Home-opener a success for Montreal Alouettes on and off the field

Photo: Montreal Alouettes

Montreal Alouettes season-opening home win over the Ottawa Redblacks wasn’t pretty, but it was a success nonetheless.

While new starting quarterback Cody Fajardo was sacked six times in the 19-12 victory, he and the team rode a big-play offence, a stellar defensive effort, and elite special teams for the win. But it was the success outside the lines that really had fans excited.

The announced crowd of 20,865 was markedly better than last year’s home opener, which attracted under 17,000 spectators. Despite not having a true face of the franchise who connects with the community — including the free agent loss of popular receiver Eugene Lewis — it was a good start to the home slate for Pierre Karl Péladeau’s team.

Many fans told 3DownNation that they hadn’t seen such a raucous atmosphere in quite some time, as the stadium remained loud throughout the contest.

Canadian band Our Lady Peace played a high-energy medley of their hit songs. Select fans were ushered into one of the end zones in front of where the stage was set up. Pyrotechnics and smoke were used throughout the vintage performance. Frontman Raine Maida delighted the fans in attendance by speaking a few words of French in between songs.

The only downside? Concession stand lineups were ridiculously long, souring many fans who missed a substantial amount of the live action while waiting in line.

Game Notes

Despite being advertised as a mobile quarterback, the Alouettes didn’t have any designed run plays for Fajardo as they had in the past for Vernon Adams Jr. Was this simply head coach Jason Maas trying to keep Fajardo healthy and ease him into the season? Possibly, though he took plenty of abuse from opposing defenders as the Alouettes surrendered six sacks on the night.

Rookie receiver Austin Mack was the player of the game for Montreal as he grabbed four balls for 120 yards in his CFL debut. With Tyson Philpot and Greg Ellingson being placed on the six-game injured list ahead of Week 1, Mack will be called upon to be the top deep-threat option in the receiving corps.

If there is such a thing as a perfect game on special teams, this might have been it for the Alouettes. Kicked David Côté connected on all his field goal and covert attempts. Punter Joseph Zema boomed well-placed kicks all evening. Kick coverage was outstanding as Ottawa’s return game was stymied all night. Meanwhile, returners Chandler Worthy and Kaion Julien-Grant were factors in the return game, gifting the Als excellent field position on numerous occasions. Though no kicks were returned for a touchdown, Worthy did have one called back due to an offside penalty.

While he broke out in the waning moments of the game, former all-star running back William Stanback looked fairly pedestrian for most of the night. The 28-year-old lacked the burst and power that made him a dominant presence a few years ago. Do we chalk it up to a shaky performance from the offensive line or is there more to the story? Stanback broke a few tackles late, so perhaps he has something to build on.

Montreal’s defence didn’t give up a touchdown. Nick Arbuckle was picked off three times and simply couldn’t connect consistently enough to put Ottawa in a position to win. He did have several clean dropbacks, but Montreal’s secondary was outstanding.

The Alouettes are off on a bye in Week 2 and will visit the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (0-1) on Friday, June 23 at Tim Hortons Field, while the Redblacks (0-1) will host the Calgary Stampeders (0-1) at TD Place next Thursday.

Matthew Ross has covered sports in Montreal and beyond for over 20 years. He's contributed to outlets such as TSN, MLB.com, the Montreal Gazette, the National Post, and more. His Twitter account is @matthewevolves.