If the Montreal Alouette fans who head to Percival-Molson Memorial Stadium on Thursday night are anything like they’ve proven to be in the past, the Ottawa REDBLACKS’ offence is in for a loud night.
“It was a loud crowd,” said Als’ wide receiver Kenny Stafford in an interview with MontrealAlouettes.com when asked about his time visiting Montreal as an Eskimo last season. “It was a difference for me actually going to play there and playing against the Alouettes. Now I know how loud it can be for the opposing team.”
The East Division match up will be the Montreal faithful’s first peek at the Alouettes of the 2016 season, including the new-look offence led by Offensive Coordinator Anthony Calvillo.
“It’s going to be great to get back out in front of our home crowd,” said veteran quarterback Kevin Glenn. “We had the one pre-season game (this year) but this time it’s a regular season game.
“We’re going out and trying to win. We’re trying to be that team that doesn’t lose at home. We want to have that mentality.”
So far so good for the Alouettes’ offence, which will look to build on a strong start in Winnipeg. The Alouettes have a great chance at becoming that winning team in their first of three match-ups against Ottawa if they continue to buy into Calvillo’s game plan the same way they did in their 22-14 win over Winnipeg in Week 1.
“You can see now it’s Anthony Calvillo’s offence,” REDBLACKS defensive end Arnaud Gascon-Nadon told OttawaREDBLACKS.com. “He’s running it the way they ran it when he was quarterback so you’re going to see a lot of the running game, quick passes, protect the quarterback and trying to get the ball in the hands of the play makers.
“This is starting to look like their offence and starting to look like they’re comfortable in it and we just have to try to bring what we have and try to counter it.”
Leading Montreal’s charge is 37-year-old Glenn, who completed 30-of-42 pass attempts for 332 yards and a touchdown in the season opener. That unit was in command most of the night, although two turnovers inside the red zone left points off the board.
Glenn will have plenty of options to throw to on the first half of Thursday’s double header, having found eight different receivers last week including Duron Carter, who had seven receptions for 69 yards in his first game as an Alouette after returning this off-season, and Nik Lewis, who collected 51 yards on six catches.
Lewis, Carter, Stafford and S.J. Green form one of the CFL’s most formidable pass-catching units and could make the Alouettes a much-improved offensive team throughout 2016.
Burris has reportedly been placed on the six-game injured list, meaning, for now, the REDBLACKS are Harris’s team.Trevor Harris will make his first start behind centre as a REDBLACK when Ottawa takes the field filling in for starting quarterback Henry Burris, who suffered a pinky injury on his throwing hand in the REDBLACKS’ thrilling 45-37 overtime victory against Edmonton in Week 1.
“He’ll (Burris) be back and we’ll be welcoming him with open arms when he’s back,” said Harris. “For the time being, I’ll be ready to roll. That’s why you want to make sure, for coach Campbell’s sake, you can’t have too many quality quarterbacks and my job is to come in and be a quality quarterback for this team.”
Harris wasted little time after taking the field to justify the REDBLACKS’ decision to sign him this off-season – one possession to be exact – throwing a long bomb to Chris Williams for a 71-yard touchdown on his first passing attempt. The former Argonaut pivot impressed in the rest of his debut as well, connecting on 17 of 19 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns.
“To have that confidence that no matter which one (Harris or Burris) is in there that we can still go out there and execute our game plan and beat a team like Edmonton on the road when we actually had a few mistakes,” said Williams. “We had some turn overs and a blocked punt for a touchdown so we really didn’t execute our best but we executed enough to win the game.”
Montreal’s red hot defence – a defence that allowed a league-low 14 points and only one touchdown drive last week – will be another story for Harris to deal with. Defensive end John Bowman will be the biggest pest, having already collected seven tackles and two sacks in the first game of the regular season.
While Ottawa put up gaudy numbers against the Eskimos’ depleted secondary, points won’t come as easy against Montreal. That also means the REDBLACKS’ defence will have to be stingier than it was against Mike Reilly and the Eskimos.
“We just have to go out there and do what we do,” said REDBLACKS’ defensive back Jerrell Gavins. “It’s not necessarily about what they do, it’s more about what we can do prevent them from doing what they’re usually successful at.”
The REDBLACKS ended the 2015 season series victorious, finishing a perfect 3-0 against Montreal in their stellar second season as a franchise.
Montreal took all three the season before.
Based on history alone, it’s anyone’s guess who will come out on top this week.