Stop me if you’ve heard this before; A new quarterback is in the lineup for the Montreal Alouettes.
At least the quarterback clown car has stopped at two this season. The Alouettes welcome the Saskatchewan Roughriders to the Nest this Friday and taking snaps for the Als is a familiar face in Antonio Pipkin. You may remember him from such historic games as 2018 Win #2 versus Toronto and 2018 Win #3 versus Ottawa. You may also remember him getting his ankle rolled in Edmonton during his lone 2019 CFL start.
Pipkin has since healed from that injury, as evidenced from his playing in last week’s game versus Ottawa in relief of the concussed Vernon Adams Jr. What remains to be seen is if he’s healed from the hurt feelings he suffered last week against the RedBlacks. Pipkin went into the game ice-cold and just couldn’t get into sync. As a result of that and his receivers dropping passes, the offense failed to keep the lead and Montreal lost the game in overtime.
Safe to say that Antonio should be inspired to prove his doubters wrong. He’ll have his work cut out for him, as he will not have the stud running back William Stanback in the lineup Friday night. Should Pipkin decide to lean on a running back (which he failed to do last week), it will have to be veteran tailback Jeremiah Johnson, who has been a steady hand in this Alouettes offense.
Despite being in his 30s (when RBs tend to start declining), Johnson has shown that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank. Pipkin would be wise to lean on both Johnson and Ryder Stone, who is no slouch in the backfield as well. Last week Pipkin largely ignored the running game and it made a difference, as the rest of the offense looked sluggish and out of sync when he was behind centre.
This week they face a Roughriders team whose defensive line has taken some major hits due to injury. Names like Micah Johnson, Zack Evans and A.C. Leonard would normally strike fear into this offense. But those men will be on the sidelines Friday night and Montreal had best find a way to capitalize on that.
The biggest concern will be trying to stop the runaway freight train of momentum that is Riders QB Cody Fajardo. Since coming in relief for the now-departed Zach Collaros, Fajardo has given Saskatchewan new life. Much like Vernon Adams coming in to relieve Pipkin, Fajardo has turned the Riders around and led them to some exciting wins.
Yes, three of the Riders’ four wins have come against the lowly Toronto Argonauts and BC Lions. But that fourth win came against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, still #1 in the Eastern division. They haven’t been pretty wins but Fajardo is proving himself to be a steady hand behind centre and fun as heck to watch.
He’s leaned heavily on his receivers and when needed, will deploy William Powell out of the backfield. This journeyman QB has found a home in Saskatchewan and if the Alouettes want to start a new winning streak, they will have to let the air out of Cody’s balloon on Friday night.
Incredibly, this Bob Slowik-designed defense keeps on rolling. Despite the loss last week, they still made plays happen, gave up few yards and caused plenty of turnovers. Guys like Tommie Campbell, Greg Reid and Taylor Loffler will be counted on once again to make Fajardo’s evening in the 514 a miserable one.
The best way to do that would be to eliminate the immediate threat of Kyran Moore and Shaq Evans, who have both been dangerous for Saskatchewan this season. Especially Moore on kick/punts returns, where Montreal got roasted last week. Special teams will have to have short memories this week and find ways to keep Saskatchewan from making huge plays happen.
But all eyes will be on Antonio Pipkin, who many CFL pundits expected to simply waltz in and be the next Anthony Calvillo simply because he had a couple of good games last season. Based on his shaky play in the two games in 2019 that he’s participated in, many are wondering if it was a case of “too much, too soon” for this very young QB.
I still think Antonio can be a great player in this league for years to come. But I also think that a lot of the hype may have gone to his head and it showed in how he’s played in 2019. With any luck, last week may have humbled him and now he will actually follow Alouettes head coach/OC Khari Jones‘ game plan in lieu of trying to make that highlight reel type of play on his own.
With Pipkin taking the major reps at practice, hopefully his receivers will now be more in tune with the Tiffin University product and be ready for those shot-out-of-a-cannon passes. There are legit playmakers here and they will need to step up in the absence of Vernon Adams to help out their current quarterback.
Overall, this is shaping up to be quite the hotly contested affair. Both teams are eager to prove to everyone watching that they are the real deal. Both teams have quarterbacks that will be coming out swinging for the fences. Both are looking to stay competitive in their respective divisions and make some noise in this league.
This match will either be the game of the week or a complete dud; nothing in between. But no matter what, don’t you dare miss it. If you happen to be coming live to the game, get ready for a lot of noise. Rider Nation always travels well and they’ll be in full force at Percival Molson Stadium.
But Alouettes Nation has shown up these past few weeks and gotten extremely loud, once again making this stadium a dangerous place to play. As the kids say, it’s gonna be LIT on Friday night.
As always, don’t forget to swing by the Les Gars Qui Vivent tailgate in the park on the east side of the stadium. Bring your drinks and food to be grilled up. And get ready to make some new friends as this tailgate brings it every single week. Naturally, all football fans are welcome here so don’t be shy.
Be sure to follow along on Twitter for last minute thoughts and analysis. And if you haven’t head the latest edition of the Alouettes FlightDeck podcast, make sure you do as Tim Capper and myself share all sorts of insight leading up to kickoff.
I’m looking forward to what has the potential to be an instant classic. I hope you are too. Enjoy the game, regardless of where you watch it.