Alouettes Start Season With a Win in Winnipeg
WINNIPEG — Championships are not won in the opening week of the regular season, but a team’s character often can start to be defined. And there’s no better way to start a year than a victory on the road.
The Alouettes, who missed the playoffs in 2015 with a 6-12 record, started a new season Friday night with a 22-14 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before 26,433 spectators at Investors Group Field.
The game was halted for slightly more than an hour midway through the first quarter when lightning was visible in the area.
The Als took the opening kickoff and were held without a first down, which seemed like a bad omen at the time. But the Bombers also failed to generate a first down on their opening series.
Montreal was better on its second possession, thanks to a 16-yard pass to Kenny Stafford followed by a reverse from Tyrell Sutton to Duron Carter that generated a 22-yard gain to the Winnipeg 37.
But the Als failed to produce another first down and settled for Boris Bede’s 41-yard field goal at 4:56.
On Winnipeg’s next possession, Billy Parker intercepted a Drew Willy pass that was underthrown — but the play was nullified by an offside penalty against linebacker Kyries Hebert.
Several plays later, Winnipeg receiver Weston Dressler was hit hard by rookie cornerback Ethan Davis. Dressler, signed as a free-agent this winter following his release by Saskatchewan, went to the dressing room and never returned.
With the Als about to scrimmage from their own 15, referee Kim Murphy saw lightning in the horizon and ordered the teams to their respective dressing rooms for what turned out to be a 65-minute delay.
But when the game resumed, the Als’ offensive began to immediately click. A pass to Samuel Giguère generated 17 yards. Four plays later, Kevin Glenn found a wide-open S.J. Green, who capitalized on busted coverage, for a 44-yard gain. A pass to Kenny Stafford was good for 13 to the Bombers’ 12-yard line.
After Glenn’s bad end zone pass was almost intercepted by rookie cornerback Kevin Fogg, the veteran quarterback was under pressure on the next play. His attempted pass, behind Giguère, was intercepted by Chris Randle.
Winnipeg took over deep in its zone, but failed to produce a first down. Justin Medlock conceded a safety in the final minute of the opening quarter for a 5-0 Montreal lead.
Early in the second quarter, Glenn connected with Nik Lewis for a 12-yard gain, pushing the veteran slotback over 12,000 career yards.
Later in the quarter, Glenn engineered a nine-play, 65-yard drive, including a 30-yard pass to Carter which moved the ball to the Winnipeg 29. The Als continued to methodically advance the ball from there until third-string quarterback Brandon Bridge scored on a one-yard run at 9:59 — after being stopped on first down. The touchdown increased the Als’ lead to 12-0.
It was the first rushing touchdown by a Canadian quarterback since Giulio Caravatta in 1996.
On the next play following Bridge’s touchdown, Willy’s pass for Ryan Smith was intercepted by Chip Cox, who returned the ball 30 yards to the Winnipeg 19.
Glenn then passed nine yards to Sutton, who then gained four more yards on a sweep to the five-yard line. But Sutton fumbled on the next play, the ball recovered by Randle, denying the Als what could have been a 19-0 advantage.
On the Als’ next possession, Glenn hooked up with Carter for what would have been a 40-yard touchdown. But second-year offensive-tackle Jacob Ruby was called for holding and the Als were denied yet again.
Ruby, a first-round (eighth overall) draft choice in 2015, is attempting to replace Josh Bourke at left-tackle. Bourke signed with Toronto in February as a free agent.
Medlock, whom many considered to be the most consistent kicker in Canadian Football League history, attempted a 47-yard field goal late in the opening half. He had the distance, but the ball struck the left upright.
He atoned by kicking a 58-yard field goal barely more than three minutes into the third quarter. It tied a franchise record, established by Bernie Ruoff.
But the Als responded well, Glenn taking the team on an eight-play, 75-yard drive — the perfect antidote. Glenn found Green for an eight-yard touchdown at 6:25. Green beat defensive-back Bruce Johnson on the play.
That increased the Als’ lead to 19-3 and took any remaining wind out of the home team’s sails.
Medlock kicked a 62-yard punt single late in the third quarter, while Bede responded with a 47-yard field goal two minutes into the fourth quarter.
The Bombers had another scoring chance, after driving the ball to the Als’ nine-yard line. But on a third-down gamble, Willy was tripped up by defensive-tackle Alan-Michael Cash and failed to generate a first down.
The Als couldn’t get a first down, Bede conceding a safety at 8:20.
The Bombers finally gave their fans something to cheer about when Willy hit Darvin Adams for a 63-yard pass-and-run touchdown at 12:22. Adams beat Davis on the play. Willy then passed to Quincy McDuffie for a two-point convert, pulling the home team to within eight points.
Montreal makes its home regular-season debut next Thursday against the Ottawa Redblacks. The second-year franchise surprised many last season by reaching the Grey Cup before losing to the Edmonton Eskimos.