HAMILTON – Zach Collaros saw his first action as a Tiger-Cat but it was Jeremiah Masoli that stole the show, tossing three touchdowns to give Hamilton a 28-23 pre-season win over Montreal.
Saturday's contest was played at Ron Joyce Stadium on the campus of McMaster University as the Ticats await the opening of their brand new facility, Tim Hortons Field on July 26.
Tanner Marsh got the call for the Alouettes under centre in a pre-planned rotation of pivots by new head coach Tom Higgins. Incumbent starter Troy Smith did not dress and neither did Chad Johnson who sat out with an ankle injury. The outspoken receiver is likely to make his much-anticipated debut next week versus Ottawa at home.
Marsh would play only two possessions before former Winnipeg Blue Bomber Alex Brink took over for the Alouettes with 6:21 left in the first quarter. He was awarded with excellent field position to start after an errant snap sailed over the head of Hamilton punter Justin Medlock, setting the Als up at the Hamilton 25 yard line.
Following a pass interference call on another former Bomber, DB Brandon Stewart, Brink handed off to running back Tyrell Sutton who plunged into the endzone for a 7-0 Alouettes lead with 5:27 remaining in the first frame.
The Tiger-Cats countered with former Toronto Argonauts quarterback Zach Collaros who was making his first appearance in Hamilton since being acquired as a free agent in the off-season.
It was tough to get a read on Collaros’ grasp of the offence, playing just a quarter but he finished with 52 yards on 5-of-8 passing. He also rushed once for 12 yards.
In what seemed like a carbon copy scenario, Montreal's lead didn’t last long. Backed into their own end of the field, the Als scrimmaged two possessions later only to have defensive end Eric Norwood force a fumble. The Tiger-Cats took over at the Montreal 22 yard line. They too benefited from a pass interference call and on third-and-goal, backup pivot Dan LeFevour fell forward from the 1 yard line to tie the game up at 7 as the first quarter came to a close.
Marsh returned for the ensuing drive as the Alouettes continued to platoon quarterbacks. With 4:40 remaining in the second half, he strung together a set of first downs before Sean Whyte knocked through a 43-yard field goal to give the Als a 10-7 lead.
LeFevour entered the game partway through the second quarter for the Tiger-Cats.
He and Marsh traded interceptions – to Mitchell White (MTL) and Stewart (HAM) respectively – before the Alouettes made the next move.
Brink returned and orchestrated a solid drive, spotting rookie receiver Kyle Graves in the back of the endzone for a 9-yard touchdown. The Acadia product’s major gave the Alouettes a 17-7 lead with 1:22 remaining.
The ‘Cats had a chance to pull closer at the end of the half but a 37-yard field goal attempt by Medlock sailed wide right and the Als preserved the 10-point lead heading into halftime.
The Als hit the score board first in the third quarter when kicker Delbert Alvarado extended the Montreal lead to 20-7 at 12:09. The field goal was set up by an interception by DB Chris Smith who stepped in front of a LeFevour pass to obtain possession back for the Als.
Hamilton would answer right back as Masoli took control of the Ticats offence and promptly led a drive resulting in a 6-yard touchdown pass after he spotted tailback CJ Gable on a hitch pass to cut the lead to 20-14 with 8:28.
Misoli entering the game seemed to spark the Tiger-Cats’ offence as he engineered yet another successful touchdown drive. The Mississippi grad confidently found Bakari Grant for a big gain to get the Ticats out of their own zone before spotting sophomore receiver Luke Tasker for a 20-yard reception.
Hamilton’s first lead of the game came with 2:10 left in the third quarter as Tasker’s major put them up 21-20.
As the fourth quarter got underway, rookie quarterback Collin Klein entered the game for Montreal. The Kansas State grad helped the Alouettes retake the lead when he set up a 26-yard field goal by Alvarado to jump back in front 23-21.
Masoli refused to be outshined however, tossing his third touchdown of the game with 5:30 left when he found Giguere in the end zone for a 16-yard major. The score put Hamilton back in front 28-23.
The Ticats will head to Toronto to take on the Argonauts next week, while the Alouettes will close out the pre-season by hosting Ottawa.