Monday, December 5, 2022
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CFL Preview: Als, Redblacks meet Saturday in the Nation’s Capitol

OTTAWA — The Montreal Alouettes travel to Ottawa to take on the REDBLACKS in a rematch of their Thanksgiving Monday meeting.

Coming off back-to-back performances against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the REDBLACKS, the Als have been able to rise to the occasion when faced with adversity in the second half.

In Hamilton during Week 9, it was David Cote’s game-winning field goal in overtime that completed the comeback after being down 17-3. Against Ottawa, it was Cameron Artis-Payne whose go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth captured the Als’ second win in a row.

While the team has been able to battle adversity late in games, it will face them head-on from the opening kick as Vernon Adams Jr. was placed on the six-game injured list.

In Adams Jr.’s place will be backup quarterback Matthew Shiltz. Shiltz, who saw limited action on Thanksgiving after coming in with just over two minutes to go, was a key player in the Als’ comeback. His 36 passing yards and 18 rushing yards led Montreal down the field, setting up Artis-Payne for a seven-yard touchdown run.

While the injury to Adams Jr. certainly takes an element of cohesion out of the Als’ offence, Shiltz is not new to the organization as he’s been with the franchise since 2017. Since joining Montreal, Shiltz has appeared in 47 games. During that time, the 28-year old Butler University product has thrown for 1,267 yards and five touchdowns.

“It’s definitely a good opportunity,” said Shiltz. “You never like to get that opportunity in the fashion that it happened with, obviously, a teammate and a good friend of mine going down. But the nature of the sport is ‘next man up’ since it’s such a physical sport so I’m ready to seize the opportunity and make the most of it. My expectation is to go in there and win football games for this team and do whatever I can to win; be a leader, be a distributor, take care of the ball and come out with the win.”

In head coach Khari Jones’ eyes, the transition from Adams to Shiltz will be smooth even though the team is facing a short turnaround.

“It’s not as big of a challenge as one may think,” said Jones. “He’s been preparing all season which has been great and I’ve had him for the previous two years. I feel like I know Matt, I feel very comfortable with him. You saw the last two games we still threw the ball, we still ran it, we still did all the things that we normally we do when Vernon is in the game and I feel like he’s ready to play.”

The week of practice leading up to Saturday’s game saw some good news on the injury front for the Als’ backfield. After missing last week’s game, running back William Stanback will make his return to the field.

Through seven games this season, Stanback has been a force to be reckoned with. Racking up 677 yards on the ground and a pair of touchdowns makes him a threat that has been complementary to the play of Adams Jr. and the Als receivers including Eugene Lewis, Jake Wieneke and B.J. Cunningham.

After upsetting the Edmonton Elks, the REDBLACKS have dropped their last two games and are looking to snap their three-game losing streak against the Als.

In search of that, the offence will lean on the abilities of Caleb Evans, who will make his third-straight start.

After throwing for a trio of touchdowns against the Elks in his debut, Evans has had quieter outings in his last two starts. Against the Argonauts, Evans was under constant pressure leading to a pair of sacks, though he still threw for 334 yards and picked up 54 on the ground. Thanksgiving was a different outcome as the Als’ defence held him to just 125 passing yards and 64 rushing yards.

While their offence has been up and down this season, the REDBLACKS have shown they are more than capable of hanging with the CFL’s best. Given the amount of talent that is on the REDBLACKS offence from Evans to ​​Nate Behar, R.J. Harris and newcomer De’Lance Turner, who rushed for 71 yards in his debut, the team has the firepower to combat the Als’ defence.

As for their own defence, the REDBLACKS made life tough for Adams as he was held to 157 passing yards and sacked six times, two of which were firsts for Kene Onyeka and Nigel Romick.

Shining performances from the REDBLACKS defence has been nothing new as the unit has been a highlight of this 2021 team. Recording 22 sacks, forcing 48 two-and-outs and eight interceptions, the REDBLACKS’ secondary and defensive line will look to make Shiltz’s first start of the season a difficult one.

Kickoff is slated for 4:00 p.m. ET on Saturday and can be watched on TSN, RDS, ESPN+ and followed along on CFL.ca’s Game Tracker.

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