Montreal battles Hamilton in Eastern Division Final

Nov 19, 2014 - 3:52 PM Hamilton, ON ( - The Hamilton Tiger-Cats try to make a return to the Grey Cup title game as they host the Montreal Alouettes in the Eastern Division Final at Tim Horton's Field on Sunday afternoon.

Hamilton took part in the 101st Grey Cup against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in enemy territory at Mosaic Stadium a season ago and came up short in a 45-23 final, so there is certainly some incentive to get back to the big game and prove that it has made some improvements since.

The Ticats finished with the same overall record as Montreal during the regular season at 9-9, but the tiebreaker favored Hamilton, giving the team the division title while the Als went to work in the East Division Semifinals against British Columbia last weekend.

Hosting the Lions in a cross-over affair, Montreal made it look incredibly easy last weekend as the team produced a crushing 50-17 win that wasn't nearly as close as the final score might indicate. The Als not only led 36-3 heading into the fourth quarter, the hosts pushed that advantage to 50-3 before easing up on the defensive side of the ball in the final minutes to possibly give the BC fans something to be excited about.

Outside of those final few minutes, the Als were nearly perfect in all phases of the game. Jonathan Crompton had an easy go of it as he completed 14-of-21 for 155 yards and two scores, one each to S.J. Green and Duron Carter in the second quarter.

Backup quarterback Tanner Marsh handled some of the short yardage situations and scored on two of his five rushing attempts as the team produced 215 yards on 31 carries overall. Brandon Rutley and Chris Rainey also found the end zone on runs of three and 64 yards in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.

Even the Montreal defense got in on the action when Jerald Brown scooped up a fumble and ran it back 103 yards for a major in fourth.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Als managed to produce the lopsided affair by generating just 371 yards of total offense.

It was the most points for the Als since the 2010 opener when they lost in overtime against Saskatchewan, 54-51.

The scoring outburst was made all the more surprising due to the fact that during the regular season Montreal was next-to-last in scoring with only 20.0 ppg, ahead of only expansion Ottawa (15.4 ppg) which won a total of just two games in 18 opportunities. When you also consider that the Als were in a rebuilding mode with regards to the quarterback position, making it this far is also a stunning turn of events.

Consider that Montreal went through a series of starting quarterbacks following the retirement of Anthony Calvillo and those signal callers combined to place eighth in the league in passing with just 3,784 yards. The group tossed only 16 touchdowns, against 14 interceptions, which is also why they finished with the weakest efficiency rating in the CFL at 74.4.

At the other end of the passing spectrum was Hamilton, second in the league behind only Toronto with 4,854 yards during the regular season. The Tiger-Cats didn't have the greatest TD-to-INT ratio either (20-to-16), but they still completed passes at a 64.6 percent clip, far better than Montreal's league- worst 53.9 percent.

Hamilton quarterback Zach Collaros may put himself in danger at times when he takes off running, but when he remains in the pocket he is one of the better passers in the league with his 65.8 percent accuracy, leading to 15 TDs and just nine INTs.

Taking some of the pressure off Collaros to run is the addition of Nic Grigsby, the league's third-best rusher with 890 yards who began the 2014 campaign with Winnipeg but after giving the Blue Bombers 744 yards and eight touchdowns, was lost in the shuffle and asked for and was granted his release last month.

Hamilton won the most recent meeting between the teams during the regular season, the last regular season game in fact on Nov. 8 by a score of 29-15. Two months earlier, the Als were the ones to come out on top in a 38-31 final.

As far as the most recent matchup was concerned, Collaros threw for 207 yards and a score, along with being sacked two times and dealing with an interception for Hamilton. Grigsby accounted for 93 rushing yards and a major, the team posting 131 yards on the ground compared to a mere 17 net yards for Montreal.

The visitors leaned on Crompton who converted 18-of-35 passes for 284 yards and a score to Carter late in the fourth quarter when the game was already out of reach.

From a historical perspective, Hamilton has won the Grey Cup a total off Reilly.

These teams played a total of three times during the regular season, with the Stamps winning each outing, albeit by just four points in the first clash of the campaign back on July 24.

The most recent encounter took place in early September when the teams actually played a home-and-home series in a span of just five days. Calgary hosted the first meeting on Sept. 1 and came up with a 28-13 victory, but the following battle was much more competitive as host Edmonton bowed by only seven points, 41-34.

In that most recent meeting in Week 11, Mitchell threw for 216 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more scores for the visitors, while Marquay McDaniel turned four receptions into 124 yards and a major. Cornish produced a game-high 109 yards and a score as well for the victorious visitors.

The Eskimos were led by Nichols who converted 25-of-43 passes for 333 yards and three scores, one each to Adarius Bowman and A.J. Guyton as the receiving duo combined for 14 receptions for 235 yards. Edmonton didn't do itself any favors by committing nine penalties for 95 yards either.

Edmonton has won the second-most Grey Cups behind Toronto (16) with 13 in 24 opportunities, the most recent of those titles coming in 2005's 38-35 double- overtime affair versus Montreal at BC Place.

As for the Stampeders, they were in the championship game just two years ago but lost to Toronto (35-22), which means their most recent win, the sixth in club history, was logged in 2008 versus Montreal (22-14).

The winner of this game will take on the survivor of the Montreal/Hamilton matchup for the right to take home the Grey Cup next weekend at BC Place in Vancouver.

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