By Herb Zurkowsky
MONTREAL — It has taken a while, but the Montreal Alouettes have crawled their way back into first place in the East Division.
The Alouettes defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 27-25 on Sunday afternoon before 23,688 spectators at Molson Stadium, improving their record to 10-5 with a fourth consecutive victory.
Combined with Winnipeg’s loss at Edmonton on Saturday night, it propelled the Als into first place, two points ahead of the Blue Bombers. The teams meet at Canad Inns Stadium next Saturday afternoon. The Als also guaranteed themselves a home playoff game with the win.
The Ticats lost their second consecutive game and slipped to 7-8. Hamilton likely will finish third in the division and will have to play on the road in the playoffs.
The Ticats and Als split four games this season — each team winning twice at home — but Montreal would capture the season series, should the teams tie in the standings, based on points differential in their four matches.
Hamilton head coach Marcel Bellefeuille said backup quarterback Quinton Porter would receive significant playing time the rest of the season, claiming he had a plan on how to use his pivots in this game.
Veteran Kevin Glenn started, playing one series and leading his team to a field goal after the Als’ Perry Floyd fumbled the opening kickoff. Glenn then was replaced by Porter for the remainder of the half, but was back behind centre in the third quarter.
Glenn was intercepted twice in the second half and has now thrown six interceptions in his last three games.
Neither quarterback was particularly effective, although the Ticats made a valiant fourth-quarter comeback attempt.
Glenn ran 15 yards for a touchdown at 12:46. Then, after Als backup quarterback Adrian McPherson was stopped short on a third-down gamble at the Montreal 40, Porter passed four yards to Dave Stala for a touchdown at 14:03.
Porter replaced Glenn, who was injured on a 34-yard pass to Aaron Kelly on the first play following the turnover. The Ticats attempted a two-point convert following the Stala touchdown, but Porter’s pass for Kelly was knocked away by Chip Cox, who made a brilliant recovery.
Days after becoming pro football’s career passing leader, Als quarterback Anthony Calvillo produced a methodical, if unspectacular, effort, leading Montreal to a pair of touchdowns following long drives. The Als went 101 yards in 11 plays late in the opening half, capped by a 20-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Whitaker.
Then, with their opening possession of the third quarter, Montreal went 93 yards in 10 plays, culminating in Calvillo’s 22-yard touchdown strike to veteran wide receiver Kerry Watkins.
Sean Whyte handled the rest of the scoring for the Als, kicking four field goals — from 45, 35, 33 and 42 yards. He also missed from 44 and had a 57-yard punt single.
Justin Medlock matched him, kicking four field goals from 43, 38 and a pair from 31 yards for Hamilton. Medlock missed two other attempts, from 52 and 40 yards.
On their opening possession of the second half, Glenn passed 28 yards to Bakari Grant for an apparent touchdown, but Hamilton receiver Chris Williams was offside and the Ticats settled for a field goal.