It was a game to remember for all the right reasons.
The Montreal Alouettes played their first home game of 2019 and came ahead victorious, posting a 36-29 mark over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Montreal handed the Tabbies their first loss of 2019 while notching their first win of the young CFL season. Over 18,000 fans packed the stadium to see the Alouettes’ new home uniforms and to see a legend play the final game of a historic career.
Safe to say, no one left disappointed with what they saw on the mountain this past Thursday. And hopefully, those that came for the first time to see this team will be encouraged enough with what they saw to come back for more.
The win was the first for Alouettes head coach Khari Jones, who was thrust into his current role just six days before the season started. Having played these same Tiger-Cats a week earlier in a lopsided defeat, the pressure was on Montreal to learn from their mistakes and deliver a performance like no other. Safe to say, mission accomplished.
Earlier in the week, it was announced that centre Luc Brodeau-Jourdain was going to hang up his cleats after a twelve year career that saw many highs and lows. He played in the game fully aware that it may just be one series. But the team was determined to not let Luc play his last game and have it end in a loss. They wanted him to have that storybook ending that every player dreams of, but is never guaranteed.
From start to finish, the Alouettes played this game with purpose. Vernon Adams Jr. played a solid game under centre for Montreal, going 14 of 25 with over 200 yards passing. He also put his educated feet to good use, rushing for 60 yards when the situation called for it. One of those rushes became his first touchdown in 2019 as the scoring floodgates opened for Montreal in the 4th quarter.
But the hallmark of this game was one that the Alouettes typically shied away from in years previous; the running game. That all changed and a true superstar emerged on the field Thursday night.
For the first time in a long, long time, a running back came in for Montreal and shined the brightest. Ladies and gentlemen, the William Stanback era has truly begun. Get your popcorn ready.
Stanback was simply no match for the Hamilton defense, steamrolling the Cats for a staggering 203 yards on the ground, 46 yards in the air and three, count ’em THREE rushing touchdowns! The 25 year old dynamo from Long Island played like an absolute beast and got everyone in the stadium off their feat several times over the course of the evening.
Primarily a power back, Stanback displayed his blistering speed as well. Hamilton’s front seven were unable to absorb this workhorse. Stanback broke free for several runs, his longest being for 49 yards at the end of the third quarter that put Montreal firmly in control of their destiny.
Quan Bray made his CFL debut in place of the injured Devier Posey and showed out well, with 8 catches for 54 yards. B.J. Cunningham had only two catches on the night but both were clutch that produced major yardage for the Alouettes. Eugene Lewis also made plays happen and helped keep Hamilton’s defense in check.
Boris Bede was a perfect three for three in field goals and the Alouettes’ O-Line played a much more cohesive game, only allowing two quarterback sacks versus six the week previous against these same Tiger-Cats.
I’ve been pretty critical of this Bob Slowik defense thus far. But there’s no denying the play-making ability when the time comes. We got to see a lot of it past Thursday.
Hamilton QB Jeremiah Masoli was rattled early on with a Glenn Love interception. He also had to contend with a defensive line that has drastically improved, finally notching their first and second quarterback sacks of the season (the last team in the CFL to do so in 2019). In what almost feels like a potential passing of the torch, both the grizzled veteran John Bowman and his eventual successor Bo Banner were able to plant Masoli into the turf at Percival Molson Stadium.
Patrick Levels was certainly on another “level”, notching six defensive tackles and making everyone look foolish as a result. Both Henoc Muamba and Tommie Campbell also threw their weight around and made the Tiger-Cats fight for every single play.
All that said, there were plenty of instances where this defense let Hamilton stretch the field on them numerous times. Masoli was still able to notch 400+ yards passing and a pair of touchdowns to keep this game at it’s tightest. Lirim Hajrullahu was also a perfect 5 for 5 in field goal attempts to keep Hamilton in this game to the very end.
Perhaps the biggest victory for the Alouettes’ defense was keeping noted Alouettes killer Brandon Banks off the score sheet. He still managed to get 86 receiving yards, but for the most part Banks was silenced by this upstart defense. Penalties were a major factor for both teams, as it seemed on a number of occasions like each side was doing its best to give the game to their opponent.
But Montreal had to be inspired after being pasted the week before by Hamilton. With one of their legends trying to ride off into the sunset a winner, there was no way this team was just going to hand their adversary a victory. You can feel it in the crowd, as they got louder and louder; A loss by the Alouettes was just not going to happen.
Certainly not on Luc Brodeur-Jourdain’s watch.
It was clear that everyone wearing blue and red wanted this game badly for LBJ, who likely was only going to play the opening series just for the sake of playing.
But an injury to lineman Sean Jamieson forced the battle-tested veteran into more duty that anticipated and he was happy to help the cause, snapping the ball to his young veteran QB. Certainly a far cry from the days where #58 would launch the ball into the hands of one Anthony Calvillo. I’m sure even Luc himself would have a hard time remembering just how many hands have been under his backside.
It was absolutely poetic that in the final series, with the Alouettes up by seven, in victory formation and with no one in the crowd ducking out early, that Luc was the one who delivered the ball to Vernon in order to kneel down and secure this team’s first win of the season. Emotions ran high as the team exited the field and the big man from Saint-Hyacinthe tearfully thanked the Alouettes faithful that loudly cheered and clapped their thank yous to him for his many years of service to this organization.
I spoke with Luc after the game and he told me that he will be forever grateful to be able to play this game as long as he did and that he wasn’t planning to be too far away from this team. This Alouettes team is in his blood and for him to walk away a winner is a gift like no other. He knows that so many others in football were denied that opportunity and for him to retire with his health intact along with some really amazing memories is truly immeasurable.
But the real winners are those who have supported this team non-stop. To be able to watch a talent like Luc’s year in and year out has been a real privilege. The big guys up front don’t always get the love from fans and certainly don’t always get the recognition they deserve.
But that’s not the case in Montreal. There have been a lot of #58 jerseys in the stands over the years and part of me wants to say that it’s not just because Brodeur-Jourdain is one of the finest Quebec-born players this league has ever seen. But it’s hard to deny the impact that he’s had on this team and province. His community work in the off-season has easily influenced a whole bunch of young Quebecois players that can only hope to be half as good as what Luc was here in Montreal.
It’s truly been a treat to watch this man in action for over a decade. I feel sorry for the next player who will be assigned #58 on this team (which hopefully won’t be for a LONG time!). That unfortunate soul will have quite the legacy to live up to.
Once again, merci beaucoup Luc. From every single member of Alouettes Nation.
After this win, Montreal will now focus its attention back on the road to face the Ottawa RedBlacks. The defending Eastern champions were brought back down to earth and will not be too fond of potentially losing back to back home games next Saturday.
Be sure to tune into the next edition of the Alouettes FlightDeck podcast as Tim Capper and myself break down this first Alouettes victory further and look head to the team’s first visit to TD Place of the season. You can find the podcast by clicking here or by searching Alouettes FlightDeck on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Stitcher and Spotify.
This win was a great way to kick off the summer on the mountain. Nobody saw it coming except for a rare few. But keeping the positive momentum is easier said than done and there’s still a lot of work to be done by these Alouettes. I’m looking forward to seeing what else they have up their sleeve.
Enjoy this win, but it’s on to the next one. As always, thanks for reading.