The last time the Montreal Alouettes won a game at Percival Molson Stadium was August 11, 2017. Their opponents were the Toronto Argonauts, coached by Marc Trestman and featured a quarterback not named Ricky Ray.
This Friday, the Alouettes will be hosting the Argos at Percival Molson Stadium. We are still in August, Marc Trestman still is the opposing coach and Ricky Ray will not be behind centre for the Double Blue once again.
Can lightning strike twice? Could this happy coincidence be the magic elixir in order for the Alouettes to end this year long losing streak at home?
If it is, it will have to be done on the back of a young quarterback who is making his second consecutive start this season; a feat that is a rarity in and of itself! Antonio Pipkin gets the start at quarterback for the Alouettes as Johnny Manziel remains under concussion protocol. After a solid debut versus the Eskimos last week, Pipkin will now be given another opportunity to help this team get its second victory of 2018.
The biggest question mark will be how this Alouettes defense will stack up versus Toronto’s newest signal-caller, Mcleod Bethel-Thompson. The NFL journeyman emerged as a bonafide starter in this league when Ricky Ray went down to injury and backup James Franklin simply couldn’t get anything going on offense. “McBLT” has won the trust of Coach Trestman (known for being a QB guru himself) and has quietly turned this Argos team around.
As the past few weeks have shown, the compete level of this defense is wishy-washy at best. Going up against a stud like former Alouette S.J. Green (yep, the same guy who Montreal traded in a panic over his injured knee that won a Grey Cup last year with Toronto) will be a true test for this secondary. He may be a grizzled veteran at this point, but I am willing to bet that S.J. will find a way to make his former squad look foolish yet again.
Another former Alouette turned Argonaut will be making his 2018 debut on Friday. Bear Woods has been battling injury and bad luck all season long. After he had recovered from surgery and was able to finally join his teammates, Woods somehow managed to break his hand in practice! So Friday night he will be sporting the medical club hand that John Bowman made famous in Montreal many moons ago.
He’s been relatively quiet in recent weeks, but don’t be surprised if James Wilder Jr. has another breakout game like he did last year versus the Alouettes. With a very suspect Alouettes defense that has been unable to master the art of tackling, Wilder could be heavily leaned on to move the chains and then some.
And when it comes to ballhawks, there are few better right now than Marcus Ball. He has been a disruptive force on the Argos defense, managing to make teams look clumsy when it comes to protecting the football. He’ll be looking to prey upon the still inexperienced Pipkin and force him to make mistakes.
Montreal will have to counter this Argos defense with some new faces. In addition to Pipkin, William Stanback will be making his first start at tailback, replacing the injured Tyrell Sutton. Stanback has been one of the few bright spots in Montreal, filling in nicely for Stefan Logan on kick returns. Built like Sutton, I expect Stanback to put his stout frame and surprising speed to good use.
This will also give the chance for Ryder Stone to get more reps as well. The National rookie has fared pretty well when his number has been called this season. Normally Montreal abandons the run pretty quickly on game day. But as the Alouettes still lead the league in yards on first down, perhaps this coaching staff will finally allow the backfield to get some real action and give Pipkin some relief.
Adarius Bowman will be making his home debut for the Alouettes and he will be expected to contribute to this offense in a big way. He has looked solid thus far in the Alouettes’ red-white-blue and if he can keep his temper in check, we can expect some amazing catches from this big-body receiver.
If this offense can stay on the field for more than a few two and outs, they can give Toronto a run for their money. My hope is that while the Manziel fans will be distraught to learn that their hero isn’t playing, that they give Pipkin the respect he deserves by keeping their “WE WANT JOHNNY” chants to themselves.
I realize I am asking a lot here.
On paper, this looks to be a fairly even match. But Montreal has allowed teams to run roughshod on them at home and that has to stop. Despite his impressive winning streak of sorts, you can’t compare playing McLeod Bethel-Thompson to Mike Reilly or even Trevor Harris. Montreal’s defense has taken a beating in recent weeks; it has to stop and Friday night would be a great time for them to make a stand.
This game will also be the last home game that will have the team sport the delta logo on their helmets. For those of you who are enjoying the walk down memory lane, this is your final chance to see this logo live and in action.
It will also be the team’s chance to celebrate the CFL’s “Diversity is Strength” program that honours the many trailblazers of this great game. Montreal will be paying tribute to the legendary Herb Trawick, who broke the colour barrier in the CFL with the Alouettes. Interestingly enough, Trawick played in Montreal at the same time as baseball’s own Jackie Robinson, who parlayed his time with the Montreal Royals into a trailblazing career in Major League Baseball, breaking THEIR colour barrier.
Two pioneer sports figures in Montreal at the same time, that’s worth celebrating all by itself. But stories and players like this just adds to the rich tapestry that makes up the Canadian Football League.
That’s all for now. As always, if you are going to the game be sure to stop by the Les Gars Qui Vivent tailgate located in the park on the East side of the stadium. The BBQs will be fired up and good times will be had. Just look for the silver trailer and the blue tent. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for last minute thoughts and analysis.
Despite what appears to be a picture perfect evening weather wise in Montreal, let’s see if lightning will indeed strike twice in the same place. Enjoy the game, regardless of where you watch it.
GO ALS GO!!!