MONTREAL -- Josh Neiswander completed 20 of his 35 passes for 260 yards and a touchdown, while the Montreal defence did the rest, as the Alouettes hung on to defeat the Roughriders 17-12 on Sunday afternoon.
Receiver Duron Carter was also impressive, hauling in five catches for 148 yards and a score.
Heading into today’s game, all the talk surrounded veteran receiver Geroy Simon, who needed just one catch to surpass Ben Cahoon to become the CFL’s all-time receptions leader.
But with the Riders having suffered three-straight losses prior to Sunday’s clash, the focus inside the locker room was simply on getting the victory – meaning Simon’s moment wouldn’t be forced.
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As a result, Simon didn’t see the field on Saskatchewan’s first series – one that resulted in a quick two-and-out.
However, on Saskatchewan’s next possession, Simon entered the game and the record books.
Facing second-and-10, Darian Durant found Simon for a seven-yard catch, the 1,018th of his illustrious career.
But the moment was bittersweet for Simon, as he failed to pass the 1st down marker, forcing the Riders to punt. The two teams would go on to register punt singles, making the score 1-1 at the end of 15 minutes of action.
Once the second quarter got underway, the Riders offence started to find its rhythm.
On their first play from scrimmage, Durant connected with receiver Chris Getzlaf on a 72-yard catch and run play that saw Getzlaf break a few tackles down the sideline all the way to Montreal’s 3-yard line.
But even with the fresh set of downs in advantageous field position, the Riders weren’t able to put any points on the board.
First, tailback Chris Garrett was stuffed on an attempt up the middle, and then backup QB Drew Willy found a similar result on a plunge of his own from one-yard out.
On third down, Garrett was stuffed again on a heads up tackle by Kyries Hebert, keeping the score at one point apiece in the process.
Despite not being able to find the endzone, the Riders did see their lead increase shortly thereafter, as the Als weren’t able to generate any positive yardage and were forced to concede a safety.
From there, both defences would continue to stand tall, keeping both offences out of the endzone, while forcing numerous punts as well.
Before the half could come to an end, however, Als pivot Josh Neiswander managed to grab some momentum and lead the Als into Riders territory.
On the first play of the drive, Neiswander found Eric Deslauriers for a 29-yard gain. However, Neiswander’s next pass to Brandon London was dropped as the receiver hit the turf, forcing the Als to send out the field goal unit.
With two seconds left in the first half, kicker Sean Whyte put the Als in front by one, as he split the uprights from 32 yards out.
Once the third quarter got underway, both defences continued to flex their muscles.
Even when it seemed the Als had found a way to break through Saskatchewan’s defensive armour, the Riders would come up with a big counter play of their own.
Case in point, with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Troy Smith had completed a short hitch pass to Jerome Messam who rumbled his way 54 yards inside Saskatchewan’s 10-yard line.
But Messam fumbled before he was brought down to the turf, and the loose ball was eventually recovered by Eddie Russ in the endzone.
After the Riders weren’t able to capitalize on the momentum swing, Neiswander took to the field and embarked on a drive that would result in the game’s first touchdown.
Following a 2-yard strike to SJ Green, the Riders appeared to had stopped the Als offence yet again on second down, but a pass interference penalty on Dwight Anderson extended the drive, giving the Als a fresh set of downs.
On the very next play, Neiswander connected with Carter for a 45-yard catch-and-run score, that young receiver elude a few Roughrider defenders on his way to the endzone.
The score was Carter’s third of the season.
But the Riders refused to go down without a fight, as their offence responded quickly to Montreal's score.
Starting from their own 25-yard line, Durant engineered an impressive seven-play, 85-yard drive that was capped off with a 24-yard touchdown by Weston Dressler.
The deadlock was shortly lifted, thanks to Whyte's second field goal of the game, a 40-yarder.
With less than three minutes to go in the game, the Als would increase their lead to five, as Whyte tacked on his third field goal of the afternoon, this time splitting the uprights from 19 yards out.
The field goal was made possible thanks to a spectacular catch by Carter, who lept up in double coverage and managed to maintain possession with the ball resting on his hip as he fell to the turf.
Saskatchewan underwent one final drive, but weren't able to find the endzone, as Chip Cox intercepted a Durant pass in the endzone, allowing the Als to hang on for their fifth win of the season.
Next week, the Als head to Edmonton where they'll take on the Eskimos in a crucial matchup that has plenty of post-season implications attached to it. The Riders, meanwhile, head to BC, where Simon will make what should be an emotional return to Vancouver.