MONTREAL — For the first time in almost two years, the Montreal Alouettes will finally be snapping a ball in front of their own fans at Percival Molson Stadium when they host the Hamilton Tiger Cats on Friday night.
“I’m sure it’s going to feel really good to be out there after a year off, after 22 months away,” said Alouettes head coach Khari Jones. “We had some great crowds especially towards the end of 2019 and I thought they really enjoyed themselves and helped us.
"There’s 15,000 that can be in the stadium, we’re hoping that we can get every last one of them and we hope they sound like 50,000.”
The Alouettes (1-1) will be facing a Tiger-Cats squad (0-2) with a new quarterback leading the way. Dane Evans will be filling in for Jeremiah Masoli at the starting position.
Head coach Orlondo Steinauer said on Wednesday that the decision was motivated by sore ribs Masoli suffered during Hamilton’s 30-8 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Week 2, and not recent performances.
Evans will be leading a Hamilton team that has struggled offensively since the start of the season. The Tiger-Cats have not recorded more than eight points in a game so far, but Jones expects much more from the team that reached the Grey Cup final in 2019.
"We expect to see the best Hamilton team," Jones said. “Like I told our guys, I feel like the first two games were almost kind of a pre-season for us to get our feet under us. We were able to have a little bit of success at times but still it was rocky. For them, it’s been a little rocky but we expect to see the best Hamilton.”
“We watched footage of both quarterbacks during the week so we’re ready regarding Evans,” added defensive lineman David Menard. “They both have similarities in the way they react and how they move inside the pocket. Masoli does have a bigger tendency to drop back in the pocket and extend the play but we’re ready for both."
Last week, the Alouettes suffered their first loss of the season, dropping a 28-22 decision to the Calgary Stampeders in the final seconds. Lack of discipline and struggles on second down from quarterback Vernon Adams Jr.'s offence cost Montreal a second win in as many games against the Stampeders who were led to victory by Jake Maier in his CFL debut.
Jones said he saw Adams making "a lot of really good decisions" in practice leading up to the game. He wants his quarterback to bounce back in front of home fans and push his team to a 2-1 record by keeping him to his game.
"I’m just expecting the same Vernon that I’ve seen in practice these past three days. He was just really centred, really calm and collected," Jones said. "I think that what you saw in the Calgary game is just him doing a little bit too much. Trying to make every play, make it perfect and (getting) mad at himself when he didn't.
"Hopefully he just goes out there and plays the game the way he knows how to play it."
Adams was eager to leave last Friday’s trip to Alberta behind him and looked forward to the Alouettes’ home opener. Despite throwing for 261 yards and recording two touchdown passes, the former University of Oregon pivot realized that his team expects more of him and that "pressure is a privilege."
"My goal this week was just to get back in the lab and be better overall," Adams said. "Film study, better at practice, better on second down and just being myself. Not being this quiet, serious person, just being myself.
"I just need to complete the ball, get the ball to my playmakers and let them do the rest," he added. "I can go through my reads, trust my training, get them the ball and the football gods will take care of everything else."
MONTREAL ALOUETTES (1-1) VS HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (0-2)
Friday, Percival Molson Stadium
HEALTH UPDATE: Alouettes defensive back Wesley Sutton had been added to the six-game injury list. The 25 year-old underwent surgery for a broken thumb on Thursday and is expected to miss about six weeks.
DAVIS OUT: Tiger-Cats defensive lineman Ja’Gared Davis was ruled ineligible to play due to a breach in CFL COVID-19 protocol. Tiger-Cats head coach Orlondo Steinauer said that Davis' breach was “not an intentional thing” but that it will result in Davis missing Friday’s game.
VACCINE CLINIC: The Alouettes announced Wednesday that a mobile vaccination clinic will be offering first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine outside Percival Molson Stadium from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. ahead of Friday’s home opener.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 26, 2021.
Tristan D’Amours, The Canadian Press