Alouettes loses match, but injury to star backup William Stanback is bigger loss

Stanback had to be assisted from the pitch after a nine-yard pass into the second quarter and it was clear the players from both teams standing around him had serious injuries.

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CALGARY — As painful as this first Alouettes defeat of the season was, of more immediate concern is William Stanback’s indefinite absence, and how this team may function without him.

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Stanback, the CFL’s leading rusher in 2021 and the East Division nominee for most outstanding player, suffered a serious ankle injury in the second quarter of Montreal’s season opening 30-27 loss to the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium on Thursday night. .

Stanback had to be assisted from the pitch after a nine-yard pass into the second quarter and it was clear the players from both teams standing around him had serious injuries. Head coach Khari Jones said he doesn’t believe the ankle is broken but admitted Stanback won’t be returning anytime soon.

The ankle had severe swelling and if there is damage to the ligaments or tendons it will complicate matters further.

“It’s hard to lose a man like Stanback,” said a clumsy Jones. “I think he will be sidelined for a while.”

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Stanback was replaced by Canadian Jeshrun Antwi, who did an admirable job, winning 98 yards on seven carries – though 70 in one play. But Antwi is not Stanback, arguably Montreal’s best player.

Not only will general manager Danny Maciocia have to find one or two American replacements for Stanback, the injury will put more focus and pressure on quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. to make things happen to his legs.

But Stanback’s loss is just one of the myriad problems facing the Als as they prepare for next Thursday’s game in Toronto – another challenging road race that could prove difficult to win.

Montreal also lost defender Greg Reid to a knee injury, along with return specialist Mario Alford, who injured his abdomen.

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While Adams completed 18 of 32 passes for 250 yards and one touchdown, he is still plagued with interceptions. He threw two more, including one on his first pass of the game when he hit Reggie White Jr. overthrown. That ultimately resulted in a touchdown from Calgary.

The second, in the third quarter, should never have been thrown. Adams was looking for Jake Wieneke, who was tightly covered. The ball was thrown under and intercepted by middle-linebacker Jameer Thurman, although this time the Als limited the damage and kept the Stamps on a field goal.

Nevertheless, if we count last week’s exhibition game against Ottawa, Adams has now been intercepted five times – an alarming trend.

“I’m paying. I have to take care of the ball,” said Adams, beginning to sound like a broken record. “These interceptions don’t fly. It gives a good team like Calgary the ball. I have to get better. It starts with the quarterback .”

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Jones, meanwhile, seemed stunned by the situation. While he’s unlikely to turn to veteran back-up Trevor Harris this early in the season, he also hasn’t committed to Adams starting against the Argonauts.

“It was bad timing, especially for the second,” Jones said. “You just can’t give teams momentum. You just have to solve the problems, that’s the main thing. You have to solve what happens, know when not to always go for it. Those are things that can be corrected.

“This is our first game.”

Even without Stanback, the Als scored 17 consecutive points in the second quarter to take a 24-14 lead at halftime. We’re not sure what happened in the Montreal locker room at halftime, but the Als were held to two first downs in the third quarter and limited to a field goal in the second half.

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It would be easy to throw Jones under the bus and say he was coached by Dave Dickenson of Calgary. The failure to maintain momentum in the third quarter was a recurring problem at the beginning of last season, in particular.

“We come in (to the locker room) and tell guys not to get complacent,” said Adams. “The defense gets enough stops for us. We have to move the ball. We have to be on the same line. We have to move the ball and help the defense.”

Last season, the Als sometimes lacked the killer instinct and were unable to grab the teams by the throat when they seemed vulnerable. It may be a new season, but they must nevertheless learn to finish teams when the opportunity arises.

“We have to make sure we play a full 60 minutes, a full game,” Jones said. “They played better than us in the third quarter and played when they had to. It’s just a shame.”

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The Als’s supposedly vaunted defensive line and pass rush managed to fire only one quarterback. And when backup quarterback Jake Maier replaced an injured Bo Levi Mitchell with less than four minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Als didn’t rush, especially on Calgary’s final drive, when Maier set the charge in position for a game- winning field goal with 29 seconds left.

hzurkowsky@postmedia.com

twitter.com/HerbZurkowsky1

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