Alouettes are eager to prove their doubters wrong
The Montreal Alouettes go into the 110th Grey Cup on a seven-game win streak, having dispatching league-leading Toronto in convincing fashion in the East Division final.
So, what will it take to topple West champion Winnipeg on Sunday at Tim Hortons Field?
“The mindset coming into this week was: we’ve gotten to this game, but in order to win this game we better be better,” said Montreal head coach Jason Maas. “We have to be at our absolute best to win this game.”
The Alouettes defence rose to the occasion against the Argonauts, forcing nine turnovers in a dominant 38-17 win at BMO Field. The turnovers led to 21 points, easing the load on a Montreal offence that conceded seven sacks.
“When you take the ball away and not only take it away (but) score, they’ve done that better than anybody all year and they’ve consistently done it,” said Maas. “Down the stretch we needed to win games to be in the position we are. And each and every week, they came up big and bigger. And now this is the biggest stage we’ve played on all year.”
The Alouettes — who have a 7-11 Grey Cup record and are back in the championship game for the first time since a 2010 win over Saskatchewan — have played with a chip on their shoulder all season. They were under league control until Quebec entrepreneur Pierre Karl Péladeau bought the team in March. Montreal has found its feet under Maas and quarterback Cody Fajardo, both let go by Saskatchewan after last season.
The Alouettes have been a team on a mission, looking to prove doubters wrong.
“It was easy to write us off in the off-season when you see all those (league) power rankings and all that stuff, and we all get it.” said offensive lineman Philippe Gagnon. “It’s a new owner, new coaching staff, new all that stuff. But I think we were able to show that we’re for real.”
Said veteran defensive lineman Shawn Lemon: “It’s an underdog mentality. We embrace it, we enjoy it.”
Fajardo mentioned some bulletin-board material.
“It’s no secret that a lot of media had us (finishing eighth or ninth overall) and didn’t really expect much from us,” said Fajardo. “In that locker room, I think it brought us closer together.”
It took time to jell, however. The Alouettes slumped to 6-7-0 in mid-September before their winning run. It helped that the Montreal defence is downright nasty.
“They’re a frigging powerhouse,” said Gagnon. “It’s fun to watch. Fun to practise against, too, because it makes you better.”
“This is the best defence I’ve ever played on,” added Lemon, who had played for six CFL teams before joined the Alouettes in late July.
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