This was a game that the Montreal Alouettes had to win. And they nearly did too.
The dreams of hosting a 2013 playoff game in Montreal were destroyed on a sleet-soaked Guelph field as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats edged the Alouettes 27-24, clinching second place and a home playoff game in the process. Despite Troy Smith making some incredible plays as quarterback, it was the little mistakes that ended up burning this Montreal team.
The first half was a masterful performance by the Alouettes as both the offense and defense scored touchdowns. S.J. Green made what has to be the catch of the year, reminding fans of his ridiculous catch in double overtime in the 2010 season opener.
And even when Montreal turned the ball over twice thanks to miscues by Duron Carter and Bo Bowling, Hamilton still couldn’t get much of anything going. It looked like it was going to be a repeat performance of the previous Sunday’s beatdown in Montreal.
But adjustments were made at the half and the Ti-Cats finally found the end zone. And even despite an absolutely incredible catch-and-run TD by Duron Carter, Hamilton caught Montreal in cruise control and took advantage of another turnover by Montreal, who notched five of them overall for the day.
A 42 yard field goal is usually not a problem for Sean Whyte, as he’s hit from further away with no problem. But a bad snap and “incidental” contact from a Hamilton defender led to the attempt falling short and right into the hands of Brandon Banks, who returned it 107 yards for a Tiger-Cats touchdown.
That plus another attempt sailing wide and out of the end zone have fans calling for Whyte’s head. I’ll expand on why that’s a tad unfair in a little bit. The Alouettes had several opportunities to put this game away and didn’t. So now Montreal will finish this season on the road, with Friday’s meaningless game in Toronto, then back to Guelph in two weeks for that city’s first ever Canadian Football League playoff game.
The Alouettes now know the exact route to the Grey Cup in Regina; it will run through both of Ontario’s CFL cities.
As this goes viral, it appears that the Alouettes will be bringing in some people who can kick a football in some form. This is certainly telling news about one of the most scrutinized Alouettes players of this 2013 season.
Much like the goaltender in hockey, kicker for a football team is a much lauded position. You’re the hero when the team wins and the goat when the team loses. You are essentially responsible for your own betterment and often march to the beat of your own drum as a result.
Since coming here in 2011, Sean Whyte has had many highs and lows kicking for this Alouettes team. He replaced Damon Duval, who like Whyte before him, was under constant scrutiny for missing crucial kicks. But at the end of the day, Duval made kicks when it counted, including a 33 yard field goal to win the 2009 Grey Cup.
But even Grey Cup wins aren’t a guarantee of continued employment, as Duval was not offered a new contract and left as a free agent. The Alouettes then drafted a kicker (Brody McKnight) in the first round of 2011 while also trading their 2012 first round pick to B.C. in exchange for Sean’s services.
Whyte was never going to outlast Paul McCallum playing for the Lions, so he went all-in on his new adopted hometown of Montreal. McKnight never got the chance to truly compete in Montreal because Whyte was certainly more than capable.
His first two seasons had Andy Bischoff as the special teams coach, who was wearing a multitude of hats under the Marc Trestman regime. The much-ballyhooed special teams play and its embattled coach never gave Whyte much to work with, but Sean resolved to get better and make himself invaluable to the team.
Moving to Quebec from British Columbia in order to improve and train full-time with his long snapper Martin Bedard proved to be difficult, as many indoor facilities in the Montreal area either weren’t tall enough to handle punts or simply wouldn’t allow for that usage at all. So it’s unclear just how much honest to goodness practice Whyte had during the off-season.
Then during the game that may have claimed Anthony Calvillo’s playing career, Whyte loses his long snapper Bedard to long-term injury which he still has not returned from. So now Whyte has to find rhythm with new long snappers, which doesn’t happen overnight. One has to wonder if Bedard was snapping to Whyte this past Saturday, perhaps those field goal attempts may not have missed. Nor would snapped balls sail over Whyte’s head.
And to further add insult during this season whenever Whyte would seemingly start to falter, Alouettes GM/HC Jim Popp would trot out other potential free agent kickers for a workout after practice. Instead of finding ways to assist you, your boss starts holding auditions for your eventual replacement. Right in front of you.
Was that “tough love” or a message being sent? Professional or not, all of the above is going to take a toll on you mentally. Sean is a free agent this coming off-season and while some wags are anticipating that he won’t be offered a new contract by the Alouettes, I wouldn’t blame him one bit if he just decided to try his luck elsewhere.
Which would be a shame as he is very much a fan favourite in Montreal, never one to say no to a charity event, autograph request or photo with a fan. What he lacks in height (the Als are very generous to list him as 5’9!), he more than makes up for in heart.
This was a season to forget overall for the Alouettes. But to seemingly pin all of this team’s woes on its kicker is flat-out ridiculous. But it wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened in Montreal.
So is there a point to even bother paying attention to this Friday’s game versus the Argos? Maybe not for the casual fan, as the playoff picture was settled last weekend and this game is strictly for pride. But if you’re Jim Popp, you almost have to treat this game like a final preseason game. A pre-postseason game, if you will.
The Alouettes are going to finish below .500 for only the second time in its current history. That’s a given. There are no meaningful records to play for. But this is a great chance to give Troy Smith a little more experience as starter and maybe even give Josh Neiswander and Tanner Marsh some meaningful QB reps as well.
I would rest S.J. Green and give some other receivers a chance to shine, as keeping Green healthy is top priority for the Eastern Semi-Final. There’s not much time left in this season, so this game is the best chance to try to work out any kinks before heading back to Guelph on November 10th.
Toronto has already said it will not be playing Ricky Ray and many of their starters, keeping them rested for the Eastern Final which will be held in Toronto on November 17th. For a game that has zero implications, there’s no sense risking anyone of importance to injury.
If fans don’t tune in this Friday, I completely understand. Just be ready for the playoffs, because you know the Alouettes will be!
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.