Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Marsh Madness!!
The Alouettes faithful were treated to a thrill ride like no other this past Thursday versus the B.C. Lions. With torrential rains soaking the field at Molson Stadium and with many stars out of the lineup, including veteran quarterback Anthony Calvillo, this game had all the potential to be a blowout in favour of the Lions.
But someone forgot to mention that to the tall drink of water from Carrolton, Texas who goes by the name of Tanner Marsh. Ignorance must truly be bliss because I don’t think anyone would have predicted what was going to happen, including young Tanner himself.
Coming in relief for starting quarterback Josh Neiswander, Marsh and the Alouettes overcame the rainy weather, several turnovers and one of the CFL’s toughest defensive corps. It took literally all 60 minutes of the game for the Birds Of Prey to narrowly edge the Lions by a score of 39-38. And just like that, Montreal now has a new star shining brightly.
I have to wonder if this was the master plan all along for Jim Popp, to have everyone focus on Neiswander and then unleash Marsh on an unsuspecting Lions team. Because it was Neiswander who looked more like the wet-behind-the-ears rookie rather than a guy who’s been in the Alouettes system for three seasons.
After three uninspiring series from Neiswander that included an interception, Popp sent Marsh out and never looked back. Somehow, in all the driving rain and with the fearsome BC defense looming, Marsh didn’t look out of place. And when the going got tough, Tanner Marsh got going.
After finding S.J. Green for his first CFL passing touchdown and handing off to Jerome Messam for a major, Marsh then notched his first RUSHING touchdown. He also got big yardage throughout the game from Arland Bruce and Duron Carter, son of Hall of Famer Cris Carter, who was known to catch a TD or two in his day.
Now, Marsh was far from perfect; he was responsible for 6 of Montreal’s 7 turnovers in the game. Marsh had the presence of mind to try and throw the ball away when he had no one open to pass to, however some of those attempts ended up in the hands of a BC defender rather than out of bounds. Again, those are honest mistakes that will be corrected with time and more experience.
It’s also hard to hold onto a football when it’s pouring rain, which accounted for Marsh’s first fumble. I’m not making excuses for him, but these are simply opportunities for him to learn and grow from.
At the end of the day, he made plays when it mattered most. And no one could have predicted that this game was going to end the way that it did, including which player would be the most clutch when it counted.
I’ve said for weeks now that this is the time for Eric Deslauriers to shine. With Jamel Richardson out for the season and Brandon London sitting out this game due to a concussion, this really was now or never for Deslauriers. He’s had the tools for years and had been overlooked. Some have even suggested that he’s only done just enough to get by these past few seasons.
The times he’s had to shine has been few and far between. But last Thursday, the lanky dude from Gatineau made himself the catch of a lifetime.
With nine (!) seconds left on the clock and in the Alouettes’ own end of the field, Marsh heaved a Hail Mary pass down field. Deslauriers put his 6’4 frame to good use and hauled it down for a 57 yard reception, stopping the clock with 1.9 seconds left; just enough time for Sean Whyte to kick the game-winning 15 yard field goal.
Love him or hate him, but on that play you were glad to have The Birdman in the right place at the right time.
Another major factor was the play of kick returner Tyron Carrier. His return to start the second half electrified the rain-soaked Montreal crowd, as it eventually led to a Jerome Messam rushing TD. And if that wasn’t enough, he managed later on to return a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. And if THAT wasn’t enough, Carrier nearly did it all over again!!
The only thing stopping him from scoring that particular major was a blatant trip by Lions kicker Paul McCallum. Looking back, Carrier could have and should have side-stepped McCallum and taken it to the house. But that’s football for you.
I highly doubt the league will even look at doling out any disciplinary action for the trip, even though Anthony Calvillo was fined last year for attempting to trip a player. Not actually doing it, but ATTEMPTING to.
At the end of the day, this was a game on paper that the Alouettes would normally have had no business winning. But this is also why the Canadian Football League tells you over and over again that “No Lead Is Safe” and that you have to watch all 60 minutes of the football game, because you truly never know just how it’s going to end.
Last Thursday’s game was proof positive of that. And for the first time since the 2009 Grey Cup, the Alouettes won a game despite never once holding the lead until the final play of the game.
On another note, I have to say how proud I am of the fans that stayed the entire game and made noise when it counted the most. For years, it seemed like the crowd at Percival Molson Stadium always needed to be told when to make noise and when to be quiet, which is quite embarassing.
It’s pretty simple, in case you’re STILL not sure. And this applies to all football fans:
If your quarterback is on the field, you stay quiet. You can cheer/boo/whatever after the play is made, but not before and definitely not during.
If your quarterback is not on the field, then go nuts! Scream, holler, clap your hands, bang a drum, do whatever it takes to make a lot of noise and disrupt the opposing quarterback’s calls to his teammates. Your defense wants this, they CRAVE it. So let them have what they want!!
Last season, my dear friend (despite her allegiance to those BC Lions) Monique made a great video that basically details all this, so clearly this wasn’t a problem exclusive to Montreal.
But this past Thursday, Montrealers seem to have nailed it; Travis Lulay’s snap count was disrupted a number of times and there was a fair bit of miscommunication, which equaled many costly 2 and outs for the Lions!
So now that it looks like my fellow Als fans finally understand, let’s keep it going for the next home and beyond! We may only get an average of 22,000 in the stands, but that can be extremely disruptive if done right. And if teams are not mentally prepared to face us in our house, the Alouettes shall prevail.
I’ll be back later this week to preview the Alouettes/Argos “Labour Day” match-up, unfortunately scheduled next Tuesday in Toronto so as to appease the cellar-dwelling Blue Jays and their hundreds of fans.
It’s still early, but there’s a chance that we may very well see two young guns under centre for both of these football teams. This next week at practice should hopefully answer all questions.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter for more thoughts and insight.
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.