It won’t be easy, but the first win of the CFL season just may come from the most unlikely of places.
The Montreal Alouettes hit the road and head out to the prairies in hopes that this Canada Day weekend tilt with the Saskatchewan Roughriders will produce that first win of 2018. Both teams are reeling from blowout losses and need to get back on track.
There’s also the slight matter of who will be behind centre for each team. Drew Willy is still the starting quarterback for the Alouettes, but his leash got a lot shorter this week. The team added a pair of QBs to the roster this week in former NCAA standout Kenny Hill and young veteran pivot Vernon Adams Jr. for his second stint in Montreal.
Hill’s name should be familiar to Montreal fans, as his father Ken had himself quite the career in the 514 as a pitcher for the Montreal Expos. The young quarterback had himself a solid career, even breaking some records at Texas A&M that belonged to current Hamilton Tiger-Cats roster member Johnny Manziel.
Adams is no stranger to the 514 and even holds the distinction of being the last active CFL quarterback to start and win a football game for the Alouettes. He was traded to Saskatchewan in the middle of last season and was just released by Hamilton a week ago.
With Matt Shiltz still on the IR and Jeff Mathews not exactly looking great in limited action, Drew Willy now faces even more pressure to succeed on the field. As long as he turns in weak performances like he did last Friday, it may not be long before the Als try Adams out in this Khari Jones offense in order to jumpstart this anemic squad.
The Riders started the season slightly better off in the QB department, but their stock took a major hit when Zach Collaros was placed on the six game injured list due to concussion symptoms. Now facing the Alouettes this Saturday is Canada’s own (and former Alouette) Brandon Bridge.
Bridge has had an interesting career thus far in Regina. He has started and won games, but still can’t convince head coach Chris Jones that he can be the guy long-term. With Collaros out and no major depth at QB for the Riders, this is Bridge’s best chance to show that he belongs in the conversation.
The Roughriders are not the dominant force that many expected them to be, but they do have some dangerous weapons at their disposal.
Look for Jerome Messam to break out in a big way; the bruising tailback has always been a force versus his old squad. But that edge always comes with a price; Last year when he was with the Stampeders, Messam managed to get himself ejected from the game versus Montreal.
Montreal also has to contain receiver Namaan Roosevelt, who remains a threat every time he steps onto the field. Bridge will be taking chances simply because he has to and heaving the ball downfield towards Roosevelt will likely produce some great results if given the chance. Montreal’s secondary can redeem themselves by shutting down both Roosevelt and Caleb Holley, who has been a deep threat for the Green Team.
Speaking of defense, that’s where you’ll find the most exciting wide receiver in the Canadian Football League. Yep….
In what seems to be a move made strictly of necessity, Duron Carter will once again play exclusively on defense. There’s no denying his freakish athleticism and he does do a great job, having returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns in his two game career as a defensive back.
But many wonder if Carter wouldn’t be better suited on offense and allow someone else to man that spot in the secondary. The Riders are thin at both receiver and defensive back, but Carter truly is at his best when he is making those impossible catches for touchdowns.
Should the Alouettes manage to escape Mosaic Stadium with their first win due to a lack of offense from the Riders, will that cause Chris Jones to return Duron to his WR spot? A lot will depend on the final score, but it must be tremendous to have an athlete as versatile as Duron Carter in your lineup.
Saturday’s game will have emotion running at a major high, as the Roughriders have set this game aside to pay tribute to the fallen members of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team. The April 6th bus crash that claimed the lives of numerous members of the team shook this nation to its core. But it has brought an entire province together in its darkest hour and there will be numerous tributes throughout this Saturday’s game.
All nine CFL teams will be paying tribute this week with a Humboldt Strong ribbon logo on the back of their helmets. Mosaic Stadium is hosting the families of the Broncos this Saturday and they will be a part of the game from start to finish. Needless to say, that moment of silence will be likely the quietest that stadium has been since it opened its doors last year.
The game will also have a Montreal flavour to it as well, as the Alouettes’ fan plane will bring many fans in to watch the game live. After similar trips on this charter plane to Hamilton and Toronto, the team has finally decided to go a lot further west and give their fans a chance to see how the other half live, so to speak.
I’ll be there live in Regina to take all of this in and I am excited to share it with all of you. Be sure to follow along on Twitter
for updates and the latest thoughts on what to expect from this Canada Day weekend match.
This game is pretty much a do-or-die game for many Alouettes players who have been underwhelming thus far. Changes are coming to this team as they do what they can to end what is now the fourth longest losing streak in CFL history.
Enjoy the game, regardless of where you watch it.