If only moral victories counted in the standings….
The injury bug bit down hard on the Montreal Alouettes, claiming a number of high-profile players as a result. A team already beset by numerous injuries saw more of its stars sidelined this past Saturday in Saskatchewan.
On the field, defense was the name of the game as it was a low-scoring affair for most of the game. And once again between these two teams, it came down to a field goal for the win with no time left on the clock. But this time it was Rider Nation that cheered as the RoughRiders edged the Als by a score of 24-21.
The Alouettes players lost to injury reads like an all-star team’s lineup; Anthony Calvillo and Brandon London were knocked out of the game with concussions. Kyries Hebert and Josh Bourke both suffered knee damage. Mike Edem and Martin Bedard each hurt their shoulder.
Add these injuries to guys lost for the season like Scott Flory, Jamel Richardson, Scooter Berry as well as lingering injuries such as Brandon Whitaker’s and it seems like the only match this Alouettes team may now win is a game of checkers in the hospital against the other patients.
Obviously, I don’t think that way. But this team has been dealt serious blow after serious blow and despite all its adversity show no signs of quitting, even if other Alouettes fans are seemingly ready to desert this flock.
As tough as it was to watch Chris Milo’s kick sail through the uprights with no time left on the clock, I am still impressed that the Alouettes were able to recover from the injuries and lacklustre offense to not only give Riders QB Darian Durant plenty of fits, but they effectively shut down the league’s leader in rushing.
Kory Sheets has cut through opposing defenses like a hot knife through butter this year, but Noel Thorpe’s charges held him to a mere 74 yards on the ground. Not bad for a defense that has taken its lumps and played more of this game than it should have.
But the offensive woes continue and as underwhelming as it has been with Calvillo under centre this season, his understudy didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Josh Neiswander probably didn’t truly expect to see any action in Saskatchewan and it showed, as he too had his issues in his first serious attempt at quarterbacking this team.
But is this just not being prepared for an injury to AC, a situation which has befallen a Jim Popp-coached Alouettes team before in 2007? Or merely an underlying symptom of Montreal’s reluctance to defer to any other quarterback?
For the past 5 years, we Alouettes fans loved the Calvillo-Trestman experience. It was a match made in QB heaven, as the revitalized veteran and his zen master coach were simply magical on the football field. But with that success came a co-dependance solely on each other and an outright refusal to allow others into this very exclusive club.
It’s probably why Adrian McPherson went to ply his trade in the Arena Football League, choosing to play indoors and bide his time for his break to come. It’s probably why the only field time Neiswander usually gets is holding the ball for Sean Whyte’s field goal attempts. And it’s probably the real reason why much-hyped QB phenom Kyle Quinlan couldn’t even be bothered to try to win the “coveted” position of holding a clipboard on the Montreal sidelines.
But now I can’t help but wonder if we squandered the gift of a Marc Trestman, who’s been turning young men into capable quarterbacks and veteran QBs into legends for years now. We had a quarterback guru that could have and should have been trying to make all of our quarterbacks great, not just the already established veteran.
Does the blame for this fall on Calvillo, for not relinquishing the torch even a little? Does it fall to Trestman, who clung to Calvillo like a security blanket and had forsaken the others? Or does the team take the blame, for putting all it’s eggs in one basket and steadfastly refusing to acknowledge that one day AC will not be around?
I think the world of Anthony Calvillo, I really do. Anyone who suggests he isn’t one of the greatest quarterbacks this league has ever seen is fooling themselves, plain and simple. But I too have been saying for years that Calvillo needs to prepare his successor, much like Tracy Ham did for him back in the day.
Not to push AC out the door and into retirement, but rather to prepare for any possible scenarios where he wouldn’t be leading this team on the field. And for whatever reasons, this Alouettes team has been ever reluctant to allow him to do so.
And now whilst Calvillo is injured and other young quarterbacks in the CFL are lighting it up this season, our backup is thrown into action and looks like a deer in the headlights. Is our salvation coming in another form? Do we have that next great quarterback that may one day add his name to the ranks of Calvillo, Ham and Etcheverry? I wish I felt more confident in the answer.
Oh right, this team signed former Heisman winner Troy Smith late last week. He’s a quarterback and according to at least one football writer, should be given the start versus the B.C. Lions this Thursday. Never mind that Smith hasn’t played a SINGLE down in the CFL and probably didn’t even know where Montreal was located on a map until recently.
I won’t call out this sportswriter by name because in my opinion it’s poor form to do so, but you seriously believe that the Alouettes’ best option for this upcoming game is to start this neophyte quarterback, who hasn’t played any sort of professional football in over a year?
And playing Troy Smith over Neiswander because you felt he wasn’t all that effective being hastily thrown into a game versus arguably the best team in the CFL? And your reasoning for this mind-boggling suggestion is, “What is there to lose?”
If you really truly believe that, please keep your resume polished….I believe if Dan Hawkins wants another stab at coaching, he would relish all of your thought-provoking input. Or at least you covering the press conference.
Because a move like you just suggested practically screams Dan Hawkins football. Or maybe Joe Mack. I’d even go so far as to call it Glieberman-esque.
Now I do think the Troy Smith signing has the potential to be a good one, if he is truly serious about learning the CFL game. I didn’t think he got a fair shake with the San Francisco 49ers and starting over anew in Montreal can be a potential boon for him and the team alike.
But to force Smith to start his career up north with only a handful of practices under him and expect him to win would be suicidal at best. Thankfully Jim Popp knows this as well and has stated that Smith will probably not see any actual playing time this season.
Perhaps this writer didn’t see any of the other football games from this past weekend and had nothing else to write about. Or maybe he just likes to troll people. I guess it worked.
As always, I strive to remain positive with this blog. It’s not easy this season, but this team’s never say die attitude is like no other. Thursday’s game will be yet another test against a tough Western division team. And once again Alouettes Nation has to defend their house. BC hasn’t won in Molson Stadium since 2010, where they faced a quarterback not named Anthony Calvillo and walked all over the Alouettes.
This time around, they will face …. a quarterback not named Anthony Calvillo. Hoo boy. Well, maybe Lions QB Travis Lulay will party too hard on Crescent St. the night before and be too hungover to play. There’s always a chance, right?
No matter what, enjoy this Thursday’s game and swing by the tailgate party if you go to the game. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for live game tweets and more. And be sure to give a listen to this week’s BCLionsDen.ca Pawdcast, hosted by Brian and Mojo of BCLionsDen.ca.
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.