MONTREAL – On a night where Montreal will retire Ben Cahoon’s No. 86, the Alouettes will try to channel the former receiver’s offensive prowess and climb out of the CFL’s basement.
Montreal and its league-worst offence play host to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday night at Percival Molson Stadium, where former star slotback Cahoon will be honoured during a halftime ceremony.
Perhaps Cahoon’s presence will be enough to spark the last-place Als (1-3), who are winless since their season opener more than a month ago.
Four games into their season, the Alouettes are dead last in five offensive categories: points, passing yards, touchdowns, turnovers and time of possession.
“You have to give other teams credit, they’re doing things,” said general manager and head coach Jim Popp, who is under intense scrutiny as the club continues to flounder.
“I think we have the same struggles that a lot of teams have. I don’t think it’s any different. Every team’s got their struggles.”
Montreal has been outscored 89-37 on its current three-game losing skid. The team is averaging less than 15 points per game this season.
“It’s not that we’re throwing two deep balls in a row,” added Popp, defending the team’s offensive strategy.
“We’re trying to get five, six, seven yards on first down. And if we don’t succeed, we’re still trying to get five, six, seven yards on second down. It’s just that right now we haven’t capitalized.”
Despite Montreal’s record and mediocre offensive production, Riders head coach Chris Jones refuses to take the Alouettes lightly.
“They challenge you,” Jones told the team’s website. “And they’re very physical. I think we’re the faster team but they definitely bring a lot of physicality. They have a lot of veterans, they have a lot of pride there. They dropped some very close football games. They’re going to be ready to play.”
Jones’ Roughriders (1-3) are not without adversity of their own.
The team’s ground game is the worst in the league. Saskatchewan is the only team without a rushing TD this season.
The Riders’ only win this year came last week against the Ottawa Redblacks on a last-minute field goal. That gave rookie QB Mitchell Gale a win in his very first CFL start.
With starting quarterback Darian Durant out with an ankle injury, the 26-year-old Gale will be back commanding Saskatchewan’s offense for a second straight game on Friday.
“Mitchell has been around football for a long time,” said Jones. “He threw for 12,000 yards and 97 touchdowns in college. He’s a guy who’s been around passing offences for quite some time.
“All I want him to do is be Mitchell. Don’t try to do more than that.”
The youngster will look to take advantage of a Montreal team playing on short rest. The Alouettes are coming off a 30-17 loss against the Toronto Argonauts on Monday.
“I don’t understand how a game could be scheduled this close together,” said Als quarterback Kevin Glenn. “It’s very tough, especially when you’re so conscious of protecting guys. But hey, they do it and we have to go out and play it.”
Montreal kicker Boris Bede will be taking field goals against Saskatchewan, though it’s unclear if he will remain the team’s starter down the road.
Bede missed all three field goals in the Alouettes’ loss earlier this week in Toronto. The 26-year-old has completed just 5-of-12 field goal attempts this season – a league low.
“I don’t want to make a change if we don’t have to,” said Popp. “But we can’t continue in the direction we’re going. There’s too many misses. We’re talking about a guy who was 36-for-40 a year ago. He’s just in a rut. Hopefully he’ll get out of it going into this game.”
At practice on Wednesday, three young kickers vying for Bede’s job were in attendance, auditioning in front of Popp and the rest of the training staff.
“It’s a professional game,” said Bede. “Some decisions have to be made real quickly. And it happens that today is my day. I’m up. I just got to answer the right way.”
Note: Cahoon is the 11th Montreal Alouette to have his number retired.