LIVESTREAM: CFL – Ottawa REDBLACKS @Montreal Alouettes, July 6, 7:30p (1:30a CEST July 7) Watch in tape delay

MONTREAL — If the Montreal Alouettes do have some kind of homefield advantage when playing at Percival Molson Stadium, it has not been evident in their recent meetings with the Ottawa REDBLACKS.

Rick Campbell’s Ottawa outfit has dominated the Alouettes over the last two seasons, winning five of six meetings — including a 4-0 record in Montreal.

The two teams will meet on the Week 4 edition of Friday Night Football, a contest which could prove pivotal in establishing the power balance in the East in 2018.

Mike Sherman’s Alouettes are fresh off their first win of the year, a 23-17 nail-biter in Regina which snapped the club’s 13-game losing streak dating back to last August, and looking to gain momentum.

The REDBLACKS, meanwhile, never clicked offensively in a 10-point at Calgary last week and now face a Montreal squad with a new sense of purpose.

Last year’s journeys to Montreal were fruitful for the REDBLACKS, as the team claimed a pair of one-sided victories — 32-4 and 29-11 — in the span of three weeks. The challenge this time around, however, will be different: Montreal has championed its new locker room identity and coaching staff as the dawn of a new era.

“Everybody in this league’s very capable,” Campbell told this week. “It’s no easy feat to go into Montreal and win a football game. They have a lot of talented, veteran guys. We’ll game plan and prepare, but at the end of the day the focus has got to be on us and playing well.”

After assessing the tape of his team’s 24-14 loss at McMahon Stadium last week, the fifth-year REDBLACKS coach believes a handful of plays were the difference.

“I liked our fight, our effort, we just needed to make some plays in the key moments,” explained Campbell. “There were some big moments, especially in the fourth quarter, when we didn’t cash in. It wasn’t a lack of effort or want, it’s more just making sure you cash in when you need to.”

One of those moments Campbell alluded to was a fourth-quarter stop on the goal line by the Stampeder defence.

One of the early-season bright spots for Ottawa has been its run game; feature back William Powell sits third in the CFL in rush yards (217) despite having played one game less than all others in the top five.

“Part of the reason it’s working is our offence is doing a great job of mixing it up, (and) keeping (opponents) off-balance,” said Campbell. “There’s some run-pass option plays too, and sometimes the D takes away the run with a crashing D-end or whatever, so sometimes (there are) more run plays called, it just ends up (that) you’re trying to take what the defence gives you.”

The REDBLACKS made a boatload of changes — six, to be exact — to the roster that lost in Alberta last week.

Notably, Noel Thomas Jr. draws back in at slotback; the rookie out of UConn burst onto the scene in Ottawa’s opening game with a highlight-reel 42-yard catch, but was sidelined last week due to injury.

The REDBLACKS will also start R.J. Harris in his first CFL game; the New Hampshire product has spent mini-camp time with various NFL and CFL teams, and will finally make his regular-season debut at age 26.

“It’s awesome, I’m really excited,” Harris told TSN 1200 in Ottawa. “That’s the beauty of professional football, you never know when your time will be called. I was here last year (on practice roster), in training camp this year, and I’ve been grinding it out. The opportunity’s here, and now it’s time to go out and execute.”

Harris, who was born in Germany but counts as a national, has been biding his time in Ottawa.

“I love the game a lot, (and) I know how the business works — you have to put your time in, pay your dues,” continued Harris. “I’ve been sitting back, waiting and learning from the vets. We have an older group here that always help out guys — Greg (Ellingson), Brad (Sinopoli).”

On the Montreal side of the Friday’s matchup, moods haven’t been this good since, oh, last August.

The Alouettes’ road win in Regina last week took a collective weight off the team’s shoulders, and judging by the giddy atmosphere in the team’s locker room following the game, Montreal may finally have turned the corner.

Then again, there are certainly things the Alouettes could clean up: The team ranks last in the CFL in sacks allowed (11), rush touchdowns (0) and penalties (41).

“Coach Sherman talked about penalties every day this week,” fullback Patrick Lavoie told “He showed us stats which indicated we’re by far the most penalized team in the league. That’s what needs to be done; rookies need to be told, veterans need to be reminded. We’re a young team, and we have to learn from it.”

The key to improving the first two stats listed is obvious; Montreal’s offensive line has struggled to provide consistent protection for Drew Willy — inactive due to injury this week — or replacement Jeff Mathews. The unit has struggled similarly to establish the run, though feature back Tyrell Sutton would probably feel he hasn’t had as many carries as he should have to-date.

GM Kavis Reed addressed the need, somewhat, with the selection of towering 6-foot-6 offensive lineman Tyler Johnstone in the CFL’s Supplemental Draft. Essentially, the Als forfeited its first-round choice in the 2019 CFL Draft in order to select Johnstone, who they clearly believe is ready to contribute this season.

“We are thrilled to have acquired Tyler’s rights,” said Reed. “Tyler was one of the best national offensive linemen available this year and he would have been next year as well. Our position has allowed us to solidify our offensive line by selecting Trey Rutherford and Tyler Johnstone, and by acquiring Ryan Bomben during a short span of time.”

Bomben will start at right guard against Ottawa, while Rutherford will back up Kirby Fabien at the opposite guard position. No timeline has been given for Johnstone’s signing and/or debut.

Jeff Mathews will start under centre for the Als; the 26-year-old Cornell product currently owns the second-worst QUAR rating (24.1) amongst eligible quarterbacks in the CFL, but has shown he has the confidence to lead drives and try the deep ball.

Crunchin’ Numbers:

10 – Total on 10 Montreal offensive drives led by Mathews — Friday’s starting quarterback — this season.

20.5 – Average points allowed by Ottawa through two games in 2018, the second-lowest mark in the league.

100 – per cent field-goal percentage for Montreal’s Boris Bede early in the season; the Laval product is 7-for-7 on the year, including five kicks of 40-plus yards.

109 — Average rush yards-per-game for REDBLACKS running back William Powell, who is on pace to shatter his career-high 1,026 yards from last season.

Despite Montreal’s strong defensive performance on the road last week, neither the voting public — 96 per cent of whom chose the REDBLACKS in #TotalPickem — nor our writers (see below) are putting much faith in the Als.

Maybe it’s the historical trends. Maybe it’s the stark contrast of a Trevor Harris vs. Jeff Mathews matchup under centre. Or the fact Montreal is 1-13 in its last 14.

For whatever reason, nobody is giving the Alouettes a chance come Friday night.

They’ve got snazzy new (but really old) helmets, a fresh coaching staff and a boatload of new faces on defence. If 2018 is truly a different year in Als-land, they’ll need to start stringing wins together.

P.S. — the REDBLACKS will not go quietly into the night. Buckle up.

– With files from

AFI, Yare Media and the CFL

American Football International is collaborating with Yare Media and the Canadian Football League to present 2018 CFL games live. This is more than a livestream. This is a stream of the top flight TSN network television broadcast.

LIVE STREAM: CFL – Ottawa REDBLACKS @Montreal Alouettes, July 6, 7:30p (1:30a CEST July 7)

American Football International is your source for news and updates about American Football outside the United States!