MONTREAL — On the heels of a dominant performance on their home turf, the BC Lions head to Montreal to take on Alouettes this Saturday.
In their Week 6 win over the Ottawa REDBLACKS, the Lions showed just what this 2021 team is capable of. Firing on all cylinders and ruling all phases of the game from Lucky Whitehead’s 119-yard kick return touchdown to Michael Reilly’s 319 yards, four touchdown performance, all eyes will be on Lions for an encore performance.
Throughout the season, the BC offence has gotten progressively better with each passing week. Having started the season with a 33-29 loss against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in a game that saw Nathan Rourke and Reilly have reps under centre, quarterback play and offence efficiency have solidified and improved drastically.
Last week was arguably their most complete and decisive win of the season as on offence, everything seemed to work for the Lions. In the passing game, they found tremendous success as three different receivers: Bryan Burnham, Jevon Cottoy, and Keon Hatcher all found the end zone. On the ground, the Lions managed to rack up 71 rushing yards and dominate on defence, recording three sacks and an interception.
One of the areas that BC shines is on special teams, which they will try to continue this week against an Alouettes team that allowed Frankie Williams to rack up 184 return yards in the Ticats’ win a few weeks ago.
In Montreal, the Alouettes are also coming into this game riding high on a dominant Labour Day win against the REDBLACKS with their sights set on repeating. Though, the game will not be without adversity as they will have to play without their head coach Khari Jones who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.
In Jones’ place, running back coach and assistant head coach, Andre Bolduc will assume the head coaching duties.
While the absence of Jones on the Als’ sideline will certainly be felt as his game-day energy will be missed, Kristian Matte says the team is handling it as if it were one of their own position players going down.
“For us, it’s almost as a player. When a player goes down, the next man up has to be ready to fill his shoes,” said Matte. “I think our coaching staff is very good at adapting to situations.”
The 36-year old, 10-year CFL veteran Matte and the offensive line have quietly been one of the most impactful areas of this year’s Alouette team. With only four sacks surrendered on the campaign, the Als’ pass and run blocking has allowed for their offence to flourish.
As a result, Vernon Adams Jr. has picked up where he left off in 2019 as he sits tied with Winnipeg’s Zach Collaros for the league-lead in passing touchdowns (nine) and has played a large role in Montreal’s league-leading 564 rushing yards.
While Adams and the Montreal offence will certainly test the Lions’ secondary, most of this week has seen the Als place an emphasis on special teams.
“It’s a big part of the game, special teams are important,” said Bolduc. “What they decided to do with two returners- Rainey [Chris Rainey] was here, I coached him, I know he still has gas in the tank; that’s a good duo out there, we’ve got to be watching.”
Though his week-to-week goal is to develop and fine-tune the run game, Bolduc noted that he doesn’t plan to lean on that any more than he has to.
“A lot of teams are doing a great job right now to stop the run against us,” said Bolduc. “We have to be more creative, especially more patient with the run game…they [BC] certainly do a good job of stopping the run and forcing teams to opposing teams to throw a little more.”
Having spent three seasons under Bolduc, William Stanback knows that his coach will put himself and the team in the best position to succeed Saturday.
“He’s assistant head coach for a reason,” said Stanback. “He’s going to continue to execute the game plan that we’re going to have this week, we may run the ball a little bit more, but we’re not going to shy away from anything that’s given us success in the past.”
Ahead of the game, Adams Jr. echoed the same feelings felt by Stanback and feels the team ready to bring it on Saturday night.
“Coaches are doing a good job around here making sure we’re taking care of the little things,” said Adams Jr. “BC’s a good team but we’re the only people who is going to stop us. As long as we do our thing and have fun with it, it should be good.”
Kickoff is slated for 7:00 p.m. ET and can be watched on TSN, RDS, ESPN+ or followed along on CFL.ca’s Game Tracker.