Alouettes prepare to defend the nest for the first time in 2018

It’s time for you to experience what Canadian football is all about. After several months without, the city of Montreal has their football team back in action and ready to turn a new page in their history.

The Alouettes welcome the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Friday evening at Percival Molson Stadium. Both teams are searching for their first win of the season despite stocking up on talent during free agency and the CFL draft.

Both teams are coming off tough losses and will want to set the tone early in the game. Montreal’s starting quarterback Drew Willy will be looking to redeem himself after starting strong versus the BC Lions but ultimately falling apart in the fourth quarter. His counterpart is not veteran Matt Nichols but rather a virtual unknown in Chris Streveler, who became the unlikely starter after Nichols was injured in the pre-season.

Facing a strong Eskimos team and having to deal with a pair of weather delays in his debut, Streveler was able to steady himself and actually looked decent under the circumstances. He had the luxury of starting in front of the hometown crowd, eager to support the youngster put in a precarious situation. Streveler will now be walking into another team’s stadium and possibly hostile territory, should the stands be filled with the usually boisterous Alouettes fans.

The biggest concern for the Alouettes remains keeping perennial Canadian superstar Andrew Harris under control. Last year’s Most Outstanding Canadian keeps on dominating with no signs of slowing down. He’s had fits against the Alouettes and has run roughshod over them, most notably last year when the Als visited Investors Group Field.

The Alouettes defense will need to corral Winnipeg’s favourite son and make him a non-factor on Friday night. Young Streveler better get used to the sight of Henoc Muamba in his grill, because the former Bomber is on a tear with no signs of stopping. This Alouettes defense will have to truly bear down on the young Winnipeg pivot much like they did early on versus Jonathon Jennings last week before he found his stride.

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Montreal’s offensive attack was pretty well non-existent past the first quarter last week. They can ill afford such measly efforts versus a Bombers defense that got blown up early against Edmonton and is looking for redemption. Montreal’s inability to continuously put points on the board is troubling to say the least. Especially after all of the praise heaped upon Alouettes OC Khari Jones for calling what was a fun first half of football out in Vancouver.

Perhaps the biggest thing the Alouettes need to do is feed their workhouse running back Tyrell Sutton the ball and actually KEEP feeding it to him. Unless his legs happen to fall off mid-game, I simply don’t see any logical reason for the Alouettes to stop running the ball. If there’s concern about burning out Sutty, there is a number of replacements that can also handle the workload.

Most notably, the National RB Ryder Stone has shown flashes of potential brilliance the few times that he’s given the rock. Although it is starting to look like he’s lost some steam, there is still Stefan Logan, who can still move the chains provided the O-Line can create a lane or two for him.

In that first quarter versus the Lions, we saw Drew Willy lob some deep balls much to everyone’s equal shock and delight. Willy is going to have to trust his receivers, including his playmakers Eugene Lewis and B.J. Cunningham. Lewis was finally able to notch his first CFL touchdown and will be looking to add to the tally, hopefully in the more traditional sense.

These short screen passes that Montreal is known for won’t do much versus Winnipeg. Their front seven will look to capitalize on the perception that Drew Willy plays scared and is prone to errors under pressure. Willy was able to get mobile and pick up a couple of first downs versus the Lions, but the Blue Bombers will be ready for that and all it takes for Montreal’s game to truly come undone is an injury to their lone QB with true CFL experience.

And of course, there’s always the possibility of this game coming down to the special teams play. In which Winnipeg has a major advantage with Kevin Fogg as their returner. The Raleigh native has quietly put together a solid career in Winnipeg, able to make defenders miss and giving his team excellent field position to start.

This is in stark contrast to how Logan returns for Montreal, as the special teamers still have a way to go in creating lanes for their veteran speedster. Whether it is Logan or Ryder Stone performing return duties, this special teams unit needs to be more cohesive and give their guys some racetrack to run.

I’m looking forward to a spirited affair on the mountain Friday night. Montreal may not get that sold-out house, but they have a lot of work to do in order to win back the trust of the non-diehards that remain on the fence when it comes to making a full commitment to their football team. Not to mention that Montreal’s current 12 game winless streak is not exactly inspiring a ton of ticket sales.

Suffice to say that a hard-fought win against a still-solid playoff contender will certainly be a welcome sight for Alouettes Nation.

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Once again, the Alouettes find themselves in an interesting position. Fans do love football in Quebec, but they won’t flat-out support a team that posts more losses than wins in the standings. But how else will this team get butts in the seats?

The Alouettes’ marketing team has unveiled a number of promotions to draw fans in, even if their knowledge of football is next to none. Between fan supporter sections, cheaper domestic beer for sale and so much more, there’s certainly no shortage of options out there to support your team.

I won’t delve too much into the current promotion by the team to sell $10 tickets that gives you access for essentially the second half of the game. If fans can’t be arsed to attend an Alouettes game when the cheapest tickets are $22 for an entire football game, I highly doubt this new promotion will make a serious difference. Yes, the last few moments of a CFL can become a nail-biter of epic proportions but I just don’t see Montrealers flocking to the stadium in order to see the waning moments of a football game. I’ve been wrong before, though.

The one thing you can count on at any Montreal Alouettes game, win or lose, is an epic tailgate experience. Be sure to swing on by the Les Gars Qui Vivent tailgate located in the park next to the stadium’s east side. You’ll meet all kinds of great folks, the barbecue is ready for you to throw some treats on and there’s so much more!

Just keep your eyes open for the blue vent and silver trailer. If you’ve already been, it’s up to you fans to get these fence-sitters into the stadium and support the team as they start a new era of fandom. The tailgate is a great place to start building those future fans.

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That’s all for now. Friday’s game is far from a must-win for Montreal, but this team is in dire need of a paradigm shift. No amount of giveaways and all-you-can-eat food sections will change the fact that winning football games are the best way to get the stands full again.

The Alouettes have become far too accustomed to losing. That slide needs to end, sooner rather than later. Here’s hoping a strong effort against a Western foe will finally yield some good results.

Enjoy the game Friday, regardless of where you watch it.

GO ALS GO!!!

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