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Matthew Shiltz finally wins first game as Alouettes' starting QB — four years later

"You can believe all you want. At the end of the day you have to go out and do it. I believed in myself. I'm here for a reason, just like every other person on this team."

Alouettes quarterback Matthew Shiltz throws against the Redblacks in Ottawa on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021.

OTTAWA — Four years can feel like an eternity in professional sports when you’re a quarterback and want to play, only to seemingly take a back seat to so many others — deservedly or not.

Matthew Shiltz never complained. Not once. He never requested a trade or signed with another team when the opportunity presented itself through free agency. At the same time, the Alouettes remained loyal to him, allowing him to remain a part of the franchise, undoubtedly believing he possessed something that warranted keeping him around.

And, while it’s only one game — arguably against one of the worst teams in the CFL — Shiltz rewarded the organization for its patience Saturday afternoon. The 28-year-old did more than enough, managing the game effectively and leading Montreal to a 27-16 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks at TD Place.

Now, everything that comes with being a starting quarterback — the spotlight and media demands — are Shiltz’s to savour for as long as he’s effective and Montreal continues winning.

“I was kind of searching for the right emotion coming off the field,” Shiltz said. “I don’t necessarily know if I have it right now. It was four years and so many people that believed in me along the way … the trials and tribulations throughout the last four years to prepare me for the moment when I’d finally get that chance, get that opportunity to play and compete.

“Honestly I’m still trying to search for that word,” he added. “When I get it I’ll make sure to let you know. I’m just so grateful, let’s be honest. That’s the one word that keeps coming back to me.”

Shiltz completed 21 of 34 passes for 281 yards and one touchdown — an incredible 50-yard strike to Jake Wieneke into double coverage that might have been underthrown. But there are times when a quarterback must trust his receiver to make a play, and Wieneke did that, splitting defenders Antoine Pruneau and Abdul Kanneh for his team-leading eighth touchdown.

Wieneke caught seven passes for 114 yards.

Shiltz, 28, also scored on a four-yard run midway through the first quarter, staking Montreal to an early 10-0 lead, the Alouettes producing points on their opening two possessions to eradicate any anxiety the quarterback might have experienced.

Shiltz was good in the opening half, completing 13 of 21 for 227 yards, including a 55-yard pass-and-run play to Canadian receiver Kaion Julien-Grant. Shiltz released the ball quickly, used his athleticism to avoid the Redblacks’ pressure and showed he has a strong arm. He was accurate and made good decisions.

While he was less effective in the second half, when Montreal generated only a safety, it might have resulted more from the periodic rain that produced downpours at times, combined with windy conditions. Instead, it became a field position game, one both Shiltz and Montreal managed well.

While Shiltz has appeared in 48 games since 2017, this was only his third start — and first win. He always believed in himself, but now he knows he can. And Shiltz should remain the unchallenged starter at least through the end of the regular season, while Vernon Adams Jr. recovers from a fractured bone in his non-throwing shoulder.

“Belief is a verb,” Shiltz said. “You can believe all you want. At the end of the day you have to go out and do it. I believed in myself. I’m here for a reason, just like every other person on this team.”

“He was great out there,” head coach Khari Jones said of Shiltz. “He was composed, he made plays when we needed them, both with his feet and throwing the ball. I just loved the way he played. There’s a reason he’s on this team. He’s not a rookie. He’s a composed guy. He can make all the throws. I’m glad he got his first win.”

Shiltz, however, shared the accolades with a defence that’s starting to find its identity, while playing more aggressively and dominant.

Redblacks rookie quarterback Caleb Evans, who threw three interceptions and fumbled once, was so ineffective he was replaced by fellow freshman Taryn Christion in the fourth quarter until he was sidelined with an injury. The two pivots were sacked an incredible 10 times — two each by Nick Usher, Michael Wakefield and David Ménard . Montreal allowed only 184 yards’ net offence and 13 first downs.

“Guys are playing fast and we’re playing hungry,” Ménard said. “When things are going great it seems easier. We cleaned up some stuff in the playbook and are more gap-sound.”

While the Alouettes are now 5-4 and riding a three-game winning streak, three of those victories have come against the 2-8 Redblacks. First-place Toronto should provide a sterner test Friday night.

  1. Montreal Alouettes quarterback Matthew Shiltz (18) runs the ball into the end zone for a touchdown against the Redblacks in Ottawa on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021.

    Shiltz starts impressively to do just enough to lead Alouettes over Redblacks

  2. Montreal Alouettes head coach Khari Jones speaks with quarterback Matthew Shiltz prior to game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Montreal on Oct. 11, 2021.

    Inside the CFL: After 4-year wait, Alouettes QB Shiltz gets his chance

  3. Montreal Alouettes tailback Cameron Artis-Payne looks upfield after catching a pass in front of offensive-lineman David Brown during game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Montreal on 11, 2021.

    Alouettes turn to two-headed rushing beast against Redblacks