Alouettes ready for physical challenge against undefeated Blue Bombers

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MONTREAL — The Montreal Alouettes will attempt Thursday night what six other CFL teams have failed to do -- hand the Winnipeg Blue Bombers their first loss of the season.

The two-time reigning Grey Cup champions Bombers, off to an 8-0 start for the first time since 1960, arrive in Montreal with a 5-0 road record and with as many wins as all the teams in the East Division combined.

To make the going even rougher for the Alouettes, Montreal (2-5) will head to Winnipeg for the second of back-to-back games against the Bombers in Week 10.

Facing a David against Goliath situation, Alouettes quarterback Trevor Harris kept zeroed in on his team’s situation.

“We've just got to get win No. 3,” Harris said. “Obviously, Winnipeg is a tremendous team, we know that. They’ve beaten everybody this year. But for me, I don’t see us as a team that throws out Hail Marys to win in every game.

“It’s about us fine-tuning the details. I believe in the guys in this locker room and I think we can get a win every other week in the CFL, just like any other team can. There’s a lot of parity in this league.”

The Alouettes will play their fourth game with general manager Danny Maciocia as head coach and Noel Thorpe as defensive co-ordinator, who took over after head coach Khari Jones and DC Barron Miles were fired during Montreal's Week 4 bye.

“Noel Thorpe defences are going to play hard,” said Bombers offensive co-ordinator Buck Pierce. “They're going to be physical; they're going to want to get after the quarterback. They pride themselves on their physicality up front.

“Like I told the guys (on Tuesday) getting out there, be ready to play one of our most physical games of the season.”

The Alouettes may have a lowly record, but Maciocia expects his team welcome the Bombers to their home turf with physicality.

“To win football games, you have to be physical,” he said. “You're going to have to win the battle of the line of scrimmage whether it's on the offensive line or defensive. Like I always say, ‘Games are won on the line of scrimmage.’

Linebacker Chris Ackie will return to the roster, adding to Montreal’s defensive corps. The Alouettes activated him from the six-week injury list on Aug. 1 following an ankle injury.

He said that the defensive team needed to adapt in the last few weeks and is thrilled to be a part of it.

“I’m excited to be back,” Ackie said. “I was tired of watching, tired of rehabbing for a pretty serious ankle injury. I’m happy to help the defence in any way I can.

"We're a good team, the talent’s there. I noticed over the last few weeks that we were more physical on defense."

Maciocia wants Ackie and the rest of the Alouettes' defence to put pressure om Winnipeg star quarterback Zach Collaros and force the Bombers into long-game situations by second down.

“Obviously, we need to get to Collaros,” Maciocia said. “We need to disguise certain coverages, get him to hold on to the football, make sure that our front can get there.

“So, put them in situations of second and long. That's when we're going to help our situation and come out on top.”

The Bombers have not had a bye week yet and played five games in the month of July. Their trip to Montreal closes a three-game road stint.

“I think it's all about managing, one, your body. Whether that's in the recovery room, but also still in the weight room,” said receiver Dalton Schoen. The second thing is obviously managing mentally what you're doing. In terms of the game plan, watching all the film you need to get watched throughout the week, talking with Zach and the other receivers and just making sure we're all on the same page.”

Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea didn’t think not having a bye week yet affects his team.

“I think the guys have a great understanding of how to handle a pile of different situations,” O’Shea said. “They've been building this for a number of years, right? So it just kind of rolls along.

“If you don't play your best, somebody's going to beat you no matter what. So, time off, days off, all that stuff doesn't doesn't really enter into a lot of discussion.”

MONTREAL ALOUETTES (2-5) VS. WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (8-0)

Thursday, Percival Molson Stadium

ADAMS OUT: Quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. has been added to the six-game injury list. Adams received two injections for tendonitis and did not throw a ball in practice this week. Maciocia said that Adams “wasn’t comfortable with the ball.”

COLLAROS AND SCHOEN SHINE: Bombers receiver Dalton Schoen and quarterback Zach Collaros were named CFL top performers of the month. The rookie receiver tallied 440 receiving yards and five touchdowns in five games for the month of July. On his end, Collaros threw for 1061 yards and 11 touchdowns.

LESTAGE COMES HOME: The Alouettes will have reinforcements on the line of scrimmage. Offensive lineman Pier-Olivier Lestage signed with the Als on July 31. The 2021 draft pick spent the past NFL season on the Seattle Seahawks practice roster. The Saint-Eustache, Que., native rejoins Maciocia, who was his coach at the Universite de Montreal Carabins.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 3, 2022.

Tristan D’Amours, The Canadian Press

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