With wildfires burning throughout Western Canada, one may think that the expression “something magical in the air” may be a tad gauche to use. But when it comes to the Montreal Alouettes, there just may be something that’s working for them in that smoky, robust Alberta air.
The Alouettes started their 2021 CFL campaign in Edmonton and walked out with a convincing 30-13 victory over the Elks. Now they are looking to continue the winning ways versus the shockingly 0-2 Calgary Stampeders this Friday evening. For the past few years, Calgary seemed unbeatable in the confines of McMahon Stadium. But 2021 has really thrown the Stamps for a loop as not only have they lost their first two battles, but also their starting quarterback.
For the past few years, Bo Levi Mitchell has been the standard-bearer of what a CFL quarterback should aspire to be. Highly successful and talented, Mitchell is one of the many reasons why the Stampeders have been the model franchise of this league. But so far in 2021, he’s looked very beatable and now we are learning what has been ailing this Texas-born gunslinger.
Mitchell had been dealing with a broken fibula in his leg since that opening day game versus Toronto and now he finds himself on the six-game injured list. In what many consider a surprising move, the Stampeders will not start backup (and Canadian-born) QB Michael O’Connor. Rather, it’s third-string QB Jake Maier getting the nod despite having never seen CFL action before.
Maier is facing an Alouettes team that will be eager to set the tone early on defense. Last week, Antonio Simmons and Almondo Sewell made life miserable for Elks QB Trevor Harris by not allowing him much offense and planting him on the ground. Expect the Alouettes front four to put Calgary’s O-Line to the test early and oftent to try and disrupt this CFL rookie pivot.
The Alouettes secondary will also be looking to feast on any mistakes potentially made by Maier. Tyquan Glass and Ty Cranston had interceptions slip away from them last week; they’ll be looking to redeem themselves as they keep guys like Kamar Jorden and Hergy Mayala honest.
Under new defensive coordinator Barron Miles, this defense has already been fun to watch. They just need to remain disciplined, having committed 8 of Montreal’s 10 penalties last week. Calgary is currently winless, but they have been able to stay competitive right to the end and the Alouettes ideally should not let these guys hang around for too long.
In 2019, Alouettes QB Vernon Adams helped the Alouettes win their first game at McMahon Stadium since the 2009 Grey Cup by outlasting Nick Arbuckle and a very loaded Stampeders roster in a shootout that required both overtime mini-games. Adams was the definition of Zen last week with his calming presence as he surgically dismantled Edmonton with dazzling passes and deft use of his running backs. He’ll have to have a similar performance in Cowtown to come home still undefeated.
Expect to see more of William Stanback toting the rock, as he looks to add to his all-star resume and hopefully turn in another 100+ yard game on the ground. Stanback is not afraid of getting hit; rather, he seemed to actually do better when opponents start to smack pads with him. Calgary’s run defense hasn’t gotten much of a test in this young season. That will certainly change on Friday night.
Vernon has shown confidence in his receiving corps and he will certainly want to have more highlight reel moments with his targets. He’s already helped Jake Wieneke and B.J. Cunningham notch TDs this year and Vernon surely wants to spread the wealth around to his other pass-catchers.
There’s no question that Montreal has the tools to succeed and after their statement performance in Edmonton, it appears that the rest of the league is on board with this team. The CFL’s prognosticators have all chosen Montreal to handily defeat this snake-bitten Calgary squad. Will the Alouettes return to Percival Molson Stadium next week and welcome their own fans with a still perfect record? We’ll know soon enough!
Be sure to follow along on Twitter for all your game-day thoughts and analysis. And check out the latest edition of the Alouettes FlightDeck podcast, where Tim Capper and myself talk everything Alouettes and even welcome your favourite players on to talk about this game that we all love.
It’s available on all major platforms and also on Youtube. Just search the keywords “Alouettes FlightDeck” wherever you download and listen to your favourite podcasts.
That’s all for now. It’s early and there’s still a lot of racetrack left, but the Montreal Alouettes are looking good and proving that 2019 was not a fluke by any stretch. Here’s hoping the good times keep on coming out in Alberta.
Enjoy the game Friday night, regardless of where you’re watching. Thanks for reading.