One win doesn’t make a season, but it certainly put the Montreal Alouettes in a better frame of mind.
After ending a 13-game losing streak last week in Saskatchewan, the Alouettes (1-2) will look to even their record against the Ottawa Redblacks (1-1) on Friday night at Percival Molson Stadium.
“For me, being new to the team and coming in without a lot of the baggage, so to speak, it doesn’t change a whole lot,” receiver Chris Williams said. “But you can definitely feel that there was a sense of relief to just get that out of the way.
“Franchise record – not the kind you want to set – we got that out of the way. Got the win and now we can put all that junk aside and move forward.”
The Alouettes had not won since last Aug. 11 against Toronto, which was also their last home win.
Now they hope to win two in a row for the first time since they took three straight to close the 2016 campaign.
Quarterback Jeff Mathews is set to make his first CFL start since he lasted only 30 minutes playing for the Argonauts against the Alouettes last August. Mathews came on in relief when starter Drew Willy suffered a stinger in the third quarter against the Roughriders.
While he went eight-for-12 for only 98 yards, the veteran didn’t turn over the ball and helped put away the win with some solid drives.
The Redblacks are coming off a 24-14 loss in a defensive battle against unbeaten Calgary. They will be without Kyries Hebert, the popular linebacker who asked for and got his release by Montreal in February and signed with Ottawa. Hebert will serve a suspension for a nasty hit on Calgary’s DeVaris Daniels.
Williams, who sits third in CFL receiving with 14 catches for 250 yards, expects a stiff test from Ottawa, which won all three meetings with Montreal last season.
“Well-run organization, they’ve been to two Grey Cups in five years,” said Williams. “Solid players, good quarterback, good offence, good defence. So we’ll have to play a good game.
“We’ve got to eliminate the penalties, play smart football. And we’ve got to stay on the field on offence to eliminate them being on the field because it’s very much a ball-control team with (running back) William Powell and (quarterback) Trevor Harris and him getting it to their guys.”
Alouettes coach Mike Sherman, the former Green Bay Packers boss who will coach his 100th career professional game, likes to treat all weeks the same whether his team wins or loses.
But last week’s victory was a relief and a confidence-builder for Montreal if only because it had been so long in coming.
“It certainly didn’t hurt,” said Sherman. “When you come back after a win you can be a little harder and more demanding actually, because they’re listening and they’re not sulking about their wounds, so it allows you to be a bit more aggressive with the players as opposed to trying to build up their confidence.
“So it is a bit different approach, although I do try to treat winning and losing as almost identical. We’ve got to correct the same mistakes whether we win or lose, but it’s how we correct them. When you lose a game you have to be careful about their psyche and where their mind’s at. You don’t want to bury them, but at the same time you’ve got to be honest with them.”
With major changes from last year’s 3-15 squad, the Alouettes are still sorting out what kind of team they will be. So far, they’ve counted on Tyrell Sutton’s running and deep throws, especially to Williams, on attack, but are second from bottom in points per game.
Their defence was porous for two games, then looked sharp in Regina, albeit against back-up quarterbacks.
The offence will be up against Noel Thorpe, who was Montreal’s defensive co-ordinator until he and head coach Jacques Chapdelaine were fired last September. Now Thorpe’s the DC in Ottawa.
Sherman said it may take half the season for his squad to shape an identity.