It’s not actually a must-win game for the Montreal Alouettes…but it’s a must-win game.
With a mere five games left in the 2018 CFL season, the Alouettes pretty much control their own destiny. They are still mathematically in the Grey Cup playoffs, but will need to start actually winning games for once. This Sunday they face a foe that they are not only familiar with, but have actually bested thus far this season!
The Alouettes got their first of their three wins of 2018 by narrowly beating the Riders at New Mosaic Stadium 23-17. That win featured Drew Willy and Chris Williams lighting up Duron Carter the DB and a lot of field goals from each team. The win was Montreal’s fourth of their last five versus the Riders, who have been defeated by four different Alouette quarterbacks. But a LOT has changed for both teams since that summer day in Regina.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders come into this game with lofty playoff goals of their own. They currently sit in second place in the West and with Zach Collaros as their starting QB, have become very tough to beat. When playing, the Riders are 6-3 with Collaros under centre. But the confines of Percival Molson Stadium have not always been the kindest to Collaros and Rider Nation.
Since 2015, Collaros is 1-2 when playing in Percival Molson Stadium. That year was also the last time that Saskatchewan was able to walk out of Molson Stadium with a W, in an overtime thriller that saw one of their current quarterbacks make his pro debut. Yes, Brandon Bridge, former Montreal Alouette and current Roughrider, nearly willed Montreal to a feel-good win for their fans. But it was not meant to be and Saskatchewan posted one of their THREE wins of that forgettable season for them.
This time around will be a lot different. The Alouettes will have another quarterback become a part of this historic rivalry. Johnny Manziel will be summoned to try to get Montreal’s fourth win of 2018, much to the delight of the fair-weather fans who spent the last home game screaming for him to take the field. Well, ask and you shall receive as it will likely take a serious injury at this point to wrest the starting position from Manziel’s hands.
If the Alouettes are going to have any chance of winning this game, they will have to do it without a perennial fan favourite in the lineup. Earlier this week, the Alouettes decided that youth will be served and shipped Tyrell Sutton to the BC Lions in exchange for a couple of 2019 draft picks. Sutton has been loved for the six seasons he has spent in Montreal and he too loved his time here.
So much so that he actually started living here year-round and was always a part of team-sponsored events in the Montreal community. The man they call Sutty truly understood what it meant to be a Montreal Alouette and his veteran leadership will be missed. But his age and some injury-filled seasons perhaps convinced the Alouettes’ management that they are better off allowing their rookie running backs to grow and flourish.
Avon Cobourne begat Brandon Whitaker, who begat Tyrell Sutton. And with rookies William Stanback and Ryder Stone posting some solid numbers in the wake of Sutton’s absence this season, so too does Sutton give way to the younger, less expensive studs. From a business standpoint, I get the move. But fans of this team won’t soon forget everything that Tyrell has done to put this Alouettes team on his back.
The biggest key for Montreal in this game will be to stop Saskatchewan from getting to Johnny Football. The Alouettes have given up the most QB sacks in the league by far this season and it’s not even close. This offensive line has lived up to its name, offending all who watch this sport with their less than stellar play.
Alouettes Nation is dying to see the Johnny Football that everyone remembers from back in the days of his time with Texas A&M. But Manziel can’t do much if his O-Line acts like pylons and allows their QB to be tossed on the ground. During his start against Winnipeg, Manziel posted some solid passing numbers and has improved considerably overall since his ill-fated first start at home.
But Manziel is still looking for his first official CFL touchdown pass and field goals alone will not get a W against this Riders team. This Saskatchewan defense completely clowned Winnipeg’s Matt Nichols in both the Labour Day Classic and Banjo Bowl. They will be looking to do likewise against the much ballyhooed Manziel, whose “fans” won’t have to scream for him to get playing time any longer.
There’s a lot of talk that the NFL scouts that Manziel is trying to impress have practically given up on the idea of paying attention to him. And honestly, why would they? As it stands right now, Manziel hasn’t given anyone the impression that he can be a worthwhile add to their lineup. If Johnny wants to cling to any hope of getting a sniff at a comeback in the league down south, he better start winning games NOW.
I said earlier that his little media scrum tantrum has erased any goodwill or benefit of the doubt. You want to tell everyone that you are this team’s saviour, then you better start winning and living up to all of this supposed potential that everyone keeps claiming is there.
Otherwise, you not only look like a fool, but so does everyone else who sings your praises. Including the organization that is giving you all of these opportunities to prove yourself. Simple as that.
Sunday’s game is the Alouettes’ Tackle Hunger game, where fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable goods to donate to the city’s local food banks. While I doubt that Montreal will come close to topping Hamilton’s effort of over 190,000 pounds of food this past Labour Day, I encourage everyone to make that effort as well.
As always, the tailgate at the east side of the stadium will be THE place to be seen. Barbecues will be lit and good times are always abound.
Come early and join both Alouettes and Riders fans as they celebrate this great game of ours. Just look for the silver trailer and the blue tent for good times to be had.
That’s all for now. History has proven that this is always a great matchup to be a part of and the Alouettes desperately need to win. Hopefully the entire team is going to be interested in participating, unlike last week. It’s going to be loud on the mountain this Sunday and I for one cannot wait.
Enjoy the game, regardless of where you watch it.