June 25th, 2024

Alouettes edge Ticats 22-20 in playoff preview

By Ireland Compton, The Canadian Press on October 28, 2023.

MONTREAL – The Montreal Alouettes found a way to manufacture a 22-20 win on Saturday over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a tight contest to close out the 2023 CFL regular season.

Headed into Saturday’s matchup substitutions were sure to be plentiful, as both teams sought to get their starters some repetitions ahead of their more meaningful Nov. 4 Eastern Conference semifinal bout.

For the Montreal Alouettes, fresh off a bye week, it was a matter of getting key players like quarterback Cody Fajardo warmed up before slotting in their backups to keep the starters healthy.

Hamilton had the same idea, giving key players such as quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and running back Tyreik McAllister the nod to get things started early on in the game.

The Alouettes were the first on the board early on, thanks to their special teams unit. Hamilton’s McAllister returned 18 yards off the kickoff, only to fumble the ball, forced by Montreal’s Marc-Antoine Dequoy. Alouettes’ Tysen-Otis Copeland recovered, allowing the Alouettes to gain possession and start on a 30-yard drive, capped off by a six-yard touchdown pass to Tyson Philpot.

Midway through the first quarter, Fajardo was sacked for a 10-yard loss on second down. To recover and set themselves up for a first down, Fajardo and receiver Cole Speiker pulled out a play seen twice from them this season – the dribble punt. Fajardo completed the pass to Speiker for a one-yard loss, before Speiker punted the ball just over the line of scrimmage, jumping on it to recover.

The play allowed them to gain a little yardage before Hamilton regained possession of a punt from Alouettes Joseph Zema.

Just before the end of the first quarter, the Tiger-Cats got on the board with a successful 29-yard field goal from kicker Marc Liegghio after his first attempt was wiped off due to a five-yard procedure penalty. The Alouettes headed into the second quarter up 7-3.

To open the second quarter, the Alouettes took possession, gaining three yards on an out of bounds rush to Hamilton’s 28-yard line. Quarterback Fajardo was sacked yet again, resulting in a loss of nine yards. Kicker David Coté tried a 45-yard field goal attempt, but ultimately it put the ball in the hands of McAllister, who completed a 122-yard return to notch the Tiger-Cats their first touchdown.

The play is the second longest return in the league this season, after Alouettes receiver James Letcher Jr.’s 125 yard return in their Oct. 14 matchup against the Edmonton Elks.

Shortly after this play, Alouettes coach Jason Maas subbed in quarterback Caleb Evans. Starter Fajardo closed out his game with a total of 55 yards and one touchdown pass.

With just a few minutes remaining in the first half, kicker Coté made a successful 37-yard field goal to send the teams into halftime locked in a 10-10 tie.

After a low key third quarter, things picked up in the fourth with the Alouettes’ Letcher Jr. completing a 99-yard return off a punt from Hamilton’s Kaare Vedvik, and with a successful pass attempt to Speiker, the home team notched the two-point conversion putting them up 19-13 early in the quarter.

Midway through the quarter, the Tiger-Cats bit back, as running back Sean Thomas Erlington completed a five-yard rush to tie things up, leaving Liegghio to secure the lead on the conversion.

Down 20-19 with under two minutes left, Coté made a successful 22-yard field goal to put the Alouettes back in the lead by a score of 22-20, the game winning play in a tight Eastern Conference semifinal preview.

The Alouettes and Tiger-Cats will square off next Saturday (Nov. 4) to determine who will move on to face the Toronto Argonauts in the Eastern Conference final on Nov. 11.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2023.

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