Like water off a Duck’s back. An appropriate way to describe the first professional start of former University of Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams.
The latest to be named the Montreal Alouettes’ quarterback kicked off his CFL career by facing the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the second to last game being played at Mosaic Stadium. He and the Alouettes escaped with a 19-14 victory that only served to provide bragging rights, as both teams have been eliminated from playoff contention.
Adding to the challenge of playing in this normally vociferous environment was a rain-soaked football field, as the “Land of the Living Skies” opened up and did not let up one bit. But Adams has played in big games before and Oregon is known for its rainy weather, so perhaps the young pivot felt right at home. While not posting the greatest numbers by going 11/24 with 177 yards passing, Adams kept the ball moving and proved to be difficult at times for the Riders to contain.
Despite being picked off once and sacked six times, Adams did show great mobility and was able to escape potentially dangerous situations in order to move the chains. He actually looked similar to a certain NFL quarterback who also happens to be under 6′ and wears #3.
Due to the rain and so as not to overwhelm his young charge, Alouettes head coach Jacques Chapdelaine elected to keep the game plan mostly on the ground. That meant lots of rushes from Brandon Rutley, who had 14 carries for 70 yards. We also got to see more of the foot speed of Samuel Giguere as well, who rushed in for Montreal’s first touchdown of the game. Nik Lewis once again stated his claim for this team’s Most Outstanding Player nominee with 74 yards and his inability to be easily tackled. You can’t help but love the way this guy plays!
It wasn’t only Adams making his first start for the Alouettes. Marcus Henry and Tiquan Underwood had the dubious task of replacing Duron Carter and Kenny Stafford in Montreal’s receiving corps. Underwood had some good catches and Henry will be the trivia answer to the question, “Who caught Vernon Adams’ first CFL touchdown?”, as the two connected on a 22 yard beauty of a TD.
Boris Bede was back to kicking field goals for the Alouettes, going 2/3 on the day and making each extra point on both of Montreal’s touchdowns. For the first time in ages, he looked like the Boris Bede that wowed everyone at the Universite of Laval with his booming foot. Hopefully this will be his chance to finish the season strong and be ready for 2017.
Montreal kept it simple and was mostly able to execute as Coach Chapdelaine now sits at 2-2 as field boss for the Alouettes while continuing to make his case for the organization to remove the interim tag from his head coaching title.
The Alouettes defense was dominant throughout the game, but Riders QB Darian Durant is not one who is to be counted out. There are times when the Alouettes have had Durant’s number in recent years and times when he has made them look foolish.
Yesterday’s game saw Durant nearly will his young team to victory, as he led by example in rushing for Saskatchewan’s lone touchdown to get within striking distance. Even the final drive of the game was a testament to DD’s desire to win.
Down by 5 and starting on their own 35 yard line, Durant completed three quick strikes and got the ball into Montreal territory. But with one second on the clock, Durant was stripped of the ball by John Bowman. Luckily Riders running back Joe McKnight was able to scoop up the fumbled ball and head right for the end zone. He managed to evade tackles and would have scored had he not run into the freight train known as Winston Venable, who knocked McKnight out-of-bounds to seal the fifth win in 2016 for Montreal.
The hit itself was a sore spot for many after the fact as Venable looked to lead with his head to make the tackle. Watching it live, it looked like just the kind of impactful tackle that Venable is notorious for. But upon review, he left his feet and launched himself towards McKnight’s head. I expect that the league will be launching a hit of their own to Winston’s wallet.
Much like in recent games, the Alouettes defense did their job as per usual. They forced Durant out and didn’t give him lots of time to work with for the first three quarters. Forcing three fumbles and with 5 QB sacks, this team showed that despite all their woes, the defense still comes to work on game day.
Whereas Adams had his own woes as his offensive line was, well, offensive. It appears that no matter who plays QB for Montreal, they need to be prepared for the ensuing rush and an eventual meeting with the turf. This young Montreal O-line has struggled greatly this season and will likely be overhauled once this season finishes on November 5th.
But Saturday’s win was a small break of light through the dark clouds. We finally got to see some of what Vernon Adams can do behind centre. It’s still far too soon to anoint him as the next great Alouettes quarterback, but now he’s got that first win in the books. Next week versus Calgary will be a much better test of this young man’s football acumen. The Stampeders had the West Division locked up a long time ago, but they have history on their minds and will not likely rest any starters as they look to finish their regular season at an astonishing 16-1-1.
It will also be the last Alouettes home game of the 2016 season. There would be no better tribute to the future of this team than a completely sold-out Percival Molson Stadium this coming Sunday.
This past Saturday was my first time watching a football game live in Regina. This being the farewell season for Taylor Field at Mosaic Stadium, it was a goal of mine to see the Alouettes play here and add this barn to my CFL Bucket List. I can now cross this legendary temple off and eagerly await the opening of the New Mosaic Stadium next season.
I’ll have a more detailed look at the Riders game day experience here on The ALSternative. In addition to the look at the old digs, I was graciously given the opportunity to tour the new stadium. Suffice to say, this new building is going to be a football experience like no other for all football fans!
Keep your eyes open for this piece later this week!
That’s all for now. The Alouettes’ playoff fate was sealed with Hamilton’s overtime win in Ottawa this past Friday. Thus, another lost season for the Birds of Prey. But they still have two games left to show the world what they have in store for the future. There is a lot that will have to be sorted out starting on November 7th, when the players clean out their lockers and head for home.
All we can do for now is enjoy what’s left and then spend the winter speculating what lies ahead for 2017. A lot of questions will have to be answered from the top down. I wish I could say that all will be great again, but there is so much still up in the air regarding this Montreal Alouettes franchise.
As I said before, I am going to attend these two final games and enjoy every minute of them. I strongly recommend that you do as well.
GO ALS GO!!!