The last time the Hamilton Tiger-Cats won a regular season game in Montreal, Ron Lancaster was the coach, Jean Chretien was Prime Minister and the United States had yet to invade Iraq.
It was Sunday, Oct. 20, 2002 and the top movie in theatres that weekend was The Ring, described as a “supernatural psychological horror film.” Which is also a pretty apt description of the 18 straight games the Ticats have lost at Percival Molson Stadium.
And while this current group of Ticats certainly isn’t responsible for all the ancient history, they haven’t done anything to reverse the trend. Head coach Kent Austin’s clubs are 0-3 in La Belle Province during his tenure, including a 17-13 loss on July 16 of this year.
The Alouettes also snapped Hamilton’s 10-game home winning streak with a three-point victory at Tim Hortons Field in August. But for all of Montreal’s regular season success, the Ticats have eliminated them from the post-season in each of the last two seasons and three of the last four.
“We beat them in the playoffs every time and so they they always get up to play us,” said linebacker Simoni Lawrence. “They have to run their mouths – they’re a 5-9 football team. They have to find a way to get themselves motivated.”
Without some wins, the Alouettes won’t have to worry about the playoffs. With their East Division rivals all but out of reach, Montreal will need to get past another pair of five win teams in B.C. and Winnipeg and cross over into the West.
To help them get there, Alouettes acquired quarterback Kevin Glenn from the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Wednesday and he’ll start despite having just two days of practice. With three starting quarterbacks already on the injured list, Montreal have to hope that Glenn’s 14-years of CFL experience will be enough to accelerate the learning curve.
“It will be hard for him to get everything down but he’s a vet,” Lawrence said. “It’s KG, so there isn’t much free styling: he’s going to do what he does, what’s he’s always done.”
The Ticats also made a deadline deal, acquiring defensive back Mike Edem from the Alouettes. The third-year Canadian was in Montreal on Tuesday as the team installed the defensive game plan they planned to use against Hamilton.
“Montreal isn’t stupid, they know when they traded me that we were going to play them,” said Edem who is expected to play Sunday, largely on special teams. “”Obviously things have been changed.”
In addition to Edem, the Ticats will also see the return of guard Ryan Bomben – another former Alouette – as well as Canadian receiver Andy Fantuz, who has missed nine games with a dislocated elbow.
“He’s a good player, he knows the offence we can move him around,” Austin said of Fantuz. “We have a lot of confidence in his knowledge and ability to get open.”
Fantuz’s return should help offset the loss of veteran American receiver Bakari Grant, who is out with an upper body injury. With Terrence Tolliver still sidelined, look for Junior Collins – who made six catches in three games earlier this season – to step into the starting line up.
One other line up change of note will see Cord Howard making his first start as a Ticat at left tackle for the injured Joel Figueroa. Howard played 12 games with the Blue Bombers in 2014 and made four starts for the Buffalo Bills in 2010.
The Ticats lost in Montreal on July 22 that year, with Glenn – then the Hamilton quarterback – getting pulled in the fourth quarter. Hamilton fell to 1-3 on the season but would rally to make the playoffs.
Speaking of post-season, the Ticats can secure a playoff berth in 2015 with a victory, a fact not lost on Lawrence.
“All you can ask for is a chance to be in the playoffs,” Lawrence said. “This a big game for us.”
In other words, one they usual win against Montreal.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats (9-5) at Montreal Alouettes (5-9)
Percival Molson Stadium
Sunday, Oct. 18
Game time: 1 p.m. EST
TV: TSN Radio: TSN 1150
The storyline for Montreal: The Alouettes traded former Ticat quarterback Kevin Glenn this week as they try and make a last-ditch playoff push. They’re eight points behind division leaders Hamilton and Toronto and six points in arrears of Ottawa for third so securing an East playoff spot seems unlikely. They are, however, tied with Winnipeg and B.C. and can earn a crossover spot in the West by finishing ahead of both those teams.
Key injuries: Rakeem Cato is out with a concussion, joining quarterbacks Jonathon Crompton and Dan LeFevour on the injured list.
Five funky Montreal stats:
1. With Glenn getting the start against Hamilton, the Alouettes will have used nine quarterbacks since Anthony Calvillo played his last game n 2013. They are: Josh Neiswander, Troy Smith, Alex Brink, Dan LeFevour, Brandon Bridge, Jonathon Crompton, Tanner Marsh, Anthony Boone.
2. Glenn is the only CFL player to have been on the roster of eight different clubs in his career, playing for five (he never saw the field with Toronto or Ottawa.) Jason Armstead and Eddie Brown hold the CFL record having played for seven teams each.
3. The Alouettes have made the post-season for 19 consecutive seasons, the longest active streak in the CFL.
4. Montreal has gone 2-4 since general manager Jim Popp fired Tom Higgins and took over the head coaching duties. Popp’s career record is now 19-28.
5. Montreal has 13 kick returns of more than 40 yards this season, tops in the CFL.
The storyline for Hamilton: The Ticats are guaranteed a playoff berth with a win but have their sights set on first place in the East and a first-round bye. Quarterback Jeff Mathews is coming off his best performance since taking over for the injured Zach Collaros, throwing for 385 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Saskatchewan. The stingy Montreal defence will be a tougher test for the rookie pivot, however.
Key injuries and potential roster changes: Canadian receiver Andy Fantuz returns after missing nine contests with a dislocated elbow and guard Ryan Bomben is also back following a five-game absence due to a lower body injury. Newly acquired Canadian defensive back Mike Edem will dress, playing mostly on special teams, while Cord Howard gets his first Ticat start at left tackle for the injured Joel Figueroa. Receiver Junior Collins is in for the injured Bakari Grant. Also off the roster: offensive lineman Landon Rice, Canadian receiver Robin Medeiros and national defensive end Everett Ellefsen.
Five funky Hamilton stats:
1. Hamilton has 31 points on first possessions this season, tied with B.C.’s for tops in the CFL.
2. The Ticats are converting on second down at a 56.3 per cent clip, No. 1 in the league. In short-yardage situations of between one-and-three yards they are at 81 per cent.
3. Hamilton has gone for it on third down just seven times this season, the fewest of any team (Montreal is tops at 25.)
4. The Ticats have scored the most first quarter points in the CFL(145) while allowing the fewest (42.)
5. Hamilton leads the CFL in touchdowns with 50 (Montreal has the fewest with 27.)
TSN play-by-play: Rod Black and Glen Suitor.
Referee: Tom Vallesi.
The weather forecast: Partly sunny, four degrees with a 40 per cent chance of rain and/or snow showers. Winds out of the northwest at 11 km/h.