MONTREAL — Two potentially vulnerable teams clash Friday when the Calgary Stampeders visit the Montreal Alouettes.
The Alouettes are coming off a woeful 19-11 loss at home to Winnipeg last week that raised questions on whether the team is in sync with its new coaching staff.
Calgary blew a second-half lead to lose 36-21 to Saskatchewan last week and lost starting quarterback Drew Tate and a few players on defence to injury, making Kevin Glenn the starter against Montreal.
Both 1-1 teams will be looking to bounce back when they meet at Percival Molson Stadium.
The Alouettes hoped they got things sorted out in team meetings.
“We sat down, everybody talked and got everything off their chest,” running back Brandon Whitaker said Thursday. “As professionals, we have to put out a better performance.
“The defence had a great game but we just didn’t come out to play. We take that to heart.”
Quarterback Anthony Calvillo had the look of a man trying to quell a rebellion this week, saying the new coaching staff was not at fault and that the players have to buy into their system and perform up to expectations.
The offence looked lost against the Bombers, managing only nine first downs in the game. Calvillo was sacked seven times.
That raised debate on his relationship with new coach Dan Hawkins and offensive co-ordinator Mike Miller after five years playing under quarterback guru Marc Trestman. Calvillo has always sat by himself on the bench between drives, but that suddenly has become an issue.
So have his frequent visible signs of exasperation at sacks, broken plays and missed passes.
“Now things are getting more emphasized,” said Calvillo. “The new coaching staff might not be used to it and I’m going to adjust to that because I know how important my body demeanour is to our team.
“When they see me frustrated, especially with the way things have been going, it’s going to bring them down. So it’s been talked about and it’s something I’ll continue to work on.”
On Thursday, he reiterated that it is a question of performance and not of confidence in the coaching staff.
“I would never go on the field if there were questions about a game plan,” he said.
“What it comes down to now is us executing the game plan.
“There’s a lot of confidence in our offence and now it’s up to us to go out and carry it onto the field. The biggest thing for us is that we have to believe we can get the job done. When you go into a game without any confidence, you’re defeated.”
It would take a massive turnaround from last week’s effort, but the Stampeder defence isn’t counting out Calvillo or the Montreal offence, which has, in recent years, been among the CFL’s best.
Calgary has defensive questions of its own, defensive backs Keenan MacDougall (groin), Jamar Wall (ankle) and Derrius Brooks (ankle) and lineman Ben d’Aguilar (knee) all out. Quincy Butler, Keon Raymond, Yannick Carter and Kevin Huntley will dress.
Raymond will see his first action this season.
“They (the Alouettes) have a lot of veteran guys there and I’m pretty sure they’re going to rebound and play hard,” he said. “Their coaching staff is trying to get used to the league and it’s a big difference, but they have veteran guys like Anthony Calvillo trying to put their imprint on things.
“I seriously doubt them coming out and misfiring again.”
The Stampeders are probably the best equipped team in the league to deal with an injury to their starting quarterback. Glenn played most of last season with Tate out and went 9-5, and replaced him again for Calgary’s run to the Grey Cup game.
“He’s probably the best backup in the CFL,” said Montreal rush end John Bowman. “He brings experience, knowledge of the game and he reads situations good.
“I’m glad we get him off a short week and he probably wasn’t prepared to start, but he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league.”
Coach John Hufnagel is less concerned about his quarterback than about getting the running game going. And he wants the defence to do a better job of stopping the running and short passing games.
And to get to the quarterback more, which may be achievable with Calvillo absorbing 12 sacks in the first two games.
“They had their problems last week but guess what? The Calgary Stampeders had some problems last week also,” he said.
Montreal is missing guard Andrew Woodruff, who will be replaced by American Michael Ola. Off-season signing Jerome Messam is to make his Alouettes debut.
Calgary offensive lineman Dan Federkeil did not make the trip due to an illness.
And Canadian quarterback prospect Brad Sinopoli will be in the lineup as a receiver.
The Stampeders were scheduled to have their day-before-a-game walkthrough at the stadium, but were informed Thursday morning they couldn’t because of an insurance issue. Instead, they went through their plays in a hotel ballroom.
“I make the schedule a week in advance and hopefully there are no glitches, but you have to adjust,” said Hufnagel, doing his best to laugh it off.