After win in Hamilton, two in a row is no coincidence for Montreal Alouettes

Photo courtesy: Montreal Alouettes

Last. Second to last. Bottom tier. These were the types of predictions that most CFL experts made for the Montreal Alouettes 2023 season.

That analysis was not without reason. The Alouettes had a new head coach, lost many veterans, and were facing key receiver injuries to start the season. Yet, Montreal is now a perfect 2-0 after a convincing 38-12 win in Hamilton over the Tiger-Cats. Granted, they were facing backup quarterback Matthew Shiltz, following the loss of Bo Levi Mitchell to the six-game injured list, but the Als still dominated in all three phases. 

Building on a turnover-free Week 1, Alouettes’ quarterback Cody Fajardo threw two more touchdowns and ran one in to pace the win. Meanwhile, Austin Mack continues to shine in the absence of other injured receivers. The Ohio State product caught two touchdowns and was once again a major factor in his second career CFL game. 

When you add in a perfect David Cote kicking performance, strong punting from Joseph Zema, and a punt return touchdown from Chandler Worthy, head coach Jason Maas has got to be beaming from ear to ear right now. In fact, this might be the best two-game stretch of special teams play for this franchise since it returned to Montreal in 1996. Even their kick coverage has been outstanding. 

Similar to their first win earlier this month over Ottawa, Montreal’s defence didn’t give up a touchdown and caused multiple turnovers, continually putting the offence in good field position. Free agent signing Ciante Evans picked up his third interception in two games, while fellow newcomer Mustafa Johnson posted two sacks. It’s a recipe that has led to the first 2-0 start for the franchise since 2011.

How much of this is the inferior competition that comes with facing two backup quarterbacks, and how much of it is simply a strong team coming together? It’s way too early to tell. But general manager Danny Maciocia definitely deserves some credit. The talent assembled on the field has been obvious. His choice of head coach and starting quarterback has been solid. The distraction of losing big names in the offseason appears to be a distant memory. 

Even more encouraging for Montreal is that there is still plenty of room to grow. While running back William Stanback has been steady, he hasn’t had a breakout game thus far. Despite throwing for multiple touchdowns in back-to-back games, Cody Fajardo continues to absorb a lot of punishment and the offensive line can definitely be better. Plus, Montreal will get the impressive receiving trio of Greg Ellingson, Reggie White Jr. and Tyson Philpot back at some point. 

The Alouettes are next in action at home versus the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Canada Day. It’ll be an interesting battle, as Winnipeg is coming off a very disappointing result versus B.C. 

TV NOTE: I’m not sure what was going on with TSN’s play-by-play television crew, but Marshall Ferguson and Duane Ford had an off night, to say the least.

Ferguson seemed to struggle with conveying some of the more exciting moments of the night. The Worthy punt return call was mundane, to put it kindly. For his part, Forde seemed to be on auto-pilot, almost whispering at times. Indeed, it felt like you were watching a golf event.

I don’t know if they were feeding off the disappointed crowd or not, but the broadcasting duo certainly didn’t help viewers enjoy this tilt. 

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.