Despite loss to Riders, Als building something special : Khari Jones

Despite loss to  Riders, Als building  something special : Khari Jones
And that provides head coach Khari Jones with much optimism as the Als prepare for Saturday’s home game against the West Division-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Only six regular-season games will remain following the weekend contest.

“I have a lot of faith in them, and I think we have the makings of a very good team here,” Jones said after Tuesday’s practice — the first of the week. “It’s still early in the process and I have to temper myself sometimes. I feel like we have something special, but it takes time to build that.”

Montreal saw a three-game winning streak ended by the Roughriders in Saturday’s 27-25 loss at Mosaic Stadium. Not only did the defeat leave the Als with a 6-5 record, they squandered an opportunity to gain on first-place Hamilton, which lost earlier in the day at Calgary, and maintains a six-point lead. Montreal still has a game in hand on the Tiger-Cats, who are on a three-game road swing through Western Canada.

“There’s going to be some hiccups,” Jones said. “Overall, I think this was … I don’t want to say our worst game, but it wasn’t great. We made enough mistakes to be really out of the game. To be ahead in the fourth quarter and to be up, even by a point in the fourth quarter, is a testament to how good I think this team can be.

“I still love this team. I still feel confident in them. We’re going to make things happen.”

It appeared the sky was going to fall in on the visitors after Boris Bede couldn’t field an errant snap in the fourth quarter. Montreal turned the ball over on downs after the kicker was tackled by Ed Gainey at the Als’ 19. Saskatchewan scored two plays later, taking a 24-18 lead three minutes into the period.

But it took Montreal only four minutes to regain the lead after a 27-yard touchdown pass from Vernon Adams to Eugene Lewis.

The Riders won the game on a 39-yard Brett Lauther field goal with 25 seconds remaining in the quarter after Saskatchewan advanced from its 25 to the Montreal 31. Two minutes and 49 seconds remained when the Riders took possession for their final drive. They ran seven plays before the kick.

“Even though we held them to 27 points, our defence, they’ll tell you they can play a lot better,” Jones said. “Our offence can play better and we can score more when we get in the red zone.

“I can name five, six or seven plays in the game that really cost us.”

The Als built up a 9-0 lead and kept Saskatchewan without a point for slightly more than 22 minutes until it capped a 75-yard drive with a touchdown. Other than a 62-yard scoring drive that ended in a Cody Fajardo touchdown on the opening play of the fourth quarter — along with the final drive — Montreal’s defence did its job.

“We came out strong. We didn’t finish as strong as expected,” cornerback Tommie Campbell said. “Mental errors. It was nothing they did. It was all on us.

“We didn’t have the same tenacity throughout the whole game.”

Offensively, the Als will rue their inability to complete drives, settling for three short field goals over the opening 20 minutes. Montreal didn’t register a touchdown until more than eight minutes into the second half and continued to be plagued by slow starts.

“We all know it. We just have to score points,” Adams said. “I said it after the game. Instead of getting three, get seven. It takes the pressure off the defence.

“If we score at least one of those times, the game’s not what it is. We have to be better in the red zone, starting with me. I left so much out there. We only lost by two. That just shows how good we can be.”

Meanwhile, tailback Jeremiah Johnson (concussion) and linebacker Chris Ackie (hip) were both at practice Tuesday, although only Johnson took reps. Long-snapper Martin Bédard, who’s “banged up” according to Jones, took the day off but is expected to play Saturday.

And although Quan Bray had some difficulties early in the game fielding kicks, he remains the team’s punt-returner, Jones said. Bray, a starting receiver, is replacing the injured Shakeir Ryan.
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