise lately because of two things; an outstanding defense and a top-notch receiver.
The Bombers’ D has been incredible, making life tough for opposing quarterbacks with numerous takeaways this season. If you don’t know the names Kevin Fogg and Maurice Leggett by now, you will by night’s end. These two have been on fire the past few weeks and Fogg is getting a lot of consideration for CFL Rookie of The Year. Ian Wild is also a major threat and will be looking to continue his domination on special teams.
But the biggest threat that faces Montreal and the one who can be credited with turning this Bombers team around is Clarence Denmark, who was cast aside by the Bombers in the off-season only to be brought back due to injuries to receivers like Weston Dressler and Ryan Smith. Since being brought back to the ‘Peg he’s been on fire, racking up 264 yards in the air while catching three touchdown passes from Matt Nichols, who himself has shined since replacing Drew Willy as quarterback for Winnipeg.
In order to keep the winning streak going, they will have to set the tone early versus Montreal. I expect to see a lot of touches for Andrew Harris, who has been so hard to stop and been a true force for the Bombers. Nichols will have to connect with Denmark as much as possible and really test the Alouettes’ secondary, who have been playing well but are still prone to being burnt by the long ball.
Montreal will counter with their own stellar defense and their own receiver threat in Duron Carter, who still remains eligible to play as a result of the lack of judgment rendered on his suspension appeal. And Alouettes Nation is eternally grateful, because he’s been leading the league in receiving yards with 508 and has been notching touchdowns left, right and center.
The Alouettes defense has allowed just five offensive touchdowns in their last four games. This front seven has been simply outstanding, giving stars like Henry Burris and Mike Reilly all kinds of fits in recent weeks. They were completely dominant against Drew Willy’s Bombers in Week One, but this defensive unit now face a tough test in this Matt Nichols-led attack.
Bear Woods and Kyries Hebert are a true dual threat and will be looking to help plant Nichols’ rear end on the grass as much as possible. The Alouettes secondary played great last week and they will be tested again and again. But with Jovon Johnson guiding the youngsters, they will not simply let Winnipeg blow right by them so easily.
Helping the Alouettes’ cause will be the return of 2015 CFL rushing leader Tyrell Sutton and Grey Cup champion Kenny Stafford will also slot back in. Both were banged up during Montreal’s home opener and have been raring to contribute to this offensive attack. Kevin Glenn was on another level last week and while no one expects him to toss five touchdowns again, he will be looking to spread the ball around and get more out of guys like B.J. Cunningham and Nik Lewis.
Both teams look to be as evenly matched as possible and both need this win Friday evening. Winnipeg wants to keep pace with Calgary and B.C. while Montreal is hoping to take advantage of a suddenly wide open Eastern division, as now there is no team that has a winning record. When it comes to close games this season, Montreal has not seen many of them. They seem to either win big or lose big.
Tomorrow’s game could change that, as I can see this being a tightly contested affair coming down to a last-minute field goal to snag the win for either team. This is where the fans will be asked to play a huge factor for Montreal’s latest game day promotion.
If you are coming to the game tomorrow, you’ll be asked to do two very important things; make some noise and donate to help tackle hunger!
Tomorrow, fans are encouraged to bring all their noisemakers to Percival Molson Stadium to help disrupt the Blue Bombers on offense. So cowbells, air horns and even your voice will do in order to help make this barn one of the toughest to play in this league.
The Alouettes will also be selling their own noisemakers at the Zone Rouge and I wouldn’t be surprised to see any extra Thunderstix left over from a previous promotion being handed out to fans as well. Make all the noise while the Alouettes are on defense and good things will happen, I can promise you.
This is also Montreal’s Purolator Tackle Hunger game and fans will be encouraged to bring non-perishable goods or donate money to help the local food banks. As always, you will be afforded the opportunity to get a photo with the Grey Cup in exchange for your generosity. In addition, there will like be a great prize raffled off as well, either a player’s jersey or autographed football.
So while I don’t expect Montrealers to equal Winnipeg’s Week One tally of over 129, 000 pounds of food, I do expect this city to step up and show their civic pride at the game tomorrow. Open your hearts and your wallets, Alouettes Nation!
Finally, be sure to partake in the great tailgate experience on the east side of the stadium. Nothing says summertime like a beautiful evening of CFL football on the mountain. Swing by the silver trailer and blue tent of Les Gars Qui Vivent and enjoy some great football fun.
That’s all for now. Be sure to download the latest edition of the Alouettes FlightDeck if you need something to listen to on the shuttle bus. And as always for last-minute news and thoughts, follow me on Twitter.
It’s time to get LOUD, Alouettes Nation! Enjoy the game, regardless of where you watch it.