Mother Nature doesn’t always play football games. But when she does, she remains undefeated.
The same cannot be said for the Montreal Alouettes, who thanks to this temperamental lady and the Saskatchewan Roughriders, suffered their second straight loss this past Friday by a score of 17-10. However, there has to be a giant asterisk next to this score as the game was called with 2:41 left in the third quarter due to lightning strikes and heavy rainfall at Percival Molson Stadium.
Lightning delaying a game is nothing new in the Canadian Football League; heck, the Alouettes had a 45 minute weather delay a mere three weeks ago when the Edmonton Eskimos were in town. But that match was allowed to resume and Montreal was able to secure the win. This time around, the league made a very questionable call to end the game after just an hour delay.
As a result of Saskatchewan leading by 7 with nearly three quarters of play done, the league declared the game official and the Riders were able to escape La Belle Province with their fifth win of the season. Citing player and fan safety among a myriad of excuses not to continue this game, the fans in attendance were left with a bitter taste in their mouth, having been denied the opportunity to see a complete contest.
The game itself was atrocious for the offense of both teams. The past Friday, the Alouettes’ special teams was the bright point where the Roughriders’ defense literally exploded all over their opponent to mark the winning points.
After the Riders went two and out in their initial series, they punted the ball to returner Shakeir Ryan, who brought it back 101 yards to score Montreal’s lone touchdown of the evening. This has been dubbed the Year of the Return by CFL pundits and Shakeir now joins this not-so-exclusive club. After allowing a pair of return touchdowns last week, the Alouettes’ special teams unit had a lot to prove going into this match. Suffice to say, they answered the call.
By clearing a lane for Ryan to burst through and score, this play should have set the tone right away for Montreal. Pair that with their outstanding defense and the Alouettes more than set the table for Antonio Pipkin (starting for the injured Vernon Adams Jr.) and the offense to keep the party going.
Unfortunately, Saskatchewan’s defense wasn’t having any of that.
During Montreal’s second offensive series, Pipkin was LEVELED by a Derrick Moncrief hit, who was completely untouched and had the young QB dead to rights . The football was knocked loose and scooped up by Earl Okine, who took it to the end zone for the first of two defensive TDs for the Riders.
Pipkin was completely rattled at that point and struggled to regain his form, throwing an interception (that was subsequently erased by a roughing the passer penalty) and barely getting the Alouettes in field goal range, only for kicker Boris Bede to miss a 37 yard attempt. It took only one quarter of largely ineffective football for Alouettes head coach Khari Jones to make a change at quarterback.
Matthew Shiltz went into the game at QB and much like they did for Vernon Adams when he stepped in during the Alouettes’ season opener, the team immediately settled down. But the Riders’ D tasted the blood in the water and they wanted more.
Once again the Alouettes failed to pick up on the blitz from the Riders and Cameron Judge became a heat-seeking missile, looking to blow the Shiltz out of the Alouettes. Another uncontested tackle saw yet another ball popped loose and scooped up for a defensive score. This time it was Charleston Hughes who was able to waltz into the end zone and put points on the board for Saskatchewan.
Shiltz was able to recover from that jolt and continued to lead Montreal downfield, but nothing was clicking at all with this offense. Bede was able to atone for his missed PAT and missed field goal from earlier by barely making a 43 yard field goal to cut into the lead. But the Alouettes were still down by seven in the third quarter.
Unfortunately, just as Shiltz and the offense was starting to settle down, lightning bolts flashed across the Montreal skyline and both teams were sent off to the locker rooms. The light smattering of rain that started falling in the third quarter turned into a torrential downpour and the Alouettes organization demanded the immediate evacuation of the stands.
As I stated earlier, weather delays are not uncommon. We have seen delays go as long as three plus hours and the game resumed afterwards. Yet the latest CBA quietly saw the rules for what to do in these situations altered, again with the idea of player safety in mind. It was during this current weather delay that we learned of the following rule, as noted in the latest collective bargaining agreement of the CFL and CFLPA:
“The weather protocol states that if there is a stoppage greater than 60 minutes after the game becomes official at the midway point of the third quarter, the game will be considered final, and that two points will be awarded to the leading team.”
As the game was halted at 9:06pm ET with 2:41 left in the third quarter and failed to resume an hour later, the mark of 17-10 in favour of the Roughriders stood as final.
Disappointing to say the least but as agreed upon by both the league and it’s players union, those are the rules. Love them or hate them. Unfortunately, these new by-laws come across as very haphazard and tend to favour the team that is leading.
After what we saw in Montreal this past Friday, they leave a lot to be desired as fans of all nine fan bases (Yes, even Roughriders fans!) felt the Alouettes were unjustly denied the opportunity to finish the game.
The Montreal Alouettes have not released a official statement of their own in regards to what happened this past Friday, other than mirroring what the league released later in the night. But they did release the following from their Twitter account in regards to the frustration of fans that voiced their displeasure online:
Legally, the Alouettes themselves are not required to do anything for compensation to those in attendance as these were circumstances far beyond their control.
The Alouettes certainly didn’t make it rain Friday night nor did they make the rules that were in place, but they will have to deal with fans who paid to see a complete game and didn’t. Only time will tell whether or not this message is mere lip service to a fan base that has had their faith in the team tested on numerous occasions.
The ALSternative will keep you readers informed if news comes out as to what, if anything, the team does in this regard.
Now time for an uncomfortable discussion regarding a quarterback on this team.
We have seen Antonio Pipkin play three times in 2019; once in Edmonton, last week versus Ottawa in relief of an injured Vernon Adams and again this past Friday versus the Riders. In all three instances, he has looked disjointed, bewildered and unprepared for the task of leading a professional football team.
Pipkin even admitted post-game to the media that he was playing bad football and that he had to be better. I was struggling to think of where I have seen this scenario before when it came to the Montreal Alouettes.
Then it hit me. Do you remember the name Rakeem Cato?
The parallels between the short CFL career of Cato and the path that Pipkin is currently on are strikingly familiar. Both were quietly brought in during training camps after brilliant careers in the NCAA ranks. Both made their Percival Molson debuts to unbelievable victories that got everyone buzzing about their potential to be the next great quarterback in this city. Both came back down to earth and were dealt issues that affected their mindset and game play as a result. And both ended up being replaced by Vernon Adams at quarterback, yielding better team results (albeit under very different circumstances).
The last we’ve heard from Rakeem Cato, he failed to crack an indoor football league team’s roster. Despite all the hype and the legend that came before him, leading the Montreal Alouettes proved to be “too much too soon” for the dynamic QB from The Thundering Herd of Marshall.
I greatly fear that the same fate has befallen Antonio Pipkin. Like Cato and many others before him, he’s had flashes of brilliance under centre in Montreal but very little to show for it overall. Many CFL pundits had declared Pipkin to be the future in Montreal despite some decent at best showings last season. And when Johnny Manziel was sent packing by the league, the runaway hype train for Pipkin and his small sample size for success started barreling dangerously down the track.
During training camp, Pipkin was given the QB1 status almost immediately but all of the quarterbacks were apparently told that this was going to be an open competition, which surely messed with Pipkin’s mindset. I’m speculating here, but he was seemingly led to believe that he was the man going into training camp and it would appear that the coaching staff’s words set him off in the worst possible way.
I wanted to believe that Pipkin’s struggles in Edmonton were just opening night jitters. I wanted to believe that Pipkin’s struggles against Ottawa were from coming in cold due to Adams’ injury. But as I saw what he did in limited action this past Friday, something clearly isn’t right with this young man. The fact that Khari Jones appeared to see that as well and removed him from the game suggests likewise.
Adams and Shiltz have looked a lot more prepared in the games they have played as QB. And the team has responded better with these two young men under centre. I’m not 100% ready to write off Antonio Pipkin as a QB in this league, but something does appear to be wrong with him.
The Alouettes would be wise to address that before it’s too late for yet another promising quarterback.
That’s all for now. The bad taste of this game needs to be washed out and forgotten as this team now hits the road to finish off the month of August. The next game is in Calgary, a place where they haven’t won a football game since 2009. They’ll be facing a Stampeders team that hasn’t looked the best at times, but should be motivated and will have their ace Bo Levi Mitchell back in the lineup.
The past two games have proven that Montreal is resilient and will go down swinging. But moral victories don’t count in the standings; they have to find a way to slam the door closed. A victory against the defending Grey Cup champions in their house would certainly go a long way. It will be an interesting week at practice, especially if Vernon Adams is cleared to resume his quarterbacking duties.
This past Friday is going to be tough for Alouettes Nation to forget; that feeling of coming up short and not having the chance to come back from adversity is a bitter pill to swallow. But there’s still plenty of racetrack left, folks.
This season’s not a lost cause by any stretch. As they say, on to the next one.
Thanks for reading.