REGINA -- Chris Getzlaf and the Saskatchewan Roughriders welcome SJ Green and the Montreal Alouettes to Mosaic in the first of two contests Saturday.
The Als, sitting just two games back of the first place Argos despite a rough start to the season, have a chance to spark a roaring turnaround with a road battle against the league’s top-ranked team.
Trouble for Montreal, however, is that the Roughriders also have something to prove, entering the weekend in somewhat of a sour mood after last week’s 42-27 loss on the road to the Calgary Stampeders.
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One thing’s certain: they won’t hold back any of their frustration against the Als, even if Montreal has little resemblance of the team that’s dominated the league over the past decade and longer.
“It’s all about winning another game,” quarterback Darian Durant told Riderville.com during practice this week. “We know that those guys are hungry, I’m pretty sure a lot of people in our locker-room have been in the same position they’re in.”
The Alouettes have lost four of their last five and sit last in the CFL in offensive production. And while they’re not out of the race in the East by any means, the next month will be pivotal as they get two West Division powerhouses in Saskatchewan and BC up next, before a home-and-home with the Argos.
That’s why no one in Green and White is buying the notion of a trap game this weekend, as the Riders go against a team with a number of proven veteran weapons and an urgent mind-set.
“They feel like their backs are against the wall and they have nothing to lose, and what better environment to come in and get things back on track than here,” continued Durant, who on Monday will celebrate his 31st birthday.
“We know that. We know that we have a big bulls-eye on us so we have to make sure we go out and not overlook those guys because we know they’re going to come ready to play.”
The first five games of the season couldn’t have gone better for the Roughriders. Off to a 5-0 start, they outscored opponents 183-87, while incredibly going that entire span without a single offensive turnover.
Against equally impressive Calgary, however, that unraveled a little bit. A Kory Sheets fumble on the team’s first offensive series meant the team’s first turnover of the season, and led to an early 7-0 lead for the Stampeders – one they’d never relinquish en-route to a 15-point loss.
Durant’s numbers remain all-world, with a near-perfect quarterback rating of 133.3 and 15 touchdown passes to zero interceptions. The team as a whole graded out quite well throughout the first third of the season as well – Head Coach Corey Chamblin said he gives the team an A-minus.
“We did do some things well in the first six games and I’m not going to take that away from them,” said Chamblin in his analysis. “There are a lot of things that we overcame and I was proud of the team for doing that.”
“The big thing about this team is I see them bounce back each week, whether it’s a win and now with a loss I think this team has really prepared each week to try to go 1-0.”
That, of course, will be put to the test this weekend. The Alouettes may not be the Stampeders, at least record-wise, but the Riders understand very clearly how large of a test Saturday’s matinee will provide – especially as they carry the emotions of losing for the first time.
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“We don’t want to give them reason to get their season started on us, we’re just trying to get back into the win column,” said linebacker All-Star linebacker Rey Williams, who joined the Riders in the off-season after being released by the Ticats. “We had a tough loss last week and we’re just trying to erase that and get that taste out of our mouth.
“We’re hungry, they’re trying to get a win, we’re trying to get a win, it’s gonna be two teams going at it and we’re home so we have the advantage.”
Since Williams first arrived in the CFL back in 2007 as a Roughrider, he hasn’t seen a Montreal team that didn’t dominate the East Division throughout the regular season. But even given where the Als stand now, he knows this Montreal team is capable of regaining its form at any moment.
“It is a little weird, we’re not used to seeing them like this, usually they’re blowing teams out and they’re a force,” said Williams. “But that’s what football’s about, there’s some time, I’m sure they’ll get it together – they’re still second in the East, it’s not like they’re fourth and battling and their season’s over.”
“They have some good football players over there, we’re not taking that for granted, they’re going to come in here looking for a win and we’re trying to protect our house.”
Just like their opponent this week, the Alouettes also aren’t viewing Saturday’s game as though it’s the league’s top-ranked team against the bottom – especially if you ask last year’s breakout receiver Brandon London, who scoffed at this week’s CFL.ca Power Rankings.
“If we go by rankings, then last year’s Grey Cup winner wouldn’t have been last year’s Grey Cup winner, and the year before that,” London told MontrealAlouettes.com when asked about the top team squaring off against the worst team. “That’s just a bunch of computers and guys sitting around with a lot of time on their hands and just rate guys who go out and play ball.”
Saturday’s game is important for London for a couple of reasons. First, his team has an opportunity to go on the road and make a statement in what’s arguably the toughest game on their 18-game schedule.
“It would be great, just to get that winning feeling back and have smiles on our face, have Jim Popp come into the team meeting with a smile instead of telling us what we need to work on and what we need to get better at,” said London a week after his team's 38-13 loss at home to the Argos.
“I feel like it’ll be great, not only for the team in terms of our record but just for our overall team energy and overall team psyche. We need it, gotta get it, gonna have it.”
Second, he’ll get a chance to go head-to-head with former teammate Dwight Anderson, a hard-hitting defensive back who never fails to make his presence known.
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Saturday, July 20, 2012
Montreal 34, Saskatchewan 28
Bo Bowling caught his first career touchdown and Anthony Calvillo rushed for a pair of majors for the first time in his career as the Montreal Alouettes defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders 34-28 at Mosaic Stadium in Regina...Read more.
Both are excited to meet for the first time since going head-to-head almost daily during practice last season, and agree that TSN should strongly consider getting them mic’d up throughout what should be a vocal affair.
“If they want their ratings to go up then yeah,” said London of the idea. “You put microphones on all the hockey players, you put them on Jon Cornish and all those guys, why not put it on me and D.A. and listen to us chat it up a little bit?”
Anderson agreed and said that he’s been waiting a long time to get back at it against his former squad.
“It’s gonna be fun, B-London’s a good guy and all the guys over there, I respect all the guys over there, I was over there for two years, bunch of good guys but I’ve been telling them all off-season I can’t wait to see them out there and just battle them,” said Anderson.
Anderson and an aggressive Rider defence have allowed a league-best 129 points through six games this season, even after allowing 42 points against Calgary a week ago. As they look to recapture their form of the first five games of the season, Anthony Calvillo and the Als will be ready.
“They’re good, and it starts with the fact that they play 90 per cent man-to-man coverage and they’re able to get away with it because their DBs, as young as they are, are good at what they’re doing,” said Calvillo of the Riders’ secondary.
“The whole package that they have there is something spectacular to watch on film, so we know we have a challenge in front of us but we’re up for that challenge.”
Head Coach and General Manager Jim Popp, on the other hand, said it doesn’t matter who the Als are playing or where the game is being played – this is a team that needs a win.
“It really doesn’t matter what team it is, a win would be great for our ball club,” he said. “They’re by far one of the better teams in the league by record and by the way they play.”
“I know they just lost their first game but it’s very special any time during the season no matter what your record is to go on the road and win, and that’s a very tough environment to win in.”
Kickoff is at 4:00 P.M. ET, and can be seen on TSN or followed live via Game Tracker on CFL.ca and CFL Mobile.
- With files from Riderville.com/MontrealAlouettes.com