OTTAWA — Beating a team in the CFL is rarely easy, and beating it twice is even harder. But that’s exactly what the Montreal Alouettes hope to do when they travel to Ottawa to take on the Redblacks Saturday afternoon.
The Alouettes (4-4-0) defeated Ottawa (2-7-0) 20-16 on Thanksgiving Monday thanks to a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
It was a difficult loss for a struggling Ottawa team that just can’t seem to find its rhythm.
“We haven’t done things that win football games,” said Redblacks coach Paul LaPolice. “We’ve got to keep working to play three phase football, on offence, defence and special teams, that’s how we win games.”
That may be easier said than done for a team that has lost six of its last seven.
Caleb Evans will make his fourth straight start under centre and is hoping to find some of the magic from his first start three weeks ago, when he threw three touchdown passes in a 34-24 win over Edmonton.
“I’ve learned a lot with a lot of games, back to back to back,” said Evans. “This week I’m just focused on going through my reads and hitting my guys quick and letting them get a chance to get the ball and make plays with it.”
The Alouettes will have their own adversity to deal with as starting quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. was placed on the six-game injured list.
In his place will be Matthew Shiltz, who saw limited action late in the game earlier this week, but is no stranger to the Alouettes.
Shiltz has been with the franchise since 2017 and has appeared in 47 games over that stretch and will make his third career start Saturday.
“We know they're a hungry team, we know they're a good team, they're confident on defence confident on offence and they’re well coached so it is going to be a challenge,” said Shiltz. “Having some film on them, they have film on us as well, so it does make it a little bit better just being comfortable with some of the players on their team. I know they’ve got a couple guys banged up…but they’ve still got a lot of playmakers on that defence and they're going to be out there to win the game just like we will be, so it's going to be a good game.”
Alouettes coach Khari Jones said there’s something unique about playing a team in a back-to-back series.
“It’s almost hard to explain because you know that the team that loses usually has a certain feeling and they want to really get back at the winning team,” said Jones. “The team that wins no matter how close it is whatever the situation is, there's always, maybe a little breath that that team takes and says OK, we did it, instead of really going forward into this next game.”
Jones says he’s tried to amplify to his players that no team wants to get beat twice in a row, so anything short of a full effort won’t be enough.
While consistency on the offensive line would be ideal the Redblacks will once again shuffle the deck as they will have a different alignment for the tenth straight game.
Dino Boyd will make his CFL debut this week at left tackle, while rookie Christopher Ferguson, will play in just his third game. The 25-year-old Mark Korte at centre, now in his third season, will serve as the veteran on the line, as Juwann Bushell-Beatty and Jakub Szott have a combined 13 games of experience.
MONTREAL (4-4-0) at OTTAWA (2-7-0)
Saturday, TD Place Stadium
FEWEST PENALTIES: On a per game basis, Ottawa has taken the fewest Penalties in the CFL with just 64 to date for a 7.1 per game average. The defence has drawn just 18 penalties.
WHERE’S THE W?: Alouettes QB Matthew Shiltz will be looking for his first win as a starter.
NOT ALL BAD: Despite being basement dwellers in a lot of statistical categories, the Redblacks are second in the East fourth overall in sacks with 22.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2021.