Preview: Alouettes host Blue Bombers on Saturday night

The Alouettes and Blue Bombers played two exciting games in 2022 and hopefully that trend will continue this year. The Bombers beat the Als at Percival Molson Stadium last August, but Montreal returned the favour the following week at IG Field in Winnipeg.

Reminder: The Alouettes will be wearing their red alternate jersey. You can purchase a jersey of your own on the team store website or you can pick one up at the stadium on game day!

 This will be the first Western Division opponent the Alouettes (2-0) will face this season. The Bombers (2-1) will be playing their second East Division opponent, as they beat the Tiger-Cats in Week 1.

Kickoff: 7pm ET
Watch: TSN, RDS
Listen: TSN 690, 98.5FM

 Changes to the lineup:

Head coach Jason Maas will be forced to make some changes heading into Saturday night’s contest.

On offence, the Als will be without receiver Keshunn Abram, who has been placed on the six-game injured list with a knee injury. Left guard Pier-Olivier Lestage, who is dealing with a back injury, will also be forced to sit out on Saturday night.

A pair of Canadian veterans will take their place in the lineup, as Jake Harty will start for Abram, while Phil Gagnon will be in for Lestage.

The defence, which has yet to allow a touchdown this season, will look different, too. Ciante Evans, who has a team-high three interceptions through two games, won’t play because of a leg injury. Veteran Najee Murray, who has been starting at strong-side linebacker this season, could move back into the secondary. If Murray replaces Evans, look for J.R. Reed to make his CFL start while replacing Murray at SAM linebacker.

Rookie middle linebacker Bryce Notree will also be making his first start, as he’ll replace Avery Williams.

“He’s an athletic linebacker,” Maas said of Notree. “He flies around. Since he’s been in camp with us, he’s learned our defence, been a leader on our defence behind Avery. The way he runs and the way he tackles, he has some amazing abilities when it comes to dropping as a linebacker, tackling…He has good range for a linebacker.”

Explosive plays:

Through two games, the Alouettes offence has created quite a few explosive plays. They are tied for second in the league in completions of 30 yards or more. Winnipeg (7) and Calgary (6) have both played three games, while the Als have only played in two games. The fact that they’re in conversation with two teams that have played one more game than them is impressive.

A lot of that success has to do with starting quarterback Cody Fajardo’s play. The 31-year-old leads the CFL in completion percentage (73.3 percent) and the Als offence is first in average gain per pass attempt (12.3 yards per play).

“He’s been consistent,” Maas said of Fajardo. “You’re seeing a guy who is happy to be in his shoes in the building every day working with these guys. He’s a hard worker and he puts a lot of time and effort into his craft.”

Defence helps the offence:

Through two games, the defence has scored one touchdown and they haven’t allowed their opponent to get into the end zone.

Heading into this game, opponents are completing just 53.7 percent of their passes against the Als defence, which is tops in the CFL. Defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe’s defence has also contributed to the Alouettes’ league-best plus-8 turnover ratio. Just three weeks into the season, the Als are already four turnovers ahead of Toronto and B.C., who are second at plus-4.

When the defence is as dominant as Montreal’s has been, it helps the offence execute their game plan.

“What it does is that it allows you to go through your game plan how you want to,” Maas, who is the offensive play-caller for the Als said. “It’s kind of like playing even football at the beginning of the game, when you have a plan set out and you can just stay on course. It allows you to call, not whatever you want, it’s planned that way, but if you want to be conservative, you can be conservative. If you want to be aggressive, you can be aggressive. It puts everything on the table at any point.”

The Blue Bombers:

The Blue Bombers are coming off a 30-6 loss at home against the B.C. Lions. They’ll head into Percival Molson Stadium with a 2-1 record looking to show the rest of the league that last week’s defeat was just a blip on the radar.

“Over the years, they have been super consistent,” Maas said of the Bombers. “They’re a veteran-laden team. Whatever they showed last week, I know they’ve improved. We’re expecting the best Bombers team to play us. Every team has strengths and weaknesses, but the bottom line is you have to go out there and play for 60 minutes to beat them. That’s what our focus has been this week.”