Ladies and gentlemen, that was a statement win if you ever needed an example of one.
The Montreal Alouettes let a win slip through their fingers a few weeks ago at BMO Field and were determined not to let history repeat itself. That electric atmosphere at home must have been the missing ingredient because Montreal manhandled the Toronto Argonauts this past Friday by a 37-16 score. The chilly temperature in the 514 may have scared a few folks away, as only 12,142 fans were at Percival Molson Stadium to see this pivotal game live.
But all those fans brought their energy and were thusly rewarded for it with a dominant win by the home team. The Alouettes now sit atop the Eastern division due to point differential despite having the same record as the Argonauts.
This was the home debut of Matthew Shiltz as starting QB for the Alouettes and he continues to make the most of his opportunity in relief of Vernon Adams Jr. Shiltz turned in a solid performance, going 12 of 18 and throwing for 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Eugene Lewis. Matt also spread the ball to four of his other receivers but somehow couldn’t connect with Jake Wieneke despite some prime opportunities to do so. And while he’s not the flashiest mobile quarterback this league has seen, Shiltz still managed to move the chains with his educated feet when needed.
Wisely he left the rushing to those more qualified such as one William Stanback, who made his return to the lineup after missing the game in Ottawa last week due to food poisoning. Maybe the suspect food he ate in the nation’s capital had a reverse effect on him, because Stanback had himself a game to remember this past Friday! Stanback rushed for an astonishing 203 yards to equal a personal-best benchmark that he posted last season in the home opener versus the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
But this time around, Stanback only had one rushing touchdown to his name as opposed to three. But the league’s leading rusher would not be denied as he literally ran all over the Argonauts, much to everyone’s delight. Despite the emergence of Cameron Artis-Payne as a threat the past two games, Stanback reminded everyone why he is that dude who can run the rock with effectiveness nearly every single time.
Perhaps most importantly, Shiltz did not turn the ball over once in this game. In fact, none of the Alouettes coughed up the ball versus an Argos team that also came into this match on a three game winning streak. Montreal won the turnover battle handily and stayed disciplined for the most part, with only six penalties in this game. This Alouettes defense came to play and caused a lot of havoc for Argos QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
The man they call MacBeth suffered what could easily be a Shakespearean tragedy by throwing FOUR interceptions, including a pick-six to Najee Murray as the remaining sands slipped through the hourglass of this game. There was a lot of punishment handed out as Chris Ackie and David Menard both planted MBT into the turf a number of times. Ackie also was able to pick off the ball along with Money Hunter, who lived up to his name as he went hunting versus the Argos and came up with some money plays to snuff any Argonaut momentum.
This Alouettes defense would bend, but rarely break. The best Toronto could do for points was a pair of goal-line rushing touchdowns by former Alouette QB Antonio Pipkin and a field goal by former Alouette kicker Boris Bede. No doubt these guys wanted to show up and show out in their first game back to Montreal since leaving the nest. Bede enjoyed taunting the Als bench in Toronto a few weeks ago and got his comeuppance in the first quarter when his 49 yard field goal attempt fell just short. As expected, the raucous Montreal crowd jeered heavily towards their former kicker and his inability to put the first points on the board. Say what you will about the fans in Montreal, but they don’t forget being insulted so easily and will be happy to make you eat your words, buffet-style.
If there was a weak spot to be found, it was in special teams. I’m not sure what happened this past Friday, but David Cote somehow got the yips when it came to the kicking game. He did manage to nail three field goal tries, but he had two misses as well as a missed PAT. Cote has had a stellar rookie season and has not missed very often, but this past Friday was atypical of what we have seen from the former Laval Rouge et Or kicker in 2021. At close to 80% accuracy in his first CFL tour of duty, I wouldn’t worry about young David just yet. Chalk it up to a bad day at the office and nothing more.
The Alouettes have now won four games in a row and will be playing three of their four remaining games at home. Most notably is a home and home series versus the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who have sewn up the Western division and will likely want to rest their starters for their own Grey Cup run. If the Alouettes can keep this winning party going against the Saskatchewan Roughriders this Saturday and then against the Bombers, they will be sitting very pretty and once again this city will likely succumb to playoff fever.
This is Matthew’s Shiltz’s second career win as a CFL quarterback. And I think it’s time that you all put some respect on his name.
It would have been easy for Shiltz to regress or allow the outside voices to get in his head as the Trevor Harris show began in earnest this past week. Harris is now in Montreal and spent the week in isolation, following the CFL’s COVID-19 protocols. He did address the media virtually and stated that he is now vaccinated, ready to help these Alouettes however he can. And with that, many media types have already started penciling him in as not only the starter, but even suggesting that he is the missing ingredient for the Alouettes’ potential Grey Cup run.
Matthew Shiltz no doubt heard and saw all of this. With his play last week in Ottawa and this past Friday versus Toronto, Shiltz has effectively made these doubters in his abilities look foolish. He is running an offense that was not designed with his skill set in mind; rather, he has adapted to the schemes that head coach Khari Jones has set up for Vernon Adams while making it his own. In the past two games, we’ve seen how Shiltz is able to lead this offense and make it his own. He makes intelligent reads and is not afraid to lean on the ground game when needed.
Shiltz has come a long way from his first two CFL starts; leading an atrocious Alouettes team into Hamilton and getting shut out to end that 2017 season from hell plus a game out in BC that was lost due to the miscues of his backup QB. This season is the first real opportunity Shiltz has had to show what he can do on the field. It’s obvious that he has prepared for this chance and stayed ready for when his number was called. The Canadian Football League is all about opportunities and proving yourself when the time comes. Matthew Shiltz has earned this and has passed the tests thrown at him thus far quite handily.
This notion that Trevor Harris should be inserted into the lineup and starting immediately is absolutely ludicrous. I do see him as that insurance policy if God forbids Shiltz gets injured in these last few games of the season. But I think with the body of work we’ve seen thus far, that Shiltz has unquestionably earned the right to lead this Alouettes team as they contend for not just a playoff spot, but the division lead. This Alouettes squad that belonged to Vernon Adams now belongs to Shiltz 100%.
Matthew Shiltz has proven himself to be an asset and not a liability. I’ll even go so far as to say that the only way I want to see Trevor Harris behind centre for Montreal is due to injury to Matthew Shiltz. Even if Shiltz should falter or not put up impressive numbers on the stat sheet, he still deserves the opportunity to prove his leadership and not be so quickly pulled in favour of the shiny new toy on the sidelines.
This Alouettes team is playing some exciting football at the best possible time and it’s clear that these players all have Shiltz’s back. My hope is that this coaching staff and front office continues to do so as well.
That’s all for now. The playoff push is real and now you can start thinking about the possibility of watching a playoff football game at Percival Molson Stadium. The Alouettes do have a tough test ahead as they host the Saskatchewan Roughriders this coming Saturday. They too are wanting to host a playoff game and will want to escape this noisy barn with a W.
Be sure to check out the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast as Tim Capper and myself break down this latest home victory plus preview the Saturday evening tilt against Canada’s Green Team. You can find the podcast here, on Youtube and on your favourite podcast platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio and more! Search using the key words “Alouettes Flightdeck” just about anywhere you listen to podcasts.
Enjoy being in first place, Alouettes Nation. But already, it’s on to the next one. As always, thanks for reading.