There’s no quarterback controversy in Montreal, at least not this week.
Veteran Trevor Harris will start Thursday night when Montreal hosts the Saskatchewan Roughriders in its home opener. Incumbent Vernon Adams Jr., who Harris replaced in the first half of last week’s 20-19 road loss to the Toronto Argonauts, had a positive COVID-19 test and won’t dress.
Harris was 18-of-30 passing for 270 yards with an interception versus Toronto while rushing three times for 20 yards. Harris drove the Alouettes 63 yards on 10 plays – including a clutch 25-yard completion to Eugene Lewis on a third-and-10 gamble – but David Cote missed a 21-yard field goal with 11 seconds remaining.
However, it’s been that kind of start for Montreal (0-2), which opened with a 30-27 defeat in Calgary despite taking a 24-10 halftime advantage. The Alouettes also lost running back William Stanback, last year’s CFL rushing leader, to an ankle injury that required surgery.
Receivers Eugene Lewis and Reggie White Jr., though, continue to shine. Lewis has surpassed the 100-yard mark in both of Montreal’s games and has 11 receptions for a league-high 239 yards (21.7-yard average) while White Jr. has 10 catches for 134 yards.
And Jeshrun Antwi stands second in CFL rushing with 127 yards on 15 carries (8.5-yard average). But none of the three has scored a touchdown thus far.
Saskatchewan (2-0) certainly presents a solid challenge for the Alouettes.
The Riders’ defence is first in the CFL in sacks (13), fumbles recovered (four) and forced turnovers (10) and tied for first in fewest offensive points allowed (14.5 a game). Ten different players have registered sacks while Montreal has allowed six sacks through two games.
Saskatchewan’s offence is second overall in both time of possession (33 minutes, 32 seconds) and rushing (129.5 yards a game).
Quarterback Cody Fajardo has completed 42-of-58 passes (72.4 per cent) for 558 yards with two TDs and no interceptions while Jamal Morrow has run for a CFL-best 140 yards on 26 carries (5.4-yard average) and a touchdown. Shaq Evans is the club’s top receiver with nine catches for 173 yards (19.2-yard average).
However, the Riders had to outscore Edmonton 14-3 in the fourth quarter last week to secure the 26-16 road victory. Morrow had 126 yards rushing and a touchdown as Saskatchewan ran for 184 yards overall against the Elks.
Harris and Co. must not only be clean against the Riders’ defence but also not be forced to play catchup. So Montreal will have to get Saskatchewan’s offence off the field and not allow it to control the clock.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats versus Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Friday night)
At Winnipeg, the defending Grey Cup champs are unbeaten thanks in large part to a defence that allowed a combined 29 points in two season-opening wins over Ottawa. Since 2015, the Bombers (2-0) are 31-2 when holding opponents to less than 20 points. Starter Zach Collaros has thrown for 416 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception through two games. Hamilton (0-2) is coming off a 33-30 overtime loss to Calgary after surrendering a 24-point, first-half advantage. Starter Dane Evans had a career-high 36 completions.
Edmonton Elks versus Calgary Stampeders (Saturday night)
At Calgary, Nick Arbuckle will make his third straight start for Edmonton (0-2) but the first against the team he began his CFL career with (2018-19). Elks receiver Kenny Lawler had 12 catches for 149 yards versus Saskatchewan. Veteran Bo Levi Mitchell will play in his 150th career CFL game with the Stampeders (2-0). Mitchell has an 86-22-2 regular-season record as a starter and registered more career wins over Edmonton than any other opponent (13-4). Kicker René Paredes has made 26 straight field goals, dating back to last year.
Toronto Argonauts versus B.C. Lions (Saturday night)
At Vancouver, the Lions (1-0) return after their season-opening 59-15 home win June 11 over Edmonton. Victoria’s Nathan Rourke makes his fourth career start and with a win would become just the second Canadian starting quarterback to begin his career with a 3-1 record. Receiver Bryan Burnham looks to extend his streak of consecutive games with a catch to 98. Toronto (1-0) returns to B.C. for the first time since ‘19 and has dropped two straight there after four consecutive victories. Before that, the Argos were 0-11 on the west coach (2003-13).
Last week: 4-0
Overall record: 8-0