MONTREAL — Two perennial division leaders look to rebound in Week 2 as the BC Lions and Montreal Alouettes open up a double header at Percival Molson Stadium Friday night in the CFL.
A wily veteran in Kevin Glenn and a former college superstar in Troy Smith are tasked with carrying the load for now with changes under centre occuring in both cities.
The Alouettes offence has gone over a makeover at more than jus thte quarterback position after the club parted ways with offensive coordinator Rick Worman just days into training camp under newly-added head coach Tom Higgins.
Higgins, who admittedly didn’t sleep very well after his club opened the season with a loss to Calgary, knows Friday’s matchup is the perfect time to get the offence clicking and his team headed in the right direction early.
“The sun came up and so we get an opportunity to line up and go again,” Higgins told MontrealAlouettes.com after being asked about the game in Calgary. “We get to play in Week 2 so all is well, I think we’ve rebounded, we made the corrections that needed to be made and let’s see what happens Friday.”
Against a stout Calgary defence as well as blustery conditions at McMahon Stadium, Smith and the Als offence felt the need to make up for an early deficit after a 102-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the first quarter put the home team ahead.
The Alouettes were able to stay in the game through three quarters, but two early fourth-quarter touchdowns by Calgary sealed the deal.
In a game where the Alouette defence provided every opportunity to come out on top, the coaching staff believes it was a lack of execution that held the offence off the scoreboard through most of the contest.
“I thought we ran the ball well but we fell behind so we got away from that, and we tried to find ways to get into rhythm and just never did,” Quarterback Coach Ryan Dinwiddie told the team’s official site. “Execution was never there in the passing game and once you get behind they know you’re passing all the time.”
In the face of intense pressure from the Stampeders’ front-seven, Smith completed 18 of his 41 passing attempts for a completion percentage of 43.9.
Last season in limited action Smith completed just 52.6 per cent of his passes.
Higgins said that the key to his offence putting points on the board against the Leos starts with better efficiency in the passing game.
“You’d like to be able to run the football, use some play-action, put the ball down the field but also use shorter passes that are higher percentage,” he said. “The biggest thing is to keep the defence on the bench and the offence on the field, get some first downs and change the field position dramatically.”
“When you change the field position you always have a chance to win, and the two factors we talk about are winning the turnover battle and winning field position.”
While the Alouettes know that number 13, Anthony Calvillo, won’t be coming back, the Lions realize that Glenn is there to fill the position while Travis Lulay continues his recovery from off-season shoulder surgery.
Lulay was the Most Outstanding Player in 2011, the same year he led the Lions to a Grey Cup Championship on home turf over the Blue Bombers, but Glenn is every bit as capable of winning games, helping the Stampeders to the Grey Cup in 2012.
Yet despite so much success over the past two seasons as a Stampeder, the 35-year-old finds himself in a less familiar position, after throwing an uncharacteristic four interceptions in last week’s 27-20 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos.
“The game comes down to the simple things, tackling and turnovers and possession and we didn’t have it,” head coach Mike Benevides told BCLions.com. “They found themselves with a couple of extra possessions, which isn’t good enough and certainly when you turn it over that many times, you can’t.”
The last time they met
Last Meeting: Sunday, September 15, 2013 BC 36, Montreal 14 Travis Lulay was forced out of the game in the fourth quarter with a suspected shoulder injury, as the BC Lions smothered the Alouettes en-route to a 36-14 win at BC Place Stadium on last season » Read more.
The Lions jumped out to an early lead on Andrew Harris’ 55-yard catch-and-run on the game’s first possession, but after that Glenn and the offence ran into a hungry Esks ‘D’. Two interceptions in the third quarter, including one in the red zone, led to the Eskimos taking their first lead of the game heading into the fourth quarter.
“Some bad decisions, especially the one down at the back of the end zone,” Glenn said of his mistakes. “I should have just run it or gotten the points.”
“It’s just very uncharacteristic of myself, I told the guys it’s on me – this one’s on me. I take full responsibility because you can’t turn the ball over and win games, we all know that.”
With just six days between games, the veteran pivot vows to forget what happened last Saturday, instead focusing on what will be a pivotal matchup against an Alouettes team in a very similar situation.
“That’s what this profession is about – forgetting, having a short memory,” Glenn told the team’s official website. “You can’t dwell on the past, all you can do is learn from it and that’s what I think we’ve done.”
“The short week is a positive and negative – you get a short week to prepare for the upcoming opponent but you get a chance to forget about the last opponent, whether it was a win or loss.”
Benevides, now in his third season as the team’s head coach, is confident Glenn and the rest of the group is focused on the matchup ahead rather than what happened last weekend.
“These men are pros, guys like Kevin and the rest of our group understand the value of this game and how important it is – it’s not about a sense of panic but it’s urgency, you want to play really well really fast because we weren’t good enough last week,” he said.
That’s especially important against an Als team playing its first home game of 2014, at a site where it’s been one of the league’s most dominant teams in recent memory – even if Calvillo won’t be under centre.
“That’s a tough place to play any time, playing on the road in our league is very difficult.”
Kyries Hebert was disqualified in last weekend’s loss for a hit on Calgary’s Jon Cornish, becoming the first player disqualified since 2012 (an 83-game span).
RB Brandon Whitaker returned to the lineup after missing the final nine games of last season due to injury, and had a team-high 14 touches, including 12 runs for 59 yards.
The Lions scored a touchdown on their opening possession last week, which they managed just twice in 2013.
Kevin Glenn’s four-interception game was his first since Oct. 20, 2012, and just the second he’s had in his entire CFL career.
Andrew Harris was the second-leading receiver last weekend, with 102 yards on six catches. His 177 combined yards put him second league-wide.
In a week that saw an average of 25.3 penalties per game (the most penalized CFL week in seven years), the Lions committed just seven infractions, tied for the fewest in the league.
Kickoff is at 7:00 P.M. ET, and can be seen on TSN or followed live with CFL.ca Gamecast.
– With files from MontrealAlouettes.com/BCLions.com