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CFL Preview - Montreal (4-6) at British Columbia (6-4)
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
DATE & TIME: Sunday, September 15, 4:30 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: Losers of two of their last three outings, the British Columbia Lions called for reinforcements over the weekend, just after bowing to Hamilton on the road and in advance of their meeting with Montreal at BC Place this coming Sunday.
Despite being hampered by injury again this season, quarterback Buck Pierce is still seen as a valuable commodity in the CFL, which is why the Lions were willing to part with receiver Akeem Foster in exchange for the one-time BC signal caller on Sunday.
Pierce, who came over from the Blue Bombers, had been having a rough time this season in Winnipeg with just two passing touchdowns and six interceptions. Winnipeg's passing attack ranks last in the league with an efficiency rating of only 64.0, the squad having issued three times as many interceptions (15) as passing majors (five).
The addition of Pierce should be seen as an insurance policy and a source of mentoring for Travis Lulay who continues to be the leader of the BC offense, even though the team took another step backward last Saturday with a 37-29 defeat at the hands of Hamilton.
Lulay finished that meeting 26-of-43 for 334 yards and two touchdowns and was also the leading rusher, which isn't saying much since he gained a mere 21 yards on six carries. However, with Lulay putting himself out there to be hit more often, bringing in someone like Pierce was crucial.
The top receiver for the Lions in the loss was Nick Moore who reeled in 12 balls for 159 yards and a score. However, on the other side the Tiger-Cats easily offset the effort by Moore by having three receivers with at least 108 yards through the air, each with a touchdown.
With the setback British Columbia, a team which is a league-best 5-0 at home in 2013, is now third in the West Division standings with 12 points, trailing both Calgary and Saskatchewan by four points.
Meanwhile, the Alouettes have been enduring their own unusual storyline stemming from the quarterback position. The venerable Anthony Calvillo continues to be treated carefully with his head injury and that has opened the door for little-known Tanner Marsh to make a name for himself in Montreal for better or for worse.
Against Toronto and British Columbia within the last few weeks Marsh threw for more than 300 yards versus both defenses, but on Sunday he was knocked down a few pegs by the Argonauts who limited the quarterback to 13-of-28 for 225 yards, sacked him five times and logged three interceptions. Marsh has brought some excitement to the game for the Als, but the numbers are beginning to pile up against him, specifically eight picks against only three TDs.
Marsh also scored for the Als on a one-yard run during the team's 37-30 setback at home versus the Argonauts, but like Lulay and Pierce before him, Marsh is only putting himself in harm's way the more times he leaves the pocket.
Montreal actually scored the first points of the game against the Argos last Sunday, thanks to a 47-yard fumble return for a major by Geoff Tisdale, but still the odds were stacked against an Als team that is third in the East Division with only four wins through 10 outings.
Not only are the Alouettes dealing with the loss of Calvillo these days, now comes word that running back Brandon Whitaker has been placed on the nine-game injured list as a precautionary measure due to his ailing hamstring. Whitaker, who can be taken off the list if he improves, is still the leading rusher for the Als with his 338 yards, adding another 162 yards receiving in order to tally three total touchdowns.
Montreal is hoping that Jerome Messam can fill some of that void at running back, but he too appeared to be hobbling against Toronto over the weekend. Still, Messam is averaging close to five yards per carry and has two rushing TDs just like Whitaker.
These two teams faced off against each other just a few weeks ago in Montreal, the game that turned into the coming-out party for Marsh as he replaced Josh Neiswander and eventually moved the Als into field goal range with time running out, en route to a thrilling 39-38 victory at the gun. Marsh generated 329 passing yards on only 14 completions, but was sacked three times and had four attempts picked off.
With that victory, Montreal has closed the gap in the all-time series even more, now trailing by a 34-32-1 margin in contests held during the regular season dating back to 1961.
Clearly, with all of the key injuries to the Alouettes this season, 2013 has been a tremendous disappointment. While Marsh can supply some occasional excitement, he can't do it alone.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: British Columbia 31, Montreal 23
09/11 11:09:05 ET