OTTAWA — The Ottawa Redblacks and Montreal Alouettes are both coming off a week to forget.
The Redblacks were stunned by a huge second-half collapse in a 42-41 loss to the Argonauts in Week 8. The Alouettes, meanwhile, were flat-out embarrassed in quarterback Johnny Manziel's anticipated debut, falling 50-11 to visiting Hamilton.
Both teams will be looking to rebound in a battle of the CFL East rivals Saturday at TD Place Stadium.
The Redblacks (4-3) saw their lead in the East standings diminish when they coughed up a 24-point lead at Toronto before giving up the winning touchdown in the dying seconds of the game. Ottawa was outscored 22-3 in the fourth quarter.
"You have to move on to the next one and you've got to learn and correct the things you need to correct from the previous game," Ottawa defensive co-ordinator Noel Thorpe said. "It's going to sit with you, there's no question about that. I think we got better, mentally tougher and know how our approach and our focus needs to be coming out for a second half and I think that's going to make us stronger here in the future."
Montreal (1-6) is looking to bounce back from an ugly performance that saw Manziel throw four interceptions and finish 11-for-20 for 104 yards.
Montreal's coaching staff has been questioned for giving Manziel the start with just four practices to prepare, but it appears the Alouettes are ready to stick with the former Heisman Trophy winner.
"He's an athletic guy, runs around, can improvise and any of those quarterbacks that can use their feet and are athletic and can make plays that are off schedule, meaning not the way it was designed up, then those guys can always scare you," Redblacks coach Rick Campbell said. "We know he's a good player and we have to be ready for him."
Manziel should be better prepared to face the Redblacks Saturday and is looking forward to getting back out there.
There had been some question as to whether or not Brad Sinopoli would play Saturday as the veteran receiver suffered a mild ankle injury earlier in the week. Sinopoli has been the Redblacks most productive receiver to this point with a league leading 52 receptions for 641 yards and his absence would have been difficult.
"I feel good, I just needed a couple days of rest and fortunately they gave them to me," said the native of Peterborough, Ont. "I feel ready for the game."
The Redblacks made a surprising change early in the week as they released defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy on Monday. Purifoy had been considered a significant off-season signing, but in the end the Redblacks felt he wasn't a "good fit" with the organization.
Purifoy had 29 tackles and one interception in seven games.
"He's a good football player, but there's more to being a good football player than being somebody who can make plays on the field. There are other parts to that too. You have to a be a good teammate," general manager Marcel Desjardins told reporters.
Rookie Justin Howell will make his first start at safety.
"We've started integrating him into the defence," Campbell said. "We had some packages with an extra DB on the field and he's done that the last few weeks and done a really good job for us on special teams and the game's not too big for him. Sometimes with rookie guys it can get too big with the speed of it, but he's done a really great job and looking forward to seeing him play."
DL Jonathan Newsome will also return to action after spending the last five weeks on the six-game injured list.
MONTREAL (1-6) at OTTAWA (4-3)
Saturday, TD Place
JOHNNY FOOTBALL – Despite a rough start to his CFL career Johnny Manziel can clearly attract fans as the Redblacks are anticipating a sellout for Saturday's game.
DEFENCE HOLDS UP – After an impressive start to the season the Ottawa defence has had some struggles and will be looking for a solid outing this week as they look to rebound from a terrible fourth quarter last week.
SPENCER FINDING RHYTHM – Much was expected from Diontae Spencer this season, but up until last week the Ottawa receiver had been quiet. Last week Spencer had a breakout game with eight receptions for 145 yards and is looking to keep things going.