It was D-Day for the Montreal Alouettes, Saturday night. Here, military analysis is in order, because the Sparrows are on a mission this season. The quest for the Gray Cup is assumed by everyone in the locker room. The first game of the season against the Ottawa Redblacks got off to a flying start but ended in trench warfare. In the snatch, the locals triumphed 19 to 12.

It’s hard to tell if the Alouettes were cheered up and motivated by the 2Frères group or France d’Amour during the pre-game show, but the Montrealers were alive and well. They managed to make people all around dream that this season was indeed going to be one of redemption. At least, for a short time at the start of the meeting.

After months of renewal, procrastination, doubts and hope, the organization had the opportunity to show its new face, at home.

Among the new figures, quarterback Cody Fajardo is undoubtedly the one whose excitement was most palpable during training camp. By coming to Montreal, he wanted to prove his worth, after tumultuous years in Saskatchewan.

On his first pass attempted in the tricolor uniform, Fajardo joined Austin Mack at the goal gate for a play of 61 yards. The quarterback threaded the needle himself thanks to a one-yard run.

Four plays, a touchdown and a seven lead. “It went as planned,” Fajardo said, all smiles with his navy cap on his head, still sweating. We wanted to place a deep ball early in the game. »

This chemistry, noticeable during training camp between the quarterback and Mack, was a relief for the Montreal offense. With Greg Ellingson injured for at least six games, there were questions about who would become Fajardo’s go-to target. The response was not long in coming. “I feel like he was picking up everything I was throwing at him,” the quarterback continued.

The center found Mack two more times for long gains of 34 and 21 yards in the second and third quarters. “It was absolutely amazing,” the 25-year-old said. […] When the ball comes my way, I have to make sure I catch it, that’s all. I have to do my job. »

He finished the game with 120 passing yards. “It’s a great start,” agreed head coach Jason Maas. What you saw today, we saw throughout the camp. »

The Alouettes’ offense was more moribund after the first quarter, not scoring any more touchdowns. At least kicker David Côté’s leg was effective.

The show was instead provided by the defensive unit. As if Mouffe and Denoncourt had done their part.

The men of Noel Thorpe, the defensive coordinator, did not allow a touchdown during the game. The pressure exerted by the players was constant and the Alouettes smothered almost every opposing threat.

In fact, like the offense, the defense started the game with a bang. Ciante Evans intercepted the first pass of the game from Nick Arbuckle, the Rouge et Noir quarterback.

The Als had a third interception late in the game, courtesy of Najee Murray. ” We are united. That’s our advantage, Evans added. We are here because we have a mission. »

The most surprising thing about this game was the performance of the offensive line. However, all the players in the unit played with the Alouettes last season, with the exception of Justin Lawrence, another veteran who joined the team.

“You have to give credit to Ottawa, they have a very good defensive line, but we have to be better,” said guard Pier-Olivier Lestage.

The offensive wall allowed four quarterback sacks in the first half. But still, the more the match progressed, the more Fajardo was in a hurry. And he let it show in his posture and his decision-making, necessarily affected by his reduced time to throw the ball and find solutions. Fajardo eventually cashed in six sacks. “That’s not the point. You just have to win games,” the quarterback said.

This Achilles heel affected the team’s performance the further the match progressed. If the start of the match was explosive and profitable, it is difficult to say the same for the quarters that followed, with an almost dry production.

“It was a tough win, but it’s a win,” Lestage said. And for the Alouettes, that’s all that matters.