East Division showdown pits Toronto against Montreal

Oct 29, 2014 - 3:04 PM Montreal, QC (SportsNetwork.com) - Now in the driver's season in the East Division, the Montreal Alouettes try to move closer to the postseason as they clash with the Toronto Argonauts on Sunday afternoon at Percival-Molson Stadium.

With two games remaining in the regular season, the Als have a two-point lead in the standings over both the Argos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats entering Week 19 action. Early on this season, it appeared 2014 would be a lost cause for Montreal as it tried to sort out the quarterback situation following the retirement of Anthony Calvillo. The Alouettes opened the campaign with a disastrous 1-7 mark, but in the last two months the team has managed to balance the scales.

In fact, last week Montreal won its fifth straight game and the seventh time in eight outings thanks to a 23-17 triumph over the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks on the road.

The Als scored in each of the first three quarters at Ottawa, and then managed to hold on for the victory in an emotional contest following the events at Canada's capital earlier in the week. Jonathan Crompton converted 17-of-29 passes for 216 yards and a score, while Tanner Marsh reached the end zone on a one-yard run in the first frame.

Kicker Sean Whyte was again a crucial piece of the puzzle as he converted all three of his field goal tries and finished with 11 points overall.

Defensively, Montreal forced five turnovers, three interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries, in order to keep the RedBlacks from mounting a serious comeback bid.

Following this contest, the Als have a meeting with Hamilton on the road on Nov. 8, a game that could prove crucial depending on the outcomes this week.

As for the Argonauts, a team which had a lull early on due to key injuries, they too are on their way back with four wins in five tries. Granted, the team is still two games under .500, but with the 26-24 win over Hamilton last Saturday the Argos kept their postseason hopes alive.

Quarterback Ricky Ray, one of the most successful signal callers in the CFL over the last several years, completed 24-of-36 passes for 323 yards and a score, his favorite target being the sprite Chad Owens who turned his six catches into 56 yards. Also stepping up his production was running back Steve Slaton who not only ran for 80 yards on 16 carries, he also caught five balls for a team-best 77 yards and a major.

Adding some punch to the scoreboard was the always reliable Swayze Waters who converted three of his four field goal tries and finished with 12 points in the triumph.

Heading into Week 19 action, Waters leads all players in scoring with 173 points. He has made a CFL-best 42 field goals, with a 53-yarder being the longest of any kicker in the league this season. Thanks to Waters, Toronto is third in the league in scoring with 25.8 ppg, with a good amount of credit also going to Ray and the passing attack which has accounted for 28 majors.

If there were one area that could stand some attention in Toronto it would be the running game since the squad is third from the bottom in total attempts (270), and has scored just seven times via the run.

Clearly the team leans on Ray as much as possible, and it only makes sense since he does lead the league in passing yards (4,386) while completing 68.2 percent of his attempts. His 28 TDs are more than any other team has through the air, but at the same time he has 15 interceptions, more than the Sacramento State product has had combined over the two previous campaigns.

Unlike the Argos who know who their quarterback is from one week to the next, Montreal had fumbled along quite a bit before settling on Crompton, whether by choice or necessity. The former Edmonton Eskimo is closing in on 2,000 passing yards and has nine TDs to his credit, but has also tossed eight interceptions.

Montreal has won five of the last eight regular-season meetings with Toronto, and now owns a 111-86-3 edge in the all-time series, dating back to 1946. The most recent clash was less than two weeks ago as the Als claimed a 20-12 victory at Rogers Centre.

In that contest, Crompton threw for 219 yards and one major, while another TD was being scored by backup quarterback Tanner Marsh on the ground. In a game that was filled with poor decisions and a laundry list of penalties, Montreal was hit with 18 infractions for a loss of 165 yards, the Argos another 13 miscues for 133 yards.

Ray connected on 25-of-39 passes for 202 yards and was intercepted once as the Argonauts were kept out of the end zone. Waters tried to keep the hosts in the mix by knocking through all four of his field goal attempts, but it simply wasn't enough.

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