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CFL Preview - Montreal (7-9) at Hamilton (8-8)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 26, 1 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: The Hamilton Tiger-Cats seek revenge on Saturday afternoon as they do battle with the Montreal Alouettes for the second time in a span of just six days, this time at Alumni Stadium at the University of Guelph.

Last weekend, the Ticats were seeking to deliver on a three-game win streak for just the second time this season, but they were blown away by Montreal in a 36-5 final on the road. It was just the second time this year that Hamilton had been held below double-digit scoring, the other instance being a 37-0 shutout versus Saskatchewan back in July.

Despite the lopsided outcome, the Cats will still be included in the postseason as they are second in the East Division standings, one step ahead of Montreal, a team which has battled through injuries to key players and a change in coaching in order to make the cut for the 101st Grey Cup Playoffs.

In last week's battle, Hamilton fell behind by two touchdowns in the first quarter and by a 31-3 margin at the break, so there was little chance of the team making it all the way back to challenge the Als, even though the hosts were starting yet another new quarterback in Troy Smith.

Henry Burris made the start under center for the Tiger-Cats, but his lackluster performance forced the coaching staff to bring in Dan LeFevour in the second half of the blowout loss. Burris, who entered the league in 1998 and is approaching 5,000 passing yards for the second straight season, converted 11-of-23 passes for a mere 106 yards, was sacked twice and tossed one interception before exiting.

LeFevour, who ended up leading the Cats in rushing with 50 yards on a mere five attempts, the team producing a weak 66 yards on 11 carries, hit on 10- of-16 passes for 98 yards, but he too was kept out of the end zone and was taken down for three sacks. While the Montreal defense was crawling all over Hamilton, the Tiger-Cats weren't doing themselves any favors with 12 penalties for a loss of 113 yards.

Since Burris broke into the league the Alouettes have been comforted in knowing that, more often than not, they were going to have Anthony Calvillo as their resident signal caller, but that all changed this year when he went down with an injury and the revolving door of quarterbacks was installed in Montreal. The team has used Tanner Marsh and Josh Neiswander and found marginal success, but obviously nothing on the level of what Calvillo has brought to the table during his two decades in the league.

Last week, Montreal went in yet another direction, inserting Smith, a former Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State, for his first career start in the CFL. Smith connected on 17-of-35 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns and, perhaps more importantly, he didn't throw a single interception as he managed the game to near-perfection.

Smith's favorite target down the field early on was S.J. Green, who tallied a pair of majors in the first quarter, finishing with five catches for 86 yards. The quarterback also made Arland Bruce a relevant factor again as he found the receiver for a 26-yard scoring strike near the end of the second frame.

Green, who has 76 catches on the season now, leads the league in receiving touchdowns with 12 and is second in yards with 1,070 as he averages a shade over 14 yards per grab.

Also making an impact for the Als was running back Tyrell Sutton, who scored a touchdown for the third straight game and tallied a career-best 84 yards on 13 attempts to help take some of the pressure off Smith.

Unfortunately for Montreal, with the loss of Calvillo and the change in coaching early on, the offense hasn't operated anywhere near its potential. In terms of the passing attack, Montreal is second-to-last in the CFL with just 3,952 yards, has the lowest completion percentage (.555), and has more interceptions (25) than any other squad. Hopefully Smith, as long as he remains in the starting lineup, can improve on those numbers and return the Als to respectability.

Despite the win by Montreal last week, the Cats have taken two of the last three encounters and three of the last five regular-season matchups overall. However, when it comes to regular-season meetings dating back to 1950, the edge goes back to the Als who own a mark of 89-80-7 versus Hamilton.

Revenge can be a mighty motivator, so too can a hometown crowd which means Hamilton should hold the advantage in this meeting with the Als. Then again, Montreal's incentive is the potential to host a playoff game should they finish strong, so both sides have reason to play hard.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hamilton 29, Montreal 24

10/23 11:05:38 ET

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