MONTREAL — The battle at the CFL summit between the Montreal Alouettes and Saskatchewan Roughriders features the league’s two most dangerous quarterbacks — but one of them may not be running at full speed when the teams face off tonight.
’Riders quarterback Darian Durant said Thursday he was “a little out of it” due to a mystery stomach virus he’s been battling for about three weeks. But he remains confident he will be at his post for kickoff.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” Durant said at the team hotel. “It’s just rest and fluids. I really don’t want to put anything else in my body that may not give me all the strength that I need. So I’ll wait until after the game to get all the meds in that the doctors prescribed.”
Durant, who sits second in the league to Montreal’s Anthony Calvillo in passing yards, spent the better part of Tuesday in hospital running tests to determine what has been ailing him. He said Thursday afternoon that he had one meal over the previous two days, and that he’d lost six or seven pounds over the past week and a half.
But Durant said if he is in the starting lineup Friday, there will be no excuses due to his sickness.
“As long as I’m on that field, I’ll be at 100 per cent,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to jeopardize the team and put us in a bad situation.”
The game will be a re-match of the Canada Day classic between these two teams, where Saskatchewan erased a 21-point third-quarter deficit to win 54-51 in double overtime.
It was the third-highest scoring game in league history and both offences have barely slowed down since, with the Alouettes (4-1) averaging better than 39 points per game over their last four and the Riders (4-1) countering with a 29.5-point average over the same span.
Unfortunately for Saskatchewan, the defence has also maintained the rhythm set in Week 1, sitting dead last in the league against the pass.
“It’s important for our defence to play well and play better than we’ve been playing,” said Riders head coach Ken Miller. “Against a quality opponent and a quality offence, it’s very important we play well.”
The Montreal defence, on the other hand, has returned to its dominant form from last season, allowing the second-fewest points in the league and averaging fewer than 15 points against over the team’s four-game win streak. Now the defence has a chance to make up for what it feels was an anomaly in that Week 1 shootout.
“As a team, and especially as a defence, this is a game that will help us establish where we really are,” said veteran defensive end Anwar Stewart. “We want to go out and dominate these guys.”
Stewart’s bookend on the defensive line, John Bowman, put no stock in the fact this game pits two of the league’s three four-win teams against each other.
“Everybody wants to beat the Alouettes, we’re like the Yankees of the CFL,” said Bowman, a unanimous selection as the CFL’s defensive player of the month for July. “Everybody marks this game on their calendars, and we know that. Every game is going to be like a Grey Cup to them, and we need to match that intensity.”
Note: The Alouettes and Roughriders will be playing in retro uniforms from the 1970’s, and Montreal head coach Marc Trestman applauded the league’s initiative to institute these throwback games into the schedule. “It does give people the opportunity to reference the past, and how people who played earlier in the league worked to the development of the league,” Trestman said. “It’s an exciting thing.”