HAMILTON -- The Alouettes and Ticats are set to meet for their third meeting of the season on Friday night at Ivor Wynne Stadium, as two of the league’s most exciting offences reacquaint in a key East Division battle.
For Head Coach Marc Trestman and an Als team that’s won six of its last seven games, it’s just one test after another.
|Related: Alouettes at Ticats|
After a home-and-home series with a fierce BC Lions squad that resulted in a split followed by home wins over the Riders and Argos, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Als, who play on the road in four of their final six games of the season.
Friday’s stop in Hamilton could be Montreal’s toughest remaining test.
“We’re facing a team where the quarterback is leading the league in passing,” said Trestman. “They’re the highest-scoring team in the league, coming off a very tough loss and that’s a very tough time to play a great quarterback.”
Henry Burris is the name of the quarterback the Als coach was talking about, and with a league-leading 27 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions, to go with a quarterback rating 104.2 that’s also tops in the league, the first-year Ticat is putting up some of the best numbers of his career.
But in last week’s 34-12 loss in Winnipeg, Burris was held to just 11 completions on 24 passing attempts, for 156 yards and no touchdowns. Trestman said that means the pivot is likely to bounce back with a much bigger performance.
“He threw for 156 yards last week and he’s not going to do that again,” said the fifth-year head coach. “So we’re really going to have to be on our toes, our energy’s going to have to be great coming off a win for us, and we’re going to have to match their surge early on in the game.”
The Alouettes are indeed flying high coming into the weekend, especially after a 31-10 win over the Argos at home in a game that was deemed a battle for top spot in the East Division.
It was the first game, admitted Trestman, that the Als were firing on all cylinders, as all of offence, special teams, and defence played a major contributing role in securing the win and ultimately a two-game lead in the division standings.
Anthony Calvillo shredded one of the stingiest secondaries in the league, getting most of his 315 yards along with a pair of touchdown passes in the first half.
Meanwhile the defence, after Ricky Ray was forced out of the game early with a knee injury, held the Boatmen to just three field goals and a single point.
|What are the writers saying?|
|» A new-look Ticat backfield in the works?
» Als hoping Trent's the Guy on special teams
But it was also a promising sign for a special teams unit whose struggles have been well-documented this season, thanks in part to a record-tying 129-yard missed field goal returned for a touchdown by return man Trent Guy.
While Sunday’s big win is certainly something for the Als to be proud of, though, Calvillo said it’s also important for his team to understand that it needs to build on its best performance of the season.
“The one thing I stress with the guys is it took us 12 weeks to play well in all three phases, so it tells you that it’s not easy and it’s not time to relax,” said Calvillo, now in his 15th season with the Alouettes. “We have to come out there and master that again, and it cannot take another 12 weeks.”
Friday night presents the perfect late-season test for the Als, as they visit a place they’ve had they share of challenges over the last few seasons. Montreal has not won in four straight at Ivor Wynne Stadium, giving the Ticats the longest home winning streak of any club over the Als.
The last time Montreal went into Hamilton and won was on September 11, 2010, being outscored 157-74 since then while giving up no fewer than 34 points in any of those games.
For the Ticats, Friday’s duel presents a chance to come back home and get back on the right track in front of the home fans. The Tabbies are smack dab in the middle of a heated playoff race with the Argos and Bombers, while the threat of a crossover from the West also continues to loom.
On Friday night against the Alouettes, they’ll look to regain their form as the league’s highest-scoring team against a group they’ve had plenty of recent success against.
The last time the Ticats hosted Montreal was back on July 21, when Burris completed 27-30 passes for 360 yards and four touchdowns in an impressive 39-24 win to vault into top spot in the division.
But even though the ‘Cats have seemingly had Montreal’s number of late, they know they’re in for a big challenge this time.
The Alouettes have developed a deserved reputation for their physical play on defence, and Burris believes that his team will have to be aware of Montreal’s pressure at all times.
|The last time they met|
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Alouettes 31, Ticats 29
Sean Whyte made good on his third field goal of the game as time expired, to give the Alouettes a thrilling 31-29 win over the visiting Ticats at Percival Molson Stadium. Anthony Calvillo had 329 yards and a touchdown to lead Montreal, while S.J. Green had a game-high 10 receptions for 168 yards in a touchdown. Brandon Whitaker, meanwhile, chipped in with 158 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown.
“These guys play with reckless abandon,” said the quarterback of his next opponents. “They bring so many different blitzes. We’re going to have to be keyed in for what type of rushes they’re bringing and where they’re coming and be able to pick it up in protection.”
Keeping the pressure at bay and the Alouettes linebackers off balance will require that the Ticats establish a running threat on Friday.
“We’re going to have to create holes with the running game,” Burris confirmed. “With a linebacker like Shea Emry or (Kenny) Ingram, with their athletic ability it’s tough to find holes.”
“You’ve got to mix it up. That’s just the state of the league. There are some great defences and Montreal fits right in there.”
The good news for the Ticats in that department is that they appear close to be getting Chevon Walker back in action on Friday night, who’s dealt with a lower body injury since being sidelined on Labour Day against the Argos.
Walker’s absence has been noticeable for the Ticats, and while Avon Cobourn is a desirable fill-in at the very least, the rookie runner brings an element of speed that makes the Hamilton offence so revered by opponents.
That might not necessarily mean Cobourn is relegated to the sideline again though, as Head Coach George Cortez has suggested a two-back system involving both runners could be implemented for Friday’s game.
Were they both to dress, how the two would be used would depend largely on how Friday’s game evolved.
“If they’re both (on the gameday roster), they’ll both play. How much they would play at the same time would be up for debate,” said Cortez.
“Sometimes you do what you feel is best for the game. While you would like to do some things, if it doesn’t match up with how the other team plays defence, it doesn’t do any good to do.”
Finding balance in the offence will be key for the Ticats moving forward, as 27 of the team’s 31 touchdowns this season have come through the air.
Kickoff is at 7:00 P.M. ET, and can be seen on TSN or followed live via Game Tracker on CFL.ca and CFL Mobile.
- With files from Ticats.ca/MontrealAlouettes.com
|2||Blue Bombers||DE||Mulumba, Andy|
|3||Alouettes via EDM||LB||Edem, Mike|