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From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, September 3, 7:30 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: While it is still far too early to tell, could there be a changing of the guard in Montreal when it comes to the quarterback?
Last week he was the backup to the backup of the injured Anthony Calvillo, and now Tanner Marsh finds himself as the potential starter as the Alouettes take on the Toronto Argonauts at Rogers Centre on Tuesday night.
Montreal has struggled all season long, winning just two games through the first seven outings, with injuries being a huge issue, particularly of late. Key offensive threats like Noel Devine and Jamel Richardson are officially out of action, and Calvillo continues to deal with a head injury he suffered a number of weeks ago. Newly appointed head coach Jim Popp hasn't ruled out Calvillo for the upcoming game against the Argos, but the legendary signal- caller might be better off taking as much time as he needs at this point in his career.
Last week Popp, who has taken over for the dismissed Dan Hawkins, named Josh Neiswander as his starting quarterback after the youngster stepped in for Calvillo against Saskatchewan in a 24-21 setback in Week 8 action. Neiswander wasn't around for long though against British Columbia last week as he completed just one of his three pass attempts for three yards, was sacked once and threw an interception.
Marsh was brought in to finish out the meeting, one that saw the Als trailing by double digits in the first quarter, and the Arkansas Tech product ended up experiencing enough highs and lows to last an entire season. The 23-year old completed only 14-of-32 passes, but somehow piled up 329 yards and a major through the air. Marsh accounted for a game-high 71 rushing yards and scored once on nine carries, but was also sacked three times and had four passes picked off, yet his late Hail Mary put kicker Sean Whyte in position to knock through the game-winning 14-yard field goal as time expired in the thrilling 39-38 final.
Adding to the stunning upset was the play of Arland Bruce III who ended up with seven catches for 167 yards, both game highs. The enigmatic slotback, who had been a member of the Lions before signing with Montreal in January, had just 22 receptions for 262 yards before the outburst. Bruce now has 11,187 career receiving yards which places him in the Top-10 all-time in the CFL.
While the Als and Marsh were completing their improbable come-from-behind win, Toronto was taking a major beating from Calgary in a 35-14 setback on Aug. 23. The lopsided defeat snapped a four-game win streak for the Argonauts, but still the team is holding on to first place in the East Division over Hamilton by two points and Montreal by four.
In a rematch of the 100th Grey Cup, Toronto quarterback Ricky Ray started and completed five of his six pass attempts for 56 yards and a score, but he was driven to the turf and suffered an injury early on that kept him out the rest of the game. The TD pass for Ray went to Jason Barnes, marking the slotback's fourth straight game with a major.
Backup Zack Collaros stepped in for Ray and hit 16-of-26 passes for 221 yards, was picked off once and sacked four times. The only other points scored by Toronto came on a two-yard TD run by Curtis Steele in the second frame.
Chad Owens finished with six receptions for 76 yards and added another 108 yards on five kickoff returns, but was otherwise a non-factor in the losing cause.
Nevertheless, Owens is still second in the league in receiving yards with 648, stemming from a CFL-best 58 catches, and is easily tops in combined yards with 1,587 after eight games.
Unfortunately, the real question for the Argos is whether or not Ray can make his way back onto the field for this week. He may be just fifth in the league in passing yards with 1,824 at this point in the campaign, but Ray is by far the most efficient QB in the CFL with a rating of 134.0. Ray's near-perfect play has him connecting on a staggering 78.3 percent of his attempts for 15 touchdowns and he has yet to toss even a single interception in 189 chances.
In addition to the injuries piling up for the Als, they are also having to deal with one of the weakest defenses in the league, ranked second-to-last with 29.9 ppg allowed. Of particular concern for the squad has to be a league- high 30 turnovers, resulting in a turnover margin of minus-nine, which is second only to Winnipeg for the worst number after eight games of action.
Toronto won the first meeting of the season back on Aug. 8 by a 38-13 final, jumping out to a 31-0 advantage in the second quarter before cruising to the road win. In that meeting, Ray completed all but three of his 18 pass attempts, leading to three majors, while Owens delivered an electrifying 118- yard missed field goal return for a touchdown.
Coincidentally, that meeting also featured the CFL debut of Marsh who connected on both of his passes for 33 yards and was sacked once in relief of Calvillo.
Despite the setback last month, the Als still lead the all-time series by a count of 108-84-3, taking into account only regular-season matchups dating back to 1946.
With questions remaining about the availability of Ray, perhaps an over-the- top blowout win is not in the cards for Toronto. But even with Collaros at the helm, the Argos still have the advantage against an ailing Montreal squad.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 35, Montreal 20
08/28 12:15:19 ET