PREVIEW: Riders host struggling Alouettes looking to rebound from seasons first loss

Green Zone pre-game begins at 12:30 p.m. on News Talk Radio
Reported by Joel Gasson
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It's a rivalry that dates back to back-to-back Grey Cup games...but perhaps it's lost some of its luster.

The Riders host the Alouettes at Mosaic Stadium Saturday afternoon as they try to bounce back from their first loss of the season.

However, that isn't really the biggest story line heading into the game, frankly there hasn't been much attention put on the Riders at all this week, as most of the talk has centred on the struggling Alouettes. They'll be doing so in front of a sold-out crowd as well as all 40,637 tickets have been sold, the third most ever for a Rider game at Mosaic Stadium.

It's such a hot topic because it's something that happens so rarely, for the better part of a decade the Als have been a team that's dominated the East Division, and the CFL as a whole.

"It is a little weird, we're not used to seeing them like this," said linebacker Rey Williams. "Usually they're blowing teams out and they're a force."

That being said the Riders know they cannot take the Alouettes lightly despite their slow start, and it all starts with the man at the controls for the Als...future hall of fame quarterback Anthony Calvillo.

"They have the best quarterback of all time back there," said linebacker Craig Butler. "Any time you have (Calvillo) back there throwing the ball, they're dangerous."

With that in mind the Riders do not want to be the team to let the Alouettes off the mat, and let them get their season on track.

"We don't want to give them a reason to get their season started on us," said Williams.

For the Alouettes they feel they could be at the point where they are starting their season after General Manager Jim Popp fired Head Coach Dan Hawkins a couple of weeks ago. Popp has now taken charge of the bench on an interim basis.

He told reporters of Friday that they've really ramped up practice the last while, previously practicing only about 15 offensive plays per day, now that's closer to 40 or 50.

"We are probably, right now, where we should have been out of training camp," said Popp. "We're going into the seventh game of the season."

Most of the problems in Montreal to stem from an offense that hasn't really been able to get it going for longer than maybe a quarter a game. Take away a blown lead against Calgary, and the opening of their last game against Toronto, when it comes to special teams and defense the Als have actually been pretty good.

"They've been able to carry their weight, and offensively we have not," said Calvillo. "That's been going on since camp."

The offense struggling appears to be getting to Calvillo, as his body language has definitely been less than positive at times so far this season, but Popp said Calvillo has always had a tendency to let his emotions show on the field like that, just the team hasn't struggled like this, so no one really noticed.

"It's always been there," said Calvillo. "I've been working on it, but that's me, I'm not going to change who I am."

As for that struggling offense, as mentioned the weapons are definitely still there, between Calvillo, receivers S.J. Green, Brandon London and so on. Williams thinks they have a pretty good running game too.

"I think (Jerome) Messam is a good back," he said. "You can't let him get started, he's strong, he's big."

If you're wondering why there hasn't been much talk about the Riders in this - well there isn't really much to talk about - it was a rather slow week at practice, and it doesn't feel any different than any other week after they won.

No real changes for the Riders line-up either; linebacker Sam Hurl is a game time decision after he injured himself this week. Head Coach Corey Chamblin only described it as a minor tweak. If he can't go than Kevin Regimbald will make his Riders debut.

A few milestones could be reached in this one, running back Kory Sheets needs 155 yards to reach 1,000 rushing yards for the season in just seven games. Receiver Geroy Simon needs only two catches for 1,000 for his career, marking only the third receiver ever to reach that mark in the CFL. Receiver Weston Dressler meanwhile needs 93 yards for 6,000 for his career, and if Calvillo throws for 269 yards he'll reach 80,000 for his remarkable career.

Kick off is at 2 p.m. on TSN, the Green Zone pre-game show is live on News Talk Radio at 12:30 p.m. The post-game show follows the final whistle.