The 2015 season CFL season and home opener did not go at all as planned for the Montreal Alouettes. First of all they lost and second, they had to play their young third string quarterback as the two veterans had to leave the game with injuries. All in all, Montreal sits 0-1 while the second year Ottawa Redblacks is first in the East…for now.
After the game the news came out that high profile (though he has not played a game yet at the professional level) defensive lineman, Michael Sam, was back with the team after a two week absence. Sam just up and left the team stating he wanted to go back home while in the middle of preseason training camp. Remember there are 17 games left in the season, so he could have some effect if he even is part of the team after all is said and done.
It did start off well for the Als as they scored the first via touchdown run by the man who seems to have won the number one running back position, Tyrell Sutton. Starting quarterback Jonathan Crompton led the team on an impressive 8-play, 65 yard scoring drive before the sun had even had a chance to set. It was the home side’s opening drive and as such gave the over 21,000 fans in attendance the sense that this was going to be a good game or at the very least a victory over a team considered the weak link of the CFL’s Eastern Division.
However after Sutton’s 5-yard (with tons of second effort) scoring run the offense dried up for Crompton. Over the course of the 1st half he went a dismal 5 for 17 for a paltry 51 yards. He did not come out for the 2nd half with the team and it was said that he had hurt his shoulder, but it was nothing serious because coach Tom Higgins said he could have played again in the case of an emergency. So he was out for precautionary measures and they are calling it a bruised shoulder.
Despite the often two plays and out of the rest of the first half, Montreal did score one more touchdown before the break. Nine minutes into the 2nd quarter Crompton completed a 4 yard pass to fullback J.C. Beaulieu for his first CFL touchdown. The big impetus for the Als second and final touchdown was an interception of an errant Henry Burris pass by Jonathan Hefney.
Veteran Dan LeFevour was under center as the 2nd half started. He was signed in the off season as a free agent after spending the 2014 season with the Hamilton Tiger Cats. LeFevour had just come off rehab for torn knee ligaments to start this campaign. Sadly, he only last two plays before he was driven to the turf causing what is said to be a separated shoulder. You knew it was curtains for him when he tried to get up after the hit and could not. It is an injury to his non-throwing shoulder.
This meant that third-string and rookie quarterback Brandon Bridge would lead the team for the rest of the game. The Canadian born quarterback is the first one to play in the CFL since the 2010 season and the first for Alouettes for decades. This was going to be a baptism by fire as the Redblacks had tied the game up at 13-13 by the time he entered. After misfiring on his first attempt he completed a 24 yard toss to SJ Green. He then completed shorter ones to veterans Nik Lewis, who had a good first game, and Fred Stamps leading to a 37 yard field goal to put the Als ahead 16-13 with 1:36 left in the 3rd quarter. That was the last time Montreal even got close to the Ottawa end zone.
Bridge ended up going 5 for 10 for 62 yards and 1 interception. The interception was an important one as it led to an Ottawa touchdown which won the game for them. Bridge had Green open, but overthrew him. The touchdown came via a 6-yard run by running back Jeremiah Johnson with 10:20 left in the game. Montreal did have plenty of time to do something offensively, but Bridge couldn’t and at the end of the game the Montreal defense could not stop Ottawa from earning first downs over the last 3 minutes of play.
A bright spot for the Als was the strong leg of import kicker Boris Bede. He showed plenty of strength on his punts and kick offs, which on a couple of occasions went into the end zone not allowing a return. His punting average was an excellent 51.6 yards. A good first game despite missing his first kick, a point after attempt after Montreal’s first touchdown. It seems like he is going to be the man over veteran Sean Whyte.
This is a league driven by quarterback play. To win at any kind of consistent clip you have to have a good quarterback with certain skills. It is going to be a long season if Montreal gets this kind of inconsistent play at the vital position. What perplexed me more than the mistimed throws by the quarterbacks or completely overthrowing their receivers as this is mainly just an issue of reps and getting some timing with receivers was the offensive scheme by new Offensive Coordinator Turk Schonert. Running back Sutton had a strong beginning to the game going for 65 yards on 7 carries then for some reason they completely went away from him to focus on long bomb attempts to covered receivers. Sutton only had his number called 4 times in the 2nd half. Going away from something that was working as the offensive line of the Alouettes seemed to have the upper hand on the defensive line of the Redblacks to forcing long plays this early in the season left me scratching my head. Plus empty backfields meaning no running back or fullback in to pick up loose rushers, is a great way to get your quarterbacks hurt as was the result.
Next up for Montreal will be the team considered by most as the top team in the CFL. The Calgary Stampeders will visit Percival Molson Stadium on Friday, July 3rd.
-Passing: Ottawa – Henry Burris – 23 for 35 for 263 yards. 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions
Montreal – Jonathan Crompton – 5 for 17 for 51 yards. 1 touchdown and 1 interception
Dan LeFevour – 0 for 1
Brandon Bridge – 5 for 10 for 62 yards. 0 touchdowns and 1 interception.
-Rushing: Ottawa – Chevon Walker – 52 yards
Henry Burris – 35 yards
Jeremiah Johnson – 14 yards and 1 touchdown
Anthony Alix – 9 yards
Thomas DeMarco – 4 yards
Montreal – Tyrell Sutton – 70 yards and 1 touchdown
Fred Stamps – 9 yards
Jonathan Crompton – 3 yards
Dan LeFevour – 2 yards
-Receiving: Ottawa – Ernest Jackson – 74 yards and 1 touchdown
Chris Williams – 67 yards
Greg Ellingson – 44 yards
Brad Sinopoli – 38 yards
Chevon Walker – 26 yards
Jacques Washington – 19 yards
Maurice Price – 9 yards
David Hinds – 6 yards
Jeremiah Johnson – 4 yards
Montreal – Nik Lewis – 46 yards
SJ Green – 45 yards
Fred Stamps – 12 yards
Tyrell Sutton – 6 yards
J.C. Beaulieu – 4 yards and 1 touchdown
-Final Score: Montreal – 16
Ottawa – 20