WINNIPEG — Speaking with his mental performance coach was part of Trevor Harris’s preparations this week before his first start for the Montreal Alouettes.
The nine-year CFL quarterback, who was traded from Edmonton to Montreal last month, will be under centre when the Alouettes (6-5) visit the CFL-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers (10-1) at IG Field on Saturday.
“I feel I'm in a great spot,” Harris said Friday. “Even when things are tough, you know, it's about how you frame things.
“And whatever happens to you, you’ve got to understand things are happening for you, not to you, and if you can realize that it's going to help you grow in situations like this.”
Harris, 35, said he’s had Dr. Chantale Lussier as his mental performance coach since 2018, when he was with the Ottawa Redblacks and the team hired her. Playing quarterback is “more than half mental” so they talk on a weekly basis.
“She's dug me out of the ditch and picked me up out of the mud so many times that I can't even count,” Harris said. “But without her help through this transition, I don't know that I would have been able to deal with it as smoothly.”
Lussier lives near Montreal and went to watch the Alouettes lose 19-14 to Saskatchewan last weekend. Harris replaced Matthew Shiltz for the fourth quarter and went 12-of-15 passing for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Shiltz is on the one-game injured list (knee) so Harris will be backed up by Shea Patterson.
The Alouettes will try to end Winnipeg’s eight-game win streak. The Blue Bombers are 6-0 at home this season.
Harris knows about losing at IG Field. He started for the Elks in a 30-3 loss to the Bombers on Oct. 8, completing only 9-of-22 passes before being replaced by Taylor Cornelius. It was his last game as a starter as he was scratched for Edmonton’s next game and then traded to Montreal on Oct. 17.
Winnipeg has already clinched first place in the West Division and will host the division final Dec. 5. Montreal will get a playoff spot if the B.C. Lions defeat Hamilton on Friday night or the Alouettes beat Winnipeg.
Bomber players and coaches continue to talk about getting better instead of coasting into the playoffs.
Evidence of that was seen on Saturday’s roster, as newly signed kicker Sergio Castillo and cornerback Winston Rose will make their season debuts against Montreal. Both were CFL all-stars in 2019, Rose with the Grey Cup-winning Bombers and Castillo with the Lions.
Winnipeg middle linebacker Adam Bighill said it was good the defence had some film on Harris playing in Montreal’s system.
“I think the offence lends itself really well to what Trevor's very comfortable with, with the RPO (run-pass option) game, and getting the ball out quick and finding open guys,” Bighill said.
“That’s first off built on a successful run game, which they've had, so when you can run the ball and be a running threat, it just opens up the passing abilities that much more.
“So that's why it's important for us to take care of the run and make sure that we can try to make them more one-dimensional.”
Football fans might want to focus on the action in the trenches as Montreal running back William Stanback aims at going over 1,000 rushing yards for the second straight season. He leads the league in carries (152) and rushing yards (960) and has three TDs.
“I think it’s going to be a battle,” Stanback said. “I think it’s going to be one for the books.
“We have a great offensive line. The guys have been together for a while and they know each other’s tendencies, they know each other’s likes. (Winnipeg’s) defensive line is great. You can’t sleep on them.”
Bombers star running back Andrew Harris (knee) will miss a second straight game. Brady Oliveira will start again.
Montreal’s defence is also formidable. It leads the league with 44 sacks, including 24 in the last four games. Winnipeg has 31.
“They give you a lot of looks,” Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros said. “They're a physical group, like I mentioned, and they get after the passer so we're going to have to play a great game to win.”
MONTREAL (6-5) AT WINNIPEG (10-1)
Saturday, IG Field
GREAT STARTS: Winnipeg has only trailed once after the first quarter this season. Montreal has trailed five times and won two of those games.
QB STREAKS: Bombers QB Zach Collaros has won eight consecutive starts for the first time in his career.
PENALTY WOES: The Als have racked up 10 or more penalties in five of their last six games.
This report by The Canadian Press report was first published Nov. 5, 2021.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press