Alouettes defence looks to bounce back in first meeting this season with Argos

Alouettes defence looks to bounce back in first meeting this season with Argos

MONTREAL — Good defence was one thing the Montreal Alouettes felt they could count on this season, but even that has been taking heat lately.

After giving up fewer than 30 points through the first 11 games of the CFL season, the Alouettes have surrendered 33 and 39 in their last two outings, although they were road games only five days apart.

And they face another stiff test Monday afternoon when Trevor Harris and the Toronto Argonauts (8-5) visit Percival Molson Stadium.

“They’ve been the heartbeat of our team the last three years,” Alouettes coach and general manager Jim Popp said of his defence. “They’ve put us in position to have chances to win games.

“Sometimes you go through a bad spell. We had two road games in a week’s time and we didn’t play our best. Now we look to bounce back.”

The Alouettes (5-8) looked to be bouncing back after Popp replaced Tom Higgins as head coach, but their last two outings were a disaster. It started with a 33-21 loss in Regina, when the Roughriders were 1-13. Then they were mauled by the Redblacks, as Henry Burris passed for 504 yards in a 39-17 Ottawa victory.

They’ve had a bye week to try to regroup and will be facing an Argonaut team on a short week after a last-minute 38-35 win in Ottawa on Tuesday night.

It is the first meeting of the season between the Argos and Alouettes, who also play Oct. 23.

The Alouettes need to start winning again or they risk missing the playoffs for the first time since they returned to Montreal in 1996 after a 10-year hiatus.

They are three wins behind the other three East Division clubs. They can still cross over to the West Division playoffs if they stay ahead of Winnipeg, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

“It’s just that we’re running out of games and we need to win,” said Popp. “You’ve got to take care of your own business. We can’t depend on anybody.

“To get back in our race would take other teams to not win. We’ve got divisional opponents coming up. If we can win one game at a time we’d be back in it. And the crossover will take care of itself if we keep winning.”

The Alouettes have struggled to move the ball with rookie Rakeem Cato at quarterback and, if he stalls against Toronto, third stringer Anthony Boone may see some action and become their sixth pivot to play this season.

Their five wins came largely from their defence, but injuries have crept in. Against Ottawa, they were without their starting middle linebacker and a cornerback, then lost the other cornerback, Jonathan Hefney, to season-ending shoulder and arm injuries.

Montreal signed former East all-star linebacker Henoc Muamba, who has had a week and a half to prepare for his Alouettes debut.

“The important thing is to win,” said linebacker Kyries Hebert. “We went all those games without getting 30 scored on us but we didn’t win all of them.”

Toronto will be a test. Against Ottawa, Harris threw touchdown passes to five different receivers, including a TD toss to Chad Owens to secure the win.

Argos coach Scott Milanovich isn’t taking Montreal lightly either.

“I’m not thrilled we’re getting them coming off a loss and they’re on a bye week,” he said. “Most teams respond well when they’re coming off a loss.”

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

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