Montreal Alouettes’ offence misfires in one-sided loss to Ottawa

OTTAWA — It might be a new season, but the Alouettes’ offensive troubles continue haunting the team.

Of course, it’s still only the exhibition season, so it really doesn’t matter — for now.

The Als launched their exhibition schedule Thursday night and failed to score a touchdown in the process, losing a one-sided 27-7 contest to the Ottawa Redblacks before 20,539 spectators at TD Place Stadium.

As expected, Drew Willy started at quarterback for the Als and had some success in a limited amount of playing time, although he was unable to generate a touchdown.

On his opening series, scrimmaging from the Montreal 25-yard line, he was prudent initially, handing the ball off to tailback Tyrell Sutton on the opening two plays, which generated a total of 15 yards.

Three plays later, Willy passed 22 yards to Eugene Lewis, moving the ball to the Redblacks’ 36. Following a short gain by Sutton, Willy connected with B.J. Cunningham, the Als’ only 1,000-yard receiver in 2017, for an 18-yard gain, moving the ball to the Ottawa 14.

But the visitors were penalized for a time-count violation, Willy failed to connect with Ernest Jackson, and then the pivot was sacked for an eight-yard loss by Jonathan Newsome.

Boris Bede opened the scoring with a 34-yard field goal at 6:43.

On the Redblacks’ next series, starting quarterback Trevor Harris, celebrating his 33rd birthday, attempted a pass to Austen Hartley. The ball was intercepted by safety Jermaine Robinson, who has Canadian Football League experience with Ottawa and Hamilton. He lateraled the ball to cornerback Tommie Campbell on the return.

Of more concern to the Redblacks was the knee injury Harris suffered on the play after being tackled by Chris Ackie and John Bowman. Harris didn’t return to the game, but head coach Rick Campbell said at halftime that the injury wasn’t considered serious.

Robinson got the start because Joe Burnett, who came over as a free agent from Calgary, was declared inactive.

Following the turnover, the Als had the ball at the Redblacks’ 31-yard line but, again, the visitors couldn’t find the end zone — a recurring problem last season, when Montreal had a league-worst 3-15 record, missing the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

Willy passed six yards to Chris Williams, who was acquired in a trade last winter from British Columbia for Gabriel Knapton. But the second-down play to Jackson was incomplete.

Bede connected on a 32-yard field goal at 8:45, increasing Montreal’s lead to 6-0.

Harris was replaced by Dominique Davis, a former Winnipeg Blue Bomber, who certainly displayed that he has a strong arm.

He immediately moved the Redblacks down the field, hitting Diontae Spencer for a 10-yard gain, Dominique Rhymes for 14 and then Hartley for 12 yards. Following a couple of runs by Mossis Madu, Davis connected with veteran Greg Ellingson for a 26-yard gain, moving the ball to the Als’ five-yard line.

Davis then found Rhymes alone in the end zone for a touchdown at 12:31. The Redblacks completed a two-point convert, Davis connecting with Julian Feoli-Gudino, giving Ottawa an 8-6 lead.

Willy was then replaced by second-year pro Matt Shiltz, a mobile quarterback who provides the Als with another dimension.

He had some good moments and some he undoubtedly would like to have back, but the Als’ offence wasn’t exactly crisp under his tutelage.

Lewis Ward increased the Redblacks’ lead to 11-6 with a 43-yard field goal at 3:49 of the second quarter.

Amir Carlisle, attempting to crack the Als’ roster at running-back, had a long punt-return later in the quarter, only to commit two cardinal sins. First, he was tackled by the punter, Richie Leone. And Carlisle fumbled on the play; the ball was recovered by Brendan Gillanders.

On the Als’ next series, tailback Josh Robinson fumbled, the ball recovered by Loucheiz Purifoy.

Davis was replaced at quarterback by Danny Collins, whose 26-yard pass over the middle to Noel Thomas put the Redblacks into immediate scoring position.

Ward kicked a 44-yard field goal at 11:07, increasing their advantage to 14-6.

Shiltz got the offence moving just before halftime. His favourite receiver on the drive was Jamaal Robinson, who caught three passes.

The Als eventually moved the ball to the Redblacks’ seven. But on second down, Shiltz attempted a pass for Lewis that was tipped and intercepted by Anthony Cioffi. He returned the ball 107 yards for a touchdown, but the score was nullified by an illegal block penalty.

Proving this indeed was an exhibition game, the Als were called for a delay of game penalty to begin the second half.

They chipped into the lead, only slightly, when Zackary Medeiros missed a 37-yard field goal for a single point less than three minutes into the third quarter.

Khalid Wooten intercepted a Collins pass in the end zone later in the period from the Montreal 24 that was intended for Seth Coate.

Shiltz was replaced at quarterback by Antonio Pipkin with 6:20 remaining in the third quarter.

Ward’s third field goal, a 23-yarder, increased the lead to 17-7 late in the quarter. And he added a 21-yarder less than five minutes into the final quarter, making the score 20-7.

The final salvo came at 6:28 of the quarter when the Redblacks took advantage of busted coverage, Collins finding a wide open Kieren Duncan for a 55-yard score.

The Als’ final exhibition game is one week from Saturday, at home, against Hamilton.

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