Alouettes fight hard, come up just short in Regina

At least Mother Nature wasn’t the one who decided the outcome of this particular contest.

The Montreal Alouettes came into Mosaic Stadium looking to win their fourth game in a row against a Saskatchewan Roughriders team that had their lunch eaten for them the week previous. Led by Vernon Adams Jr. (a perfect 2-0 in Regina when wearing an Alouettes uniform) and with a flair for the dramatics, the Alouettes has to feel more than confident in their chances of getting their revenge from earlier this year.

But fortune favours the bold and the Roughriders had plenty of that on Saturday night. It was a back and forth battle and all 60 minutes were required to decide a winner. Unlike last season when Montreal came to this barn to play, it was the Riders who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

With a 27-25 win in front of their raucous fanbase, the Riders sweep the 2019 season series against Montreal and stay in competition in a tough Western division. The Alouettes now sit at 6-5 and fail to gain ground on the first place Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who also went out West on Saturday only to return home with a loss.

This game featured a lot of excitement on both sides of the ball but the reason Montreal lost was several timely miscues. The Alouettes led for most of the match but let the Riders hang around, which is a dangerous thing to do. Especially at home where they have only lost once this season.

Adams balled out as we have come to expect from him, going 22 of 36 with 344 yards passing. He spread the ball well by targeting five receivers, including the newest member of the receiving corps in Chris Matthews. The former Blue Bomber and Stampeder hauled in an impressive pass for 42 yards and as a result, became the focus of the Roughriders’ defense as he was only targeted once more in the game.

Adams’ lone touchdown pass came when he found Eugene Lewis for a crucial score in the fourth quarter. Lewis had a monster game, racking up 130 yards in the air with 8 catches.

William Stanback re-established himself as a viable threat on the ground again, averaging nearly 5 yards per carry and rumbling into the end zone for his fifth touchdown of the season. He also caught three passes for 26 yards, forcing the Riders defense to respect his presence.

After looking shaky versus the Lions at home, the prairie air must have done wonders for Boris Bede. Montreal’s kicker was perfect on his three field goal attempts, accounting for all of the Alouettes’ scoring in the first half. He also got 6 punts away, giving the Alouettes defense the chance to try and contain a high-powered Riders offense.

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It was a game to forget for Quan Bray, who has been having an otherwise stellar rookie season. Tasked with kick return duties with the absence of Shakeir Ryan, Bray muffed both his first and second kick return attempts, nearly costing the Alouettes early on. He did manage to haul in 4 catches for 73 yards but it was the catch that he DIDN’T make that ultimately turned the tide in favour of the guys in green.

Both teams were deadlocked at 18 after Riders QB Cody Fajardo engineered a touchdown drive to start the fourth quarter. After finding DeVier Posey for a 15 yard pass, Adams tried to connect with Bray and Quan misjudged the pass, coming up empty. A QB Sack on the next play by former Alouette Chad Geter forced the Alouettes to punt the ball away.

Except Alouettes long snapper Martin Bedard botched the snap to Bede, forcing Montreal to turn the ball over on downs deep in Saskatchewan territory. Bedard may have been injured earlier in the game and it could not have come at a worse time for the Alouettes. This miscue led to an easy Riders TD for tailback William Powell, who has always played well against the Alouettes dating back to his time with the Ottawa RedBlacks.

Montreal had to battle back on the next series to score that Eugene Lewis touchdown to retake the lead by one point. After that, it was back and forth for these two teams until Saskatchewan took possession of the ball after the three minute warning.

Like he has done on more than one occasion this season, Fajardo put the Riders on his back and put them in a position to win a nail-biter of a game. He marched them down the field with a seven play drive that ate up the clock and had to feel like death by a thousand cuts for the Alouettes defense. With :47 left on the game clock, the fate of the game came down to the foot of kicker Brett Lauther, who missed a 33 yard field goal attempt earlier in the game.

Lauther would not be denied this time around. He booted the ball 39 yards through the uprights to give the Riders a scant two point lead. Did Vernon Adams have another miracle up his heavily tattooed sleeve?

With the crowd at a fever pitch, Adams loaded up at his own 32 yard line. But passes to Posey and Lewis went nowhere. On third down and with game time evaporating into the nighttime air, Adams was planted into the turf by Micah Johnson to seal Saskatchewan’s eighth victory of the season.

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In the last column, I talked about how Montreal was finally starting to win those tight games that had gotten away from them in years previous. Saturday’s game was a textbook example of how they would often lose those kinds of games. In the post-game presser, Adams stated that he knew that he had to be better by scoring touchdowns instead of settling for field goals.

The defense also had to be better as they were not their usual playmaking selves Saturday, just content to let Saskatchewan hang around. Montreal has a tough stretch ahead of them and they let a prime opportunity slip through their fingers. If this team doesn’t develop a killer instinct and learn to start stepping on their opponents’ throats, it’s going to be a long road back to the playoffs.

I’m not sure which loss with stick in their craw more, this one or the weather-shortened loss at Percival Molson Stadium. But one thing is for sure; this Alouettes team is on the right track and they have the pieces in place. They just have to start believing it themselves again.

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Montreal will now welcome the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at home this coming Saturday and that will be their toughest test of this 2019 CFL season. The Bombers are currently the class of the league and after sitting out the previous two games due to a suspension, you know that Bombers RB Andrew Harris will come into this game with a major chip on his shoulder.

Harris was in the midst of an MOP season but now has a dark cloud overhead with this failed drug test of his potentially tarnishing it. So he’ll be motivated to come into this game and help his young quarterback Chris Streveler establish dominance once again.

Montreal can do themselves a big favour by defending the nest and handing Winnipeg a road loss. With Hamilton looking to lock up a playoff spot before the month of September ends, the Alouettes need to start investing in themselves in a big way.

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That’s all for now. For more on this, be sure to tune into the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast this week. Both Tim Capper and myself will break down this Riders loss further as well as determine what the Alouettes have to do to get a huge win against a very tough Bombers team. You can find the latest episodes by clicking here or by searching Alouettes Flightdeck on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Stitcher or Spotify.

These Birds of Prey need to have short memories of this lost opportunity in Regina and prepare for a home game that will not be easy, but is winnable. Alouettes Nation will have to packs the stands again and get loud.

It’s on to the next one. Thanks for reading.

GO ALS GO!!!

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