Professor would have been proud

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:03 PM ET

Things were stacked at Frank Clair Stadium last night and we're not just talking about the Mardi Gras action in the Southside stands.

The odds are stacked against the Renegades whenever they take the field this year, a winter of dithering and inaction leaving them a few beads short of a necklace compared to most of their competition in the CFL.

But that doesn't mean the Renegades can't show flashes.

Who would have thought the most noticeable beads last night would turn out to be those on the sweaty brows of the powerful Montreal Alouettes?

In maybe the most gutsy performance of their existence, the Renegades overcame a 23-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to pull out an overtime win over the Als.

Too bad many of the announced crowd of 18,899 had departed and missed it.

"Hopefully, the fireworks started a little earlier than people expected," said Renegades coach and GM Joe Paopao after the game. "Maybe this gives confidence to the fans who came.

"Hopefully they were watching the game and not counting beads."

For most of the night, the action in the upper deck was more compelling than that on the field with a young lady in a lime-green top she wore most of the time picking up more beaded necklaces than the Renegades did first downs.

The fans were saying something that sounded like "boob," but probably wasn't as they booed quarterback Kerry Joseph's uneven performance early in the game and the announcement of Paopao's 50th birthday.

After an opening week crushing at the hands of the Edmonton Eskimos and a brutal first half last night, you couldn't blame the fans for airing out their lungs.

For a team everybody knew was going to be challenged this year, the Renegades' schedule is a marketing disaster.

The Renegades haven't made any friends in the CFL office in their short existence and they are paying for it.

Not that they are doing themselves any favours, either.

The Renegades committed too many mental errors, took bad penalties and simply failed to execute when it mattered last night.

On a third-and-one late in the first quarter and the scored tied, Joseph fumbled the ball away at midfield.

The Als marched down the field and scored and never looked back.

After that score, Armstead returned the ball 52 yards on the kickoff, but a chunk of that was negated by a holding penalty.

When the Renegades were forced to punt the ball away, they were called for no yards, putting the Als at their own 51. They scored on that drive, too.

A too-many-men-on-the-field penalty called on the Renegades helped sustain another Alouettes drive that resulted in a field goal.

As the fourth quarter started and with the Renegades down 33-10, many fans took their beads and headed off for a night of Delta blues.

But a wondrous thing happened.

"Not knowing the dynamics of this team, to say we're going to come out and win ... to come back against a team like this? As a coach you expect to win, you expect plays to work, you expect your field goal kicker to kick field goals," said Paopao.

"It's a good step in the right direction. It's not a step back or to the side. You've got to launch your ship somehow."

The game was preceded by a ceremony honouring late Rough Riders coach and general manager Frank Clair.

"The Professor" led the Riders to their greatest glories, he led in a time when a promotional event was having the general manager's portfolio added to your coaching duties.

About 30 of his former players, including Russ Jackson and Ken Lehmann, escorted his widow, Pat, daughter, Robin and grandson Christopher onto the field in the last remnants of the thunderstorm that swept the field in the minutes leading up to the start of the game.

The Professor would have been proud, like Paopao was proud, quietly so, last night of the home side.

"That's a step we needed, but there's a lot more steps to go. I can see some encouraging indications," said Paopao. "We have to find our wings, who we are. We know who we would like to be, but we've got to prove it.

"I like the feel of this team."


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