MONTREAL, QC. – Zach Collaros passed for 336 yards, two touchdowns, and added a rushing score as the Argonauts earned a split in their mini home-and-home series with the Montreal Alouettes following a dramatic 37-30 victory on Sunday afternoon at Percival Molson Stadium in Montreal.
Already without starting quarterback Ricky Ray and running back Chad Kackert, CFL reigning Most Outstanding Player Chad Owens joined the Argonauts’ crowded infirmary this week after suffering bruised ribs during the Boatmen’s 20-9 loss at the hands of the Als on Tuesday night.
Sunday’s game marked the first time during his three-plus years as a member of the Double Blue that the Flyin’ Hawaiian has sat out of a regular season game due to injury. In Owens’ absence, former Alouette slotback/kick returner Trent Guy was inserted into the Argonauts’ lineup for the first time this season. The Louisville product appeared in 13 games for the Alouettes in 2012, tallying 1,102 combined yards and two touchdowns, both of which came against the Argonauts in week 13 of last season.
As for the Montreal Alouettes, rookie quarterback Tanner Marsh made his second consecutive start on Sunday afternoon in place of veteran signal caller Anthony Calvillo, who is out indefinitely with a concussion suffered against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on August 17. Running back Brandon Whitaker was also sidelined for Sunday’s game due to a nagging hamstring issue while star linebacker/safety Kyries Hebert missed his third consecutive game due to a knee injury.
Seeing his first in-game action since signing with the Argonauts in late August, former NFL running back/kick returner Jerious Norwood returned the game’s opening kickoff 20 yards up to the Argonauts’ 34-yard line.
On the third play from scrimmage, Zach Collaros, who was making his second consecutive start in the absence of Ricky Ray, completed a short pass to wide receiver John Chiles, who was immediately mobbed by Montreal defenders, ultimately coughing up the football. Alouettes defensive back Geoff Tisdale secured possession and marched 47 yards into the end zone, giving Montreal an early 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing Argonauts offensive possession, facing a third-and-short situation, head coach Scott Milanovich elected to attempt a lengthy field goal rather than take gamble with his short yardage unit. Noel Prefontaine failed to connect on the 45-yard attempt, resulting in a rouge, keeping Montreal ahead 7-1.
The Alouettes quickly responded with a scoring drive of their own as Tanner Marsh engineered an 11-play, 45-yard drive capped off by Sean Whyte’s 24-yard field goal, extending Montreal’s lead to 10-1.
On the final play of the opening quarter, Noel Prefontaine missed his second field goal of the game, a 51-yard attempt that resulted in another rouge, giving the Als a 10-2 lead after one quarter of play.
The Alouettes continued to create some separation as Sean Whyte connected on a 40-yard field goal early on in the second quarter, extending their lead to 13-2.
Following a two-and-out from the Argonauts offence, Marcus Ball registered the Boatmen’s first takeaway of the game as he intercepted Tanner Marsh, providing the Double Blue with favourable field position deep in Alouettes territory.
However, Zach Collaros returned the favour moments later as his intended pass for wide receiver Dontrelle Inman was intercepted by Geoff Tisdale in the end zone.
On the ensuing Argonauts offensive possession, the Alouettes registered back-to-back sacks on Zach Collaros, showcasing their dominant pass rush, forcing the Boatmen into a punting situation.
Following a Montreal two-and-out, the Argos re-gained possession of the football and Zach Collaros orchestrated an impressive 12-play, 75-yard drive capped off by Noel Prefontaine’s 19-yard field goal, cutting the Argos’ deficit to 13-5.
Tanner Marsh, however, quickly responded as he marched the Alouettes into Argonauts territory setting up Sean Whyte’s 32-yard field goal, putting Montreal ahead 16-5 heading into halftime.
Looking to close the gap early on in the second half, Zach Collaros aired out a deep pass towards slotback Jason Barnes in the end zone. Barnes, in full extension mode, hauled in the pass but failed to secure complete possession of the football as he hit the turf. Noel Prefontaine connected on his second field goal of the game, this time from 36 yards out, cutting the Alouettes’ lead to 16-8.
The Argonauts special team woes continued as Prefontaine fumbled the football following a poor snap from Chad Rempel. Alouettes defensive back Ed Gainey instinctively scooped up the football and rumbled 33 yards down to the Argonauts’ one-yard line prior to be forced out of bounds by Shane Horton. Initially, it appeared as though Gainey may have broken the plane. However, upon further review, officials ruled him out at the one-yard line. Tanner Marsh quickly capitalized on the turnover as he plunged forward into the end zone, extending Montreal’s lead to 23-8.
On the ensuing Argonauts offensive possession, Zach Collaros closed the gap with a 21-yard touchdown run, cutting the deficit to 23-15.
The Argonauts continued to apply the pressure as rookie defensive lineman Kiante Tripp intercepted Tanner Marsh and rumbled 54 yards for his first career CFL touchdown, putting the Double Blue just a two-point conversion shy of tying the game.
After failing to convert the two-point attempt, the Argonauts offence completed the comeback as Zach Collaros threw his first touchdown pass of the game, a 54-yard bomb to John Chiles, giving the Argonauts their first lead of the football game by a score of 28-23.
Chiles concluded the game with four receptions for 62 yards and one touchdown.
In the span of four minutes and 58 seconds, the Argonauts registered three touchdowns, accounting for an astounding 21 unanswered points.
However, the lead was short lived as Tanner Marsh connected with Duron Carter for a 45-yard touchdown, the first of his young CFL career, giving the Alouettes a 30-28 lead early on in the fourth quarter.
Carter, a rookie in the CFL, is the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter, who spent 15 years in the National Football League between the Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, and Miami Dolphins.
Already having missed two field goals earlier in the game, Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich elected to play for field position rather an attempt a lengthy field. Noel Prefontaine’s punt, however, rolled into the end zone, resulting in a single point.
On the ensuing Alouettes offensive possession, Jamie Robinson made his presence felt as he picked off Tanner Marsh, providing the Boatmen with favourable field position in Montreal territory.
However, the Argonauts failed to capitalize on the turnover as Prefontaine missed his third field goal of the game, resulting in yet another single point, knotting the score at 30-30.
The Argonauts re-claimed the lead with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter as Zach Collaros engineered a methodical 10-play, 70-yard drive capped off by Dontrelle Inman’s five-yard touchdown reception.
Inman concluded the game with nine receptions for 91 yards and one touchdown.
With less than a minute remaining in regulation time, Tanner Marsh guided the Alouettes deep into Argonauts territory. With the clock ticking down, Marsh aired out a desperation pass towards the end zone. Argonauts defensive back Alonzo Lawrence ran towards the back corner of the end zone and registered his first career CFL interception, securing the victory for the Double Blue.
The win keeps Toronto atop the CFL Eastern Division with a 6-4 record. Sunday’s game marked the beginning of a four-game road trip that will see the Double Blue travel to Saskatchewan next Saturday for a tilt with the 8-2 Roughriders.