Alouettes search for stability at quarterback, hope rookie Cato is their man

Alouettes search for stability at quarterback, hope rookie Cato is their man

BROSSARD, Que. — It was a day to forget for the Montreal Alouettes except for one wild, heads−up play by quarterback Rakeem Cato.

While trying to lead the Alouettes back in a game they eventually lost 33−21 in Regina on Sunday, Cato had a pass tipped into the hand of Saskatchewan lineman John Chick. But Cato grabbed the ball from Chick’s hands and turned what began as a turnover into a big gain.

“As he was running it wasn’t tucked all the way in,” Cato recalled Tuesday. “It was hanging out like a loaf of bread. So I just pulled it and turned around. I think that was the best play in my career.”

Alouettes coach Jim Popp hopes Cato has a lot of big plays in him over the last six games of the CFL regular season, because the rookie from Marshall University is likely to see a lot of action.

He will start Thursday night against the Redblacks in Ottawa.

Jonathan Crompton is likely to miss the game after suffering injuries to his shoulder and non−throwing hand in the loss to the Roughriders. Cato subbed in for the ineffective Crompton at halftime and put up most of Montreal’s yards and points, although much of that was in the fourth quarter when the Saskatchewan defence backed off somewhat while protecting a big lead.

“I thought I did some good things out there,” said Cato, who completed 14 of 21 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown, but threw two interceptions. “I still have to minimize my turnovers, but I saw everything good. I thought I brought enough energy to bring us back in the ball game.”

Quarterbacking has been a nightmare for Montreal this season.

In the regular−season opener against Ottawa, both Crompton and veteran backup Dan LeFevour suffered significant injuries. Cato started the next eight games, going 4−4, but then needed two games off to attend to a family emergency.

Tanner Marsh got a start and threw five picks. Crompton returned and looked decent for one game, but then hit a wall against Saskatchewan, who has the CFL’s worst defence.

Popp just wants one quarterback who can play each game and get the job done. And he believes that is the versatile Cato.

“We can’t be rotating quarterbacks every week,” said Popp. “That’s happened because of injuries. Hopefully we can maintain someone there and get into a full package. We’ve had trouble there. We went eight straight weeks with the same starting quarterback until we had injuries and situations come up. There was a change of co−ordinator. Hopefully, Rakeem is there the rest of the season.”

The Alouettes (5−7) have lost both meetings with Ottawa (7−5) this season, with Cato passing for 303 yards in a 26−23 loss on Aug. 7.

The hope is that as new offensive co−ordinators Anthony Calvillo and Ryan Dinwiddie settle into their jobs, they and Cato will grow together into a more complex and effective offence.

Last week was a writeoff, as the offence was plagued by turnovers and penalties and the usually dependable defence was run ragged and gave up 30 points for the first time this season. The Riders rushed for 171 yards, including 111 by ex−Alouette Jerome Messam.

The Alouettes had time for only one full practice before facing the Redblacks.

“I’m used to it,” veteran receiver Nik Lewis said of the short turnaround. “The main thing is getting mentally focused and know what your assignments are. Study the playbook and make sure everything is on point. Other than that, it’s about playing football. When you lose, you’re ready to play again the next day.”

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

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