The Montreal Alouettes know it wasn’t their best game, but in the end, the only thing that mattered was a 40-33 win over the Ottawa Redblacks on Thursday night.
This victory allowed the Alouettes (2-4-0) to approach the Toronto Argonauts for first place in the Eastern Division, while the Rouge et Noir (0-6-0) are still looking for their first victoire.
“Everyone did their job when it mattered,” said Montreal’s WR Hergy Mayala. “Good defence, good job for my teammates, everyone continued to be aggressive.”
Last week, the Alouettes blew a lead in a one-point loss to Edmonton. They allowed the Rougenoirs to come back in this match several times, but they finally managed to hold them back.
“We just tried to stick together as a team,” said DL Mike Moore. “We felt like we weren’t together last week, but it was the week we knew we had to come together and stay strong.”
Trevor Harris finished the night with 25 for 31 for 341 yards and two touchdowns for the Alouettes, while Dominique Davis was solid from close range collecting three touchdowns.
Caleb Evans, making his second straight start for Ottawa, was 25 for 40 for 297 yards with one pass and two rushing touchdowns.
Rouge et Noir veteran Antoine Pruneau admitted that this team was frustrated with the way things went.
“It doesn’t matter if you lose by 20, by 6 or by 42, everyone is sick of losing,” Pruneau said. “Things have to change. We can think of every little detail and how you can do it differently, but football is an attitude. We have to find a winning attitude and we have to believe that we can win these games.
When asked if he believed this team could win games, Pruneau said he thought this team could hold their own against anyone, but sometimes he seemed to question himself and everything the world needed to play with more confidence.
Trailing 40-33 with less than a minute remaining, the Redblacks managed to take possession of the pitch, but penalties and criticism continued to drive the ball forward. Evans threw a perfect pass through the hands of Darvin Adams in 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,” Ottawa coach Paul LaPolice said.
LaPolice wouldn’t blame Adams. The team failed to take advantage of it when needed. There was a missed field goal early in the game, there was another loose ball in the end zone, and defensively Ottawa gave up some big plays that made all the difference.
A 37-yard field goal from Lewis Ward brought Ottawa within a point in the opening minutes of the second half, but Montreal came right back and drove deep into the territory. Ottawa and Davis hit their second touchdown of the game to make it 25-17.
Ottawa got some life when Chandler Worthy missed a punt return and was forced to concede a safety as Pruneau tackled him in the end zone, putting Ottawa within six, 25-19.
The Redblacks fed off the energy of the 21,537 in hand at TD Place and marched down the pitch and capped the drive with Evans hitting in a one-yard TD. With the convert, the Redblacks were able to take a 26-25 lead.
But Montreal continued to find a response and raced down the field with Davis striking in his third TD of the game to make it 33-26. A fumble from Nate Behar allowed Montreal to run the ball to the three-yard line and two plays later made it 40-26.
Ottawa managed to find their way back into the red zone with just over two minutes to go and Evans scored from the one-yard line to make it 40-33, but it was as close as it gets.
LaPolice admitted it was the toughest part of his career and knows his players feel it too.
“The hardest part about this is making sure these guys come to work, stay focused, don’t blame themselves, don’t blame anyone else, blame themselves,” he said. he declares. “It’s part of the process right now, the players have to come together and come out of it.”
Ottawa started scoring hard on their first drive with Evans shoveling a pass to Adams, who ran in for 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 to give Ottawa an 11-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Montreal got on the board after Harris joined Mayala, who found herself behind cover, and headed the ball to Ottawa’s one-yard line. Davis hit in the TD and a two-run conversion made it 11-8.
A 55-yard run from Antwi propelled the Alouettes deep into Ottawa territory, allowing Harris to find Mayala in the end zone to take a 15-11 lead. A 49-yard field goal gave Montreal an 18-11 lead.
On the last push of the half, Ottawa settled for a 13-yard field goal to make it 18-14.