Alouettes aim to avenge early-season home loss to Bombers
Montreal Alouettes' quarterback Josh Neiswander, left, hands off to Jerome Messam during first half CFL football action against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Montreal, Sunday, September 29, 013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Published Sunday, October 13, 2013 9:03PM EDT
MONTREAL - When the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeated the Montreal Alouettes 19-11 on July 4 at Percival Molson Stadium, they didn’t look like a team that would win only one of their next dozen games.
And few prognosticators in the early days of the 2013 CFL pigskin season would have predicted a rollercoaster season for Montreal, complete with a serious injury to longtime quarterback Anthony Calvillo and an early coaching change which saw rookie coach Dan Hawkins gone after a mere five games.
The teams are now focused on writing the next chapter Saturday at the gridiron atop the mountain in a game that starts at 1 p.m. Monday.
And that works fine for Alouettes' Head Coach Jim Popp, who has been trying to wipe the slate clean.
“We don’t care about statistics and records, all that matters is winning,” said Popp.
In spite of the turmoil, painful losses and uncharacteristic struggles, the Alouettes, now at 6-8, still have a good chance to make the playoffs.
With a win Monday, the Als would be in a position to fight for second place in the Eastern Conference, as they then face off in two consecutive games against the Hamilton Tiger Cats (7-7) before finishing the season in Toronto on November 1..
With some favourable results, the Alouettes could even finish the season at 9-9, the same record the Toronto Argonauts had last year before winning the Grey Cup.
Players consider all good things possible, judging by the comments of one defensive standout.
“There is a good atmosphere in the dressing room and on the field,” said linebacker Shea Emry. “It's exciting to see a team come together in this way because in recent years we started the season with a bang but then struggled late. Now we’re trying to climb back to the top. We're not there yet but it's coming."
The Bombers aren’t officially eliminated from playoff contention but they would have to beat the Alouettes Monday and then win their next three remaining games, while the Als would have to lose all of their games for Winnipeg to have a chance.
The Bombers didn’t increase their chances of winning by trading CFL sacks leader Alex Hall to the Saskatchewan Roughriders for an injured offensive lineman and a draft pick .
Winnipeg Coach Tim Burke contends that his team hasn’t thrown in the towel.
“We had a good week of practice. We are focused on our work and the guys really want to play,” he said.
Alouettes Coach Popp, for his part, told his team to forget their first 12 games and focus on what lies ahead. Since he reframed the season into a mini-season, Popp’s squad has gone 2-0 and hopes to continue their winning ways under QB Josh Neiswander.
Neiswander has put up respectable numbers but perhaps more importantly, has avoided tossing the interceptions that plagued the team earlier in the year.
"We have a great receiving corps, a great group of running backs and you certainly can’t forget about the offensive line because it all starts up front, those guys have been doing an amazing job with protection,” Neiswander told a scrum of reporters this week.
-With a file from The Canadian Press