The next time that a football game will be played here at Percival Molson Stadium, the stakes will be a lot higher and hopefully the play will reflect that.
The Montreal Alouettes hosted the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in their last regular season home game and made it interesting at first, but then played it safe. A little too safe, as the Tiger-Cats kept their starters in and they ended up winning the game by a 38-26 score. The Alouettes elected not to dress some starters for this game and proceeded to rest many of the ones who did.
As a result, the Alouettes failed to send the 17000+ attendees home with a win. Post-game, Alouettes head coach Khari Jones promised “a much better effort” for the next match that will be played at home. That match being the Eastern Semi-Final game versus the Edmonton Eskimos with the winner going to Hamilton to face these same Tiger-Cats.
Seeing as how they will not have a bye going into the playoffs, the Alouettes were wise to rest players as they did. It was interesting to see that Hamilton didn’t feel that same need, as their starters played the entire game from start to finish. This game was a tale of two halves as per usual, although in this instance it was the Alouettes who played a smart, cohesive game in the first have then seemed to not adjust for the second half.
Alouettes QB Vernon Adams Jr. started the game and looked in control, throwing touchdowns passes to Quan Bray and Jake Wieneke and finishing his day early with completing 78% of his passes. Adams was picked off early in the game by Simoni Lawrence but otherwise had this Hamilton team well-scouted and kept them well in check.
Matthew Shiltz came into the game in relief of Adams in order to get some much-needed reps. He went 12 for 21 and threw for 142 yards (Same as Adams) along with a pick and a touchdown pass to Chris Matthews, who had to get himself into this offense in a big way. While the results are not what either of these quarterbacks wanted, they still proved that they can lead this team and they will grow from losses like these.
Let’s not forget the Alouettes gave a lot of talented players the day off this past Saturday. Names like William Stanback, Devier Posey, Henoc Muamba and Tommie Campbell didn’t dress for this game. I feel very safe in saying that had these men been out there against Hamilton’s starters, the results would have been a lot different.
Adams and Bray were among those that were also relieved of their duties during the game, as the Alouettes coaching staff didn’t want to risk any injuries in a contest that had ZERO impact on the standings. Sometimes, you win by losing.
The Tiger-Cats felt differently, leaving in all their starters. That meant guys like quarterback Dane Evans and notorious Alouettes killer Brandon Banks would put up some pretty phenomenal numbers. Evans went 29 of 36 while throwing 379 yards and FOUR touchdowns with one pick. Banks caught three of those four touchdowns and dummied the Alouettes for 11 catches and 201 yards.
Most notable from Banks was a 55 yard touchdown catch that saw him juke defender Jarnor Jones out of his cleats and run into the end zone untouched. Since 2014, Banks has always found a way to get up for these games against Montreal. This past Saturday may have been a personal best for him as he is crafting an MOP campaign like no other.
Bralon Addison had himself a game for the Tabbies, both rushing and receiving. He managed to snag a touchdown pass while beating the Alouettes on the ground and in the air. If Montreal does make it to Hamilton for the Eastern Final, they will have to find a way to shut down both Banks and Addison. Easier said that done.
With the win, Hamilton now sits at a personal best record of 14-3 and will host the Toronto Argonauts before enjoying their bye week as they wait for the winner of Montreal/Edmonton. The Alouettes now sit at 9-8 and will finish the regular season with a trip to TD Place to face the Ottawa RedBlacks in a final tune-up for the Eastern Semi-Final.
I spoke briefly with Shiltz and Adams after the game. While he was happy to get those reps in, Shiltz felt that he could have been a lot better and knows there’s a lot to get cleaned up. It’s been a year of growth for the former Butler University Bulldog and after going through the down parts in his previous two years here in Montreal, I see him evolving into a better quarterback with every shift. The talent is there and Matt’s time to truly shine will definitely come.
When I suggested to Adams that he probably wasn’t going to see any action this Friday in Ottawa in order to be rested for the playoffs, he immediately bristled at that notion. He is not content to stand on the sidelines. Vernon wants to be that leader for his squad and if the coaching staff will let him, he wants to play and win versus Ottawa.
And you know what? I love that he has that fire in him. Adams has been force-fed a lot of crap in his CFL career and he is not taking his current opportunity for granted. He wants to bring Montreal a Grey Cup championship. He wants no doubt left that he is not only a great quarterback, but the undisputed leader of this Alouettes team and will continue to be for years to come.
Vernon Adams has that championship mindset and he’s drawn the line in the sand. He wants this in the worst possible way. If you’re an Alouettes fan, you can’t help but feel very excited that your quarterback has this competitiveness deep inside him. You can tell VA that this Friday’s game in Ottawa doesn’t matter. But you do so at your own risk.
That’s all for now. While a win at home this past Saturday would have been nice, I still came away from this game feeling very good about where this Alouettes team is. They hung tough with Hamilton’s starters despite not fielding some of their best players and kept it extremely competitive.
And the fans came out to support their team, even though this game was “meaningless”. I have a very good feeling that the Eastern Semi-Final will be very well attended as Montreal is sold on this Alouettes team. I expect it to be very loud on November 10th and hopefully the effort shown by this team will be enough to get those tarped-off seats opened up and sold in order to truly have a sold-out football game.
This has been a ride like no other. For the Alouettes to finish 2019 with a 6-3 home record is truly remarkable considering how so many pundits expected this team to be hot garbage yet again. But there really is something special here. And the best part? The ride isn’t over just yet, folks. If anything, it’s just getting underway.
If you’re not already, be excited Alouettes Nation; You’ve got a winner here, even if they don’t always look like one. Go buy your playoff tickets if you haven’t already done so. You won’t be sorry.
On to the next one. As always, thanks for reading.