MONTREAL – It’s a meaningless game between two teams out of the playoffs, but Brandon Bridge sees it as a chance to show that a Canadian can be a regular starting quarterback in the CFL. The 23-year-old old will start for Montreal as the Alouettes (6-11) end the regular season Sunday against the Saskatchewan Roughriders (2-15).
The Mississauga, Ont., product will be the first Canadian pivot to start a CFL game since Giulio Caravatta for the B.C. Lions in 1996.
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“It’s a great chance for him,” said coach and general manager Jim Popp. “It will be fun to watch.”
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Saskatchewan will also have a rookie starter, with mid-season acquisition Keith Price behind centre after playing parts of the last two games as a backup to Brett Smith. Price has completed 22 of 35 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns.
It will have taken 17 games for Bridge to even get into another game after his unplanned debut in the Alouettes’ season opener on June 25. He was thrown into the fire after both starter Jonathan Crompton and backup Dan LeFevour were injured in a 20-16 loss to the Ottawa Redblacks.
Bridge, who became the first Canadian pivot to appear in a game since Toronto’s Danny Brannagan in 2010, completed five of 10 passes for 62 yards with one interception, and it was thought he’d get the start in the next game against Calgary. But rookie Rakeem Cato got the call and was impressive enough to snatch the starting job away.
When Cato eventually stumbled and then got injured, a succession of quarterbacks got playing time, including Tanner Marsh and late-season pickup Kevin Glenn, but Bridge was left out of the lineup.
“It was disappointing not knowing the reason behind it, but after them bringing me in and (offensive co-ordinator Anthony Calvillo) telling me what the reason was, it kind of cleared the air,” said the six-foot-five Bridge. “They just wanted to make sure that if I go in I’m fully prepared.”
Popp wouldn’t say how long Bridge will stay in the game. Anthony Boone and recent acquisition Tajh Boyd are expected to see some action, while 37-year-old Glenn will likely be rested to keep him healthy for next season.
Bridge, picked 31st overall from South Alabama in this year’s draft, sees it as an audition for 2016.
“I just have to worry about this game, but definitely next year I’ll go in with the mindset that I want to be the guy,” he said. “It’s been a whole carousel of quarterbacks.”
“I think they’re just trying to find that one guy that can be, like, the franchise. Thank God (Glenn) came in here with 15 years under his belt. Great experience. Great guy to learn from. I’m actually happy that he’s here so I can learn from him.”
Popp said Bridge is in the Alouettes’ plans.
“I thought he did fairly well when he got into the first game of the season and he didn’t really know what was going on,” said Popp. “As the year went on, studying the playbook, he was antsy to get back in.”
“He’s handled it fantastically and now because of this situation, he gets his opportunity to go out and not just be a player and prove himself, but to be an inspiration for this country.”
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The Roughriders also lost starting quarterback Darian Durant to an Achilles tendon injury in their season opener. Glenn took over before he was traded to Montreal and then Smith became the starter.
Price will be the Riders’ fourth QB of the season.