The Montreal Alouettes know it wasn’t their best game – but in the end, the only thing that mattered was the 40-33 win over the Ottawa Redblacks on Thursday night.
The victory allowed the Alouettes (2-4-0) to move into a tie with the Toronto Argonauts for first in the East Division, while the Redblacks (0-6-0) are still looking for their first win.
“Everyone did their job when it mattered,” said Montreal WR Hergy Mayala. “Good job defence, good job to my teammates, everyone just kept on being aggressive.”
Last week the Alouettes gave up a lead in a one-point loss to Edmonton. They allowed the Redblacks to get back into this game numerous times, but in the end they were able to hold them off.
“We just tried to stick together as a team,” said DL Mike Moore. “We felt like we weren’t together last week, but this was the week we knew we had to come together and stay strong.”
Trevor Harris finished the night 25 for 31 for 341 yards and two touchdowns for the Alouettes, while Dominique Davis was solid in short yardage picking up three touchdowns.
Caleb Evans, making his second straight start for Ottawa, was 25 for 40 for 297 yards with one passing and two rushing touchdowns.
Redblacks veteran Antoine Pruneau admitted this team is frustrated with how things have gone.
“It doesn’t matter if you lose by 20, by 6 or by 42 everyone is fed up with losing,” Pruneau said. “Things have to change. We can think about every little detail and how you can do them differently, but football is an attitude. We need to find a winning attitude and we need to believe we can win these games.”
Asked if he believes this team can win games, Pruneau said he feels this team can hold its own against anyone, but seems to be second guessing itself at times and everyone needs to play with more confidence.
Trailing 40-33 with less than a minute remaining, the Redblacks managed to get down field into scoring possession, but penalties and reviews kept moving the ball. Evans threw a perfect pass into the hands of Darvin Adams into the end zone, but he dropped it and in the end the Redblacks just couldn’t complete the comeback.
“We didn’t make enough plays to win the football game,” said Ottawa coach Paul LaPolice.
LaPolice wouldn’t place the blame on Adams. The team failed to take advantage when it needed to. There was a missed field goal early in the game, there was another dropped ball in the end zone and defensively Ottawa gave up a couple big plays that made all the difference.
A 37-yard field goal by Lewis Ward allowed Ottawa to get within one in the opening minutes of the second half, but Montreal came right back and got deep in Ottawa territory and Davis punched in his second TD of the game to make it 25-17.
Ottawa got some life when Chandler Worthy bobbled a punt return and was forced to concede a safety as Pruneau tackled him in the end zone bringing Ottawa within six, 25-19.
The Redblacks fed off the energy of the 21, 537 on hand at TD Place and marched their way down field and capped the drive with Evans punching in a one-yard TD. With the convert the Redblacks were able to take a 26-25 lead.
But Montreal continued to find an answer, and drove down the field with Davis punching in his third TD of the game making it 33-26. A Nate Behar fumble allowed Montreal to run the ball down to the three-yard line and two plays later made it 40-26.
Ottawa managed to find their way back into the redzone with just over two minutes remaining and Evans scored from the one-yard line to make it 40-33, but that was as close as they would get.
LaPolice admitted this is the hardest stretch of his career and knows his players are feeling it as well.
“The hardest part about this is making sure these guys come to work, stay focused, don’t blame each other, don’t blame somebody else, blame themselves,” he said. “That’s part of the process right now, players need to get together and come out of it.”
Ottawa started off strong scoring on its first drive with Evans shovelling a pass to Adams, who ran in a 15-yard touchdown and took a 7-0 lead.
Ward missed a 40-yard field goal and had to settle for a single, but then scored from 15 yards giving Ottawa an 11-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Montreal got on the board after Harris connected with Mayala, who got behind the coverage, and ran the ball to Ottawa’s one-yard line. Davis punched in the TD and a two point-conversion made it 11-8.
A 55-yard run by Antwi put the Alouettes deep in Ottawa territory that finished with Harris finding Mayala in the end zone to take a 15-11 lead. A 49-yard field goal gave Montreal an 18-11 lead.
On the final drive of the half, Ottawa settled for a 13-yard field goal to make it 18-14.