MONTREAL - Forget the four-hour flight, the time-zone difference or the field conditions.
What makes it so difficult to beat the Montreal Alouettes at Percival Molson Stadium is ...
“The opposing football team,” Calgary Stampeders head coach John Hufnagel said. “They’re a good football team, and they play well at home.”
On Sunday, the Stamps will walk into what’s arguably the CFL’s toughest road destination to face the two-time reigning Grey Cup champions.
To make matters worse for the Stamps (9-7), the Alouettes (10-6) are treating it as a must-win game, anxious to capitalize on an opportunity to move atop the East Division standings.
Talk about a tough assignment.
“If we lose this game, it’s expected,” Stamps running back Jon Cornish said. “If we win this game, it will come as a surprise to some.
“Others that know that we have the talent there in right places might not be surprised. I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to try to pull off an upset.”
In what’s been a season of many mind-boggling upsets, the hapless Saskatchewan Roughriders were the first team to knock off the Alouettes in Montreal this season.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are the only other squad that has escaped Percival Molson Stadium with a victory.
The Stamps are on a two-game losing skid in Montreal, with their last triumph in La Belle Province coming during the 2008 Grey Cup game.
On the flip side, they’ve won three of their last four against the Alouettes at McMahon Stadium, proof that can be a tough place to play, too.
“They’re a good team. And it’s hard to beat good teams at home,” Cornish said. “It’s fun for us to play against them, because they’re sort of like the standard of the league.
“They’re a good team, and it’s always fun to tee off against teams that are roughly your equals.”
A lot has changed for the Stamps since their 38-31 home win over the Alouettes in late August.
Cornish is now their starting running back.
Drew Tate is now their starting quarterback.
A popular pre-season pick to represent the West Division in the Grey Cup, they’re now being written off by some analysts as too inconsistent to do much damage in the playoffs.
Fine by them.
“If anything, I think it’s a good thing,” Tate insisted. “Because the target isn’t as big on you as being a defending Grey Cup champion or being the best team in the league right now.”
Of course, that target would instantly grow a little bit if the Stamps can notch a victory at Percival Molson Stadium and sweep their season-series with the Alouettes.
“Statements aren’t made until the playoffs, but I think this game can definitely give us momentum,” Stamps linebacker Juwan Simpson said. “We faced this team in the Grey Cup a few years ago, and we feel like there’s a chance, to get where we want to go, this is a team that we might have to beat again.
“So I feel like it’s very important to get this win.”