Some days you’re the dog, some days you’re the hydrant. Last Thursday, the Montreal Alouettes were definitely the hydrant.
Last Thursday’s 38-13 loss to the Toronto Argonauts was not the worst loss in Alouettes history, but it was certainly up there. I actually feared at one point that the team was going to be shut out of points for the first time in this modern era.
Sean Whyte’s field goals and Brandon London’s touchdown prevented that from happening. But this team was felled by turnovers. Earlier this season, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers committed 5 turnovers in a game versus Montreal and still managed to win. Forcing the team to give you the ball back is great, but not if you can’t capitalize on it.
Montreal got 5 turnovers from Winnipeg in Week 2 and managed a mere 3 points. Toronto got 7 turnovers from Montreal and turned it into 27 points. On paper, there’s no question Montreal can compete in this league, talent-wise. But when you can’t hold onto the ball, bad things happen.
Even with a wonky knee Argos QB Ricky Ray was still able to light up Montreal’s defense, passing for 3 touchdowns. But getting those two early fumbles deep into Montreal territory, including one on the OPENING KICKOFF of the game, certainly didn’t hurt their cause either.
After the game, the Alouettes players were not willing to call out the play of Noel Devine, who was responsible for three of those seven turnovers. This year was supposed to be his breakout year, finally being given the chance to showcase the speed that made him so highly prized. But Devine’s inability to retain possession of the ball in key moments this season has cost him dearly in the eyes of Alouettes fans.
Normally a shoddy performance like that will earn you a one-way ticket out of town, but the injury gods intervened. Devine left the game early with an MCL sprain, which will keep him sidelined for at least 3 weeks (and unable to be released, per league rules). Tyron Carrier and Tyrell Sutton will now handle return duties for the time being.
Carrier had returned a punt for a touchdown earlier this season, but has been hampered with nagging injuries. This speedy youngster from Houston has been biding his time and will be ready to take flight this Saturday vs. Saskatchewan.
While this wasn’t the debut Jim Popp was expecting in his return to coaching, there’s hope that the more time spent on the sidelines with the players, the quicker this team will get back on track.
Yesterday, the Alouettes decided that in order to succeed in the future, you need to return to the past.
Anwar Stewart, who is heralded as one of the all-time Alouettes greats, was added to the practice roster. Hugely popular with fans and players alike, his veteran presence will be a welcome addition. He knows defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe well and has a remarkable ability to back up what he says.
In 2011, after the Alouettes were eliminated by Hamilton in the Eastern semi-final, Stewart proclaimed that he was going to play in the 100th Grey Cup the very next year. The Alouettes had other plans though, releasing him in February 2012. Many expected that the Alouettes would eventually welcome Stewart back as the season progressed, but the Calgary Stampeders needed help and added him to their practice roster.
Lo and behold, Big Stew lived up to his word and played in last year’s Grey Cup, albeit in a losing cause. Now he hasn’t come out and said that he will play in this year’s Grey Cup, but has said that he still has plenty of fuel left in his tank. So I certainly expect Anwar to live up to his word in that regard.
He’s unmatched in intensity and despite being a few years older than his fellow defenders, Stewart knows what it takes to win. So I expect him to see playing fairly soon. And maybe he can finally retire an Alouette, which is the way it should be done. But don’t kid yourself, Anwar will decide himself when he’s had his fill of playing football.
Also being added to the mix is Ismael Bamba, a wide reciever who starred for the Universite de Sherbrooke and played for the RoughRiders & Eskimos. It didn’t work out in either of those places but with the injury to Jamel Richardson, he may prove to be a capable pair of hands for Anthony Calvillo to throw to.
I was hoping the Alouettes would give Bamba some consideration at draft time as he showed extremely well in E-Camp. But in 2012, the last thing the Alouettes needed was another wide receiver. It was understandable that he’d be drafted elsewhere.
But now in the Alouettes fold, maybe Bamba will get a chance to showcase the talents that made him a standout. As of now, his CFL claim to fame is when he ended up missing a team flight to BC and riding along in the equipment van. Here’s hoping that his time with Montreal will produce a more memorable story to add to his young history.
The road back to redemption for the Alouettes runs through the green and white walls of Regina. The Saskatchewan RoughRiders have been the class of the league this year, sporting a 5-1 record along with a powerful offensive attack led by Darian Durant and Kory Sheets, who is on pace to shatter Mike Pringle’s single season CFL rushing record.
Montreal has always played a strong game in Regina, winning 3 of their last 4 games in the prairies. In fact, that last loss came in a thrilling double overtime game in 2010 that Montreal led and allowed the Riders to come back into.
This 2013 Roughriders team is beatable, as Calgary showed last Friday. Even a close win against Saskatchewan this Saturday can really help Montreal regain some of their notoriety back in the eyes of this league. It’s a tall order, but certainly not impossible.
That’s all for now. Enjoy the game this Saturday, no matter where you watch it. When these two teams meet up, it’s rarely boring.
GO ALS GO!!!
About the Author
Written by Clifford Pine
Montreal born & bred, lover of sports. Passionate about the Montreal Alouettes. Also a great cook & not too bad a dancer.