“Everybody has a plan until you get punched in the face.” — Mike Tyson
To say that the Montreal Alouettes got punched in the face at Tim Hortons Field this past Friday night would be a slight understatement. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were on a mission and certainly weren’t going to let this Alouettes team off the hook so easily.
After destroying the Toronto Argonauts at BMO Field the week before, many wondered if they still had anything left in the tank for the Alouettes. In fact, many had suggested that this could even be a trap game for Montreal, as the Alouettes fought hard and barely lost to Edmonton in week one.
But Montreal rarely plays well following a bye week and this past Friday was no different. Hamilton pasted the Alouettes by a score of 41-10, as this defense had absolutely no answer for both Jeremiah Masoli and Brandon Banks. Once again, this Alouettes defensive corps made some great plays and managed to cause some turnovers. But this past Friday they couldn’t catch a cold, let alone an opposing player with some absolutely pathetic tackling.
For the second time this season, an opposing quarterback was able to post 400+ yards on this Bob Slowik defense. Masoli was 25 for 31 and threw a TD pass despite also throwing three INTs. He made some questionable decisions that led to those turnovers, but his supporting cast certainly covered nicely for those errors.
Banks was simply unstoppable. Known primarily for his prowess in kick returns, he proved to be Masoli’s best target, hauling in 152 yards. He also managed to take a handoff 30 yards to the house, ducking defenders and making this defense look like a clown show. Despite his lithe 5’7 frame, Banks looked like a man playing against boys.
All in all, the Alouettes gave up an unacceptable 529 total yards to Hamilton. Tommie Campbell was able to pick off Masoli to stop a potential scoring play in its tracks. Second year defender Greg Reid continues to shine in the 905, as he managed to snag TWO picks off Masoli. In last season’s final regular season game, Reid made his name known as he had a key interception late in the game that led to one of Montreal’s five wins.
A standout at Florida State University, Greg has put his time in and paid his dues. Injuries led to him making his first CFL start last Friday and he didn’t disappoint. Aside from a very weak defensive pass interference call towards the end of the first half, Reid played as close to a perfect game as a sophomore player can in this league.
The other bright spot on defense was the play of Henoc Muamba, who had 8 defensive tackles and also forced a fumble. It came on the goal-line stand that the Alouettes had to make due to Reid’s penalty. Three time the Tabbies tried to punch it in on the ground and three times they were denied. It was on the third effort where Muamba forced the ball out of backup QB Dane Evans‘ hands. Hamilton recovered the ball but the result was a turnover on downs. The hope going into the half was that this would be the momentum shift the Alouettes needed to get back into this game.
But Montreal simply couldn’t stop Hamilton this past Friday. And when Montreal did have the ball, they had trouble making plays happen. Much to the dismay of Alouettes QB Vernon Adams Jr., who was given the chance to start in place of the injured Antonio Pipkin.
When Adams last started a football game in Hamilton, it was in 2016 and he was a fresh-faced rookie looking to establish himself on a team that was just starting their downward spiral into the depths they currently find themselves in. Vernon started and won the final three games of that 2016 season, giving Alouettes Nation just a bit of hope that perhaps they finally found their next successful quarterback.
Then the Alouettes traded for Darian Durant in the ensuing off-season and it all went to hell in a handbasket from there.
Adams was added back to the roster last season after stints in Saskatchewan and Hamilton, where he was never given the chance to show his talents to any great degree. Coming back to Montreal and having to play second banana to Johnny Manziel for the second time in the same season (Adams and Manziel were both in Hamilton’s training camp to start the 2018 season), Vernon never lost sight of what was important: He wanted to prove that he belonged in the CFL and deserved the chance to be a starter.
An injury gave him that opportunity this past Friday. But as solid as he looked versus Edmonton in relief of Pipkin, the team around him didn’t seem to have that same faith with him under centre.
Adams’ final numbers versus the Tiger-Cats were not great, going 14 for 24 with a pick and a TD pass. But each Alouettes’ offensive series was marred either by a porous O-Line (that allowed an egregious six QB sacks) or some questionable play-calling by head coach Khari Jones, who thankfully has hired additional coaches to help him with the three hats he’s currently wearing (QB Coach, OC and Head Coach). Adams didn’t help his cause either, at times looking like he was trying to put a square peg into a round hole with several of his pass attempts.
However, Adams did make some great throws in this game and even found rookie Jake Wieneke for the Alouettes’ lone touchdown, Jake’s first in the CFL. But once again, the ground game was woefully underused, with William Stanback only getting 13 carries. Perhaps the Alouettes kept hoping to catch the Tabbies with their pants down by throwing it in the air. But all it did was led to more lost opportunities.
It’s also incredible just how Eugene Lewis and Devier Posey saw such little action from their QB. But again, Adams spent more time than not running for his life versus a tenacious Hamilton front seven that simply wasn’t going to quit. A lot of people predicted Hamilton to run away with the Eastern division this season and with stellar gameplay like this, it’s easy to see why.
To his credit, Vernon took the blame for the loss, saying he had to be better and even went so far as to address his teammates post-game and apologize for not being what they needed. Khari Jones was quick to point out that this loss was not solely on Adams, but rather one that this entire team has to own up to.
But potential redemption is less than a week away as these two teams will face off once again this Thursday for the Alouettes’ home opener. This was a tough loss to swallow, but this team better have a short memory and instead focus on correcting these glaring weak spots. Because Hamilton knew not to take this Montreal team lightly and will likely be even more laser-focused going on the road.
Whereas the loss versus Edmonton made the Alouettes look at least a bit respectable, this recent certainly wiped that slate clean and returned the doubters back to their glory in deriding this Alouettes team. No official betting lines have come out yet, but expect the Alouettes to be double-digit underdogs yet again.
I’ve said on a number of occasions already that this team on paper has the potential to be something special. They just have to stop beating themselves. Let’s see if a game at home in front of the Percival Molson faithful will make a difference as these birds look to defend their nest for the first time in 2019.
Be sure to tune into the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast as Tim Capper and myself take a deeper dive into this most recent defeat and look ahead to the first home game in La Belle Province for 2019. You can find the Flightdeck by clicking here or head over to Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Stitcher or Spotify and search for the keywords Alouettes Flightdeck.
We’ll be back here at The ALSternative to preview Thursday’s game and see just how this team will prepare for that first test at home. Eventually, this will all come together. The last time I checked, the Grey Cup was handed out in November, not June. There’s still lots of racetrack left, kids.
As they say, on to the next one. Thanks for reading, as always.