Nichols, Crompton to start as Bombers, Alouettes search for starting QBs

MONTREAL — Who could have thought two weeks ago that the starting quarterbacks would be Jonathan Crompton and Matt Nichols when the Montreal Alouettes faced the Winnipeg Blue Bombers?

At that time, Crompton was still getting over a shoulder injury suffered in Montreal’s season-opener and Nichols was just arriving in Winnipeg from the Edmonton Eskimos.

But those two will be behind centre when the Alouettes (4-6) and the Blue Bombers (4-7), both battling for playoff spots, meet Sunday afternoon at Percival Molson Stadium.

“It’s going to be a fun game; we all know what’s at stake,” Crompton said Saturday.

The Alouettes, coming off a bye week, are looking to rebound from a 25-16 loss at home to the B.C. Lions on Sept. 3 in which Tanner Marsh threw five interceptions.

Marsh played in place of rookie Rakeem Cato, who had taken over the starting job but then was called home to Florida for a family emergency. He returned this week, but was too late to get practice time for this game, so Crompton got the start.

“It felt good to have to pack my bag to go to the stadium,” said Crompton, who took over as the starter in August last season and went 8-2 down the stretch to help earn a playoff spot. “I had a couple of jokes about whether I forgot what to pack in there, but I’m looking forward to it.”

It will also be the first game in which quarterback legend Anthony Calvillo will call the plays since he and Ryan Dinwiddie were named co-offensive co-ordinators when Turk Schonert was fired after the loss to B.C.

“I’ve been anxious all week making sure you’re thinking of every situation to get these guys ready,” said Calvillo. “Overall, we’re happy with the game plan. Now it’s a matter of executing it.”

The Bombers are looking for a second straight win with Nichols behind centre. Despite early turnover troubles, he picked up a 22-7 victory over Saskatchewan, a week after a 37-19 loss in Regina with Brian Brohm at QB.

Both teams have had quarterback headaches the last few years. Montreal has had six start at QB since 2013. The Bombers have had nine start since 2012. Winnipeg has used four this season, while five have taken snaps for Montreal.

Winnipeg hopes to have found its starter after going through a succession of them in the month since Drew Willy went down with a knee injury.

What is not settled is whether Crompton will slip back into his spot as Montreal’s starter or if he is only filling in for Cato.

Coach and general manager Jim Popp wasn’t ready declare a No. 1 just yet. 

“We feel that Rakeem Cato has a major upside and a big future and we also know that we’ve won a lot of games with Jonathan,” said Popp. “I don’t know if we’ve been in this situation in a long time where we have two quarterbacks that our players know and feel they can win with.

“They get excited when Cato’s on the field and they’re excited when Jonathan’s on the field because of what we accomplished last year.”

The Alouettes offence has been a mess since Calvillo was injured midway through his final season in 2013. Since then, there has been a revolving door of quarterbacks and offensive co-ordinators.

“Last year we switched over (to Crompton) and we were changing the offence at that time,” said Popp. “He came in learning the new offence and the team got on a roll.

“In the off-season it changed again. He got hurt in the first game. Now he’s back and the same thing is happening. It’s like Groundhog Day.”

 

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

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