MONTREAL — Darian Durant is hoping for a break-out game for the Montreal Alouettes.
The 34-year-old quarterback has had some promising moments in his first two games, which the Alouettes split, but the statistics are lagging and Montreal is second to last in the nine-team CFL with an average of only 18 points scored per game. Their defence, which has allowed a league-low 39 points, has kept them in both of their games so far.
Durant hopes the attack gets on track when the Alouettes play host to the B.C. Lions (1-1) on Thursday night at Percival Molson Stadium.
“We’re very close,” said the former Saskatchewan stalwart who was Montreal’s top off-season acquisition. “When we watched the film (of a 23-19 loss in Edmonton last week), we saw how many yards we left on the field, whether from penalties or mental errors or you name it.
“This week has been all about execution, making sure we’re in the right places and execute. How you hurt yourself is if you get down to the red zone and you can’t score. Then you’re setting yourself up for disaster.”
It was expected that the Alouettes offence would take time to gel under a new quarterback and a rebuilt offensive line and that is what has happened. Durant has passed for only 399 yards and the team ranks near the bottom in most offensive statistics, except rushing, where B.C. led by Jeremiah Johnson is first with 227 yards and Montreal, with Tyrell Sutton lugging the ball, is second with 205.
Now Durant will go up against a B.C. defence that stuffed Toronto’s Ricky Ray in a 28-15 win last Friday, a week after Ray threw for more than 500 yards against Hamilton.
Montreal coach Jacques Chapdelaine, a former Lions offensive co-ordinator, gave much of the credit for that to B.C. coach Wally Buono and defensive co-ordinator Mark Washington.
“One thing they will do is come up with something specific to counter whatever you do offensively,” said Chapdelaine. “Against Toronto, they basically tripled (receiver) S.J. Green and they did a good job of it.
“They played a different kind of man coverage against Toronto than they did against (Edmonton). They’ve got to face Darian Durant and he’s a different quarterback than Ricky is. And we also put more emphasis on the run game, so that will fall into the equation.”
One positive is that Montreal has yet to allow a sack. It is the first time a CFL team has opened a season without giving up a sack in its first two games since Hamilton in 2001. The Tiger-Cats didn’t concede a sack in their first four games in 2000.
“We’re just playing well together,” said veteran tackle Jovan Olafioye. ”We gelled well in camp and Durant is helping us too by getting the ball out and avoiding sacks, so he’s making us look good. We want to give up no sacks for the whole season.”
Buono, who had his team practice in Kingston, Ont., this week rather than return to Vancouver with only six days between games, was not concerned with sacking Durant.
“I’m not big into sacks,” he told his team’s website. “I’m into affecting the quarterback, whether it’s knocking balls down or putting pressure on him.
“How you affect the quarterback has a bigger say in a game than the number of sacks.”
It will be a first game against B.C. for Olafioye and defensive back Ryan Philips, two more of Montreal’s top acquisitions. Jabar Westerman, Seydou Haidara, Stefan Logan and Ernest Jackson are other former Lions.
“It’s just another game for us,” said Olafioye. “There’s more emphasis because we all came from there, but we’re just excited to get this win.”
The Alouettes put cornerback Jonathon Mincy, injured late in the Edmonton game, on the six-game injured list with a concussion. His spot is to be taken by Donald Unamba.
They also released Jacob Ruby, a starter last season who lost his job when Montreal opted to go with two import offensive tackles.