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Smith, Alouettes down Argonauts
Toronto, ON (SportsNetwork.com) - Troy Smith led the way with three touchdown passes as the Montreal Alouettes rallied late to down the Toronto Argonauts, 23-20, in the regular season finale for both Eastern Conference teams at Rogers Centre.
Smith completed 14-of-27 pass attempts for 197 yards and was intercepted once while under center for Montreal (8-10), which will play Hamilton at Alumni Stadium in Guelph in the playoff semifinals.
"You can't get enough reps, you can't get enough football as a quarterback," said Smith, who was making just the third start of his CFL career. "I don't like throwing interceptions they leave a bad taste in my mouth."
Duron Carter made three receptions for 93 yards and a major while Arland Bruce chimed in with six catches for 77 yards and one touchdown. Tyrell Sutton paced the Alouettes on the ground with 52 yards on nine attempts. Chip Cox anchored the defense with five tackles and two sacks. Cox's performance gave him a total of 114 tackles on the season to set a new club record. Montreal head coach and general manager Jim Popp noted the importance of keeping Smith with the team's playoff fate already determined.
"We didn't start with any momentum," said Popp. "I kept Smith in there because we need him in there to gain momentum for next week."
Toronto (11-8) played without starting quarterback Ricky Ray, who was held out of action by coach Scott Milanovich to avoid any injuries before it hosts the winner of the Montreal-Hamilton matchup in the Eastern Conference final on Nov. 17.
"I was just fortunate to get lots of young players game experience, which is good when you are a playoff team," said Milanovich. "It was a hard played game by both teams. They made more plays at the end."
Trevor Harris, Zach Collaros and Mitchell Gale all saw time under center for the Argonauts. Harris accounted for 110 of the trio's combined 210 passing yards on 6-of-9 efficiency. Jerious Norwood rushed eight times for 102 yards and also made four receptions for 62 yards. John Chiles also reeled in four passes for a team-high total of 78 yards.
The Argonauts' defense made an early statement as Matt Black picked off Smith and returned the interception 62 yards for a major that gave the hosts a 7-0 lead less than four minutes after the opening kickoff. Montreal could not get anything going offensively in the early going as Smith's last four pass attempts of the first quarter fell incomplete. Quinn Sharp drilled a 42-yard field goal attempt at the 1:42 mark of the opening period to send Toronto into the second frame with a 10-0 lead.
Smith finally put Montreal on the scoreboard as he completed a 71-yard touchdown pass to Carter with just under 13 minutes remaining before the intermission.
The Argonauts' offense did not get a chance to respond because Branden Smith fumbled on the ensuing kickoff and Nicola Boulay pounced on the loose ball to give the Alouettes a short field. Smith took advantage of the excellent starting position and put Montreal ahead with a three-yard touchdown pass to Bo Bowling. Sean Whyte's successful extra point attempt gave the Alouettes a narrow 14-10 edge with 9:22 left to play in the first half.
Toronto ended the run on its next possession as Sharp registered a single with a 43-yard punt to finish off its next drive. Montreal added a single of its own after Whyte missed a 47-yard field goal try at the conclusion of its next drive. Neither side managed to post anymore points before the break, which gave the Alouettes a 15-11 lead after two quarters of play.
The Argonauts took the lead back in the third quarter as Harris completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Darvin Adams just before the midway point of the period. Sharp had his extra point attempt blocked, which left Toronto with a 17-15 lead.
Toronto added three more points in the fourth frame as Montreal's Burke Dales conceded a safety and Sharp recorded a single with a missed 49-yard field goal try.
The Alouettes refused to go away and jumped back in front with just under three minutes left in regulation when Smith connected with Bruce on a 37-yard pass for a major. Smith then rushed two yards across the goal line for a successful two-point conversion that gave Montreal a 23-20 lead. Toronto could not rally to tie the score and turned the ball over on downs after Mitchell Gale had three pass attempts fall incomplete on its final drive.
Despite the loss, Toronto outgained Montreal, 333-304, in total yards.
Ray finished the campaign with the highest single-season mark for completion percentage (.777) in CFL history, formerly held by Dave Dickenson at 73.98 percent... Cox entered the contest two tackles shy of Tracy Gravely's team record of 110 that had stood since 1996...Harris's touchdown pass was his first of the season...The major scored by Adams was the first of his career...Montreal now owns a 110-85-3 advantage in regular-season matchups dating back to 1946.
11/01 23:09:20 ET