After a week and a half of preparation, the Montreal Alouettes were finally able to see some actual game action last night as they took flight to BMO Field to face the Toronto Argonauts. For many players, it was their first and possibly last chance to take the field and impress this coaching staff.
Unfortunately, the only way that fans were going to see this team in action was to be in Toronto and buy a ticket to watch it live. The rest of us had to make do with listening to the radio broadcast, which was heard on both cities’ TSN radio stations.
It was a spirited romp, but the Alouettes fell 24-20 to the Double Blue. The first half was marred with miscues and several two and outs. The second half saw the young players step up and make a valiant attempt at stealing a last-minute victory. It made the case yet again that all 60 minutes must be played in the Canadian Football League.
This game was a chance for the lesser-known players to get some valuable reps, as many of the Montreal veterans did not dress for this game. You already know what you’re gonna get with a Darian Durant and a John Bowman. But what about their understudies? Can they step in when these guys and other vets cannot? This is why you play these pre-season tilts, to find out exactly that.
As always, it’s time for us here at The ALSternative to take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of this first taste of CFL action in 2017:
There’s no question that in recent years, one of the Alouettes’ biggest weaknesses has been the play of the special teams unit. With a new coach in Bruce Read, it was hard to tell just by training camp sessions alone just how this unit was going to come together.
Last night, they played rather well! With kicker Boris Bede perfect in his field goal attempts (4/4) and the ST unit not giving up too much ground on returns, It was a very pleasant surprise. Mind you, the Argos don’t have that explosive returner ready to shred defenders. But all in all, a very solid first go for this group.
Nicolas Boulay had a very solid game, slotting into the middle linebacker role as a starter and throwing his body into action with some punishing tackles. He led by example on special teams and certainly made his case for a full-time starter’s spot to Defensive Coordinator Noel Thorpe. The “Wolverine” played like a beast.
Deandre Reaves saw his first action in the CFL and did not disappoint, returning kicks and punts and giving the Alouettes some decent field position to start each series. He also saw action in the offense with a couple of catches and one rushing attempt. Again, no one is expecting Reaves to unseat Stefan Logan as returner just yet, but this former Marshall University star is making some noise and will only get better as camp goes on.
The Alouettes’ lone touchdown came late in the fourth quarter thanks to rookie QB Matthew Shiltz, who found fellow rookie George Johnson in the back of the end zone. Shiltz had the best night statistically, going 6/10 as the fourth quarter belonged to him. And thanks to TSN 690 analyst Davis Sanchez, expect the new catch phrase, “Holy Shiltz!” to make the rounds at camp.
For quarterbacks with actual CFL experience, yesterday’s game was not the best effort from either Vernon Adams or Jacory Harris. Both pivots struggled to make an impact and both had passes intercepted that were returned for touchdowns. With Darian Durant going down to injury in camp, both of these guys got extra reps daily and should have been able to connect better with their receivers.
Many will say that Harris was barely a blip on the radar last year, but Adams is undefeated as a CFL starting QB. If they want to prove that they can one day start full-time for this team, they will have to show out much better versus Ottawa next Thursday.
Montreal spent a fair bit of time in the red zone and came closing to scoring touchdowns. But the failure to turn those opportunities into anything besides field goals was very disappointing. Take away the two pick-sixes from Toronto and this game would have been a much better story for the Alouettes. This is still a very talented team but leaving points out there on the field isn’t going to cut it when these games actually count for something.
This game was not televised. That’s fine, only 4 of the nine pre-season games will be. But this is still 2017 and for a league that prides itself on its online reach, there should have been a web stream for fans to watch it. Listening to games on the radio has its benefits, but it’s a tad insulting when you do that then find that TSN has highlights for SportsCentre. So there are cameras there filming the action but the league’s sole broadcast partner can’t/won’t find a way to allow the public to consume it!
There’s a myriad of excuses that TSN will come up with about costs and even one of the CFL on TSN’s producers doubled down on his downplaying of the fans’ desire for even more football action. Surely in this day and age, the TSN folks could have filmed the game while syncing up the TSN radio’s play-by-play and thrown the whole thing up on TSN GO.
TSN did show the other CFL pre-season game tonight and they will be broadcasting the game live from Percival Molson Stadium next week, but we’ll all be at the game next week, right? Well, most of us will. It just would have been nice for the league to allow fans to watch both of their team’s pre-season games in some way, shape or form.
I’m of the opinion that you should be going forward with these things, not backwards. Radio is a good and necessary option to have but in this digital age, it shouldn’t be the only one. Times like this does make one wonder, “I wonder if this is how my grandparents followed the CFL back in the day.”
So now the Alouettes will go back to the tape and figure out what worked and what didn’t as they prepare to make some cuts. They will also get ready for their home dress rehearsal against the Ottawa RedBlacks. That game will feature more of the starters and will be even more competitive, especially as the players who shined tonight will be looking to go even harder in hopes of being part of the 46 man final roster.
Once again, camp is in Lennoxville and they will be back on the field today and all weekend. Fans are certainly welcome to attend each session. For more info and camp start times, click here.
Be excited, Alouettes Nation. Now that this team has actually stepped onto the field for an actual game scenario, it’s only going to get better.
GO ALS GO!!!