GUELPH, Ont. - Brandon Banks says all he had to do was run — 107 yards to the end zone — to secure his Hamilton Tiger-Cats second spot in the CFL East and a home playoff berth.
"All I had to do was catch the ball and run down the sideline," said Banks, who only signed with the team Sept. 30 after three seasons with the Washington Redskins. "It was the other 11 guys working their butts off getting me great blocks."
When Montreal kicker Sean Whyte missed his 42-yard field goal short with little more than four minutes left in the game, Banks caught the ball and took it up the left sideline for the score and a 27-23 lead, the Ticats' first of the game.
That was Banks second of two fourth-quarter touchdowns as the Tiger-Cats came from behind to defeat the Montreal Alouettes 27-24 in front of 13,012 at the University of Guelph's Alumni Stadium on Saturday.
The Ticats were down by as much as 16-0 in the second quarter before clawing their way back.
Hamilton (9-8) has wrapped up second spot in the CFL East Division and will host the semifinal, against the Alouettes, on Nov. 10. Montreal falls to 7-10.
S.J. Green, Geoff Tisdale and Duron Carter scored touchdowns for the Alouettes. C.J. Gable also scored for the Ticats.
Hamilton kicker Luca Congi hit field goals from 22 and 25 yards. Montreal kicker Sean Whyte missed his two field-goal attempts, from 42 and 41 yards.
"We got fortunate that they missed the field goal, right?" said Hamilton head coach Kent Austin. "Because they could have easily made the field goal. But you watch our guys' effort in blocking downfield on that . . . Just great effort. Guys just playing to the whistle and playing hard."
With his first completion of the game, Burris moved into fourth spot for CFL all-time career pass completions, ahead of Danny McManus (3,640). But that was the only bright spot in his numbers for the day, with zero touchdown passes and one interception that was returned 64-yards by Tisdale for the score.
Rookie back-up Jeremiah Masoli threw one TD pass for Hamilton.
Burris shared the field with both his back-ups this game, with Masoli being used for the ground game, especially to eat up the clock near the end.
Austin said he decided to use a wildcat offence against the Als on his way back from Montreal last week, when the Ticats had lost 36-5, and that he knew Masoli was comfortable with running it from his college days.
Masoli said having that responsibility was fun.
"I had total confidence in myself because I had confidence in everybody else," he said.
Montreal's quarterback Troy Smith, making his second start of the season, threw two TD passes and two interceptions.
The Ticats were down 23-10 early in the fourth and the Alouettes were driving when Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawrence intercepted Smith at the Montreal 51 and ran it to the 45. On the next play, Banks took the hand-off and turned upfield for a 45-yard TD run and the Ticats found themselves down just 23-17 with almost 12 minutes left in the game.
A 25-yard field goal by Congi with 8:08 left made it 23-20.
When Whyte missed his 42-yard field goal attempt short due to a high snap, the ball was caught by Banks and run up the left sideline 107 yards for the TD and a 27-23 Hamilton lead.
Whyte said after the game that the ball wasn't on the tee properly when he kicked it. He said he didn't see Banks return the kick. He could only hear the crowd's reaction.
"I was hit after the kick so I don't know why we didn't get the ball back," Whyte said.
Whyte later missed his second field-goal attempt for a single and the lead was cut to 27-24 with a little more than two minutes left.
When Austin was told of Whyte's comments, he responded that he also had issues: "We can sit here 'til midnight if you want to play that game."
The Alouettes got the ball back on their own 17 with 18 seconds left in the game, but they couldn't make anything of it.
Smith and Montreal struck first, midway through the first quarter when he hit Green for a 55-yard gain to set up the Als at the Hamilton 14-yard line. Two plays later, Smith again hit Green, who turned and stretched his arms out for the TD and a 7-0 lead.
A couple series later, after it looked like the Ticats were moving the ball, a Burris throw landed in the hands of Montreal's Tisdale after intended receiver Brandon Banks missed a route. Tisdale returned it 64 yards for the score and a 14-0 lead.
It could have been worse, if not for two Alouettes turnovers deep in Ticat territory. It looked like they were going to open up a huge lead when they opened the second quarter with a 51-yard drive that ate up 5:27 on the clock and had the ball at the Hamilton 25. But it came to a halt when Duron Carter batted the ball up in the air and it was intercepted by Hamilton defensive back Rico Murray at the Hamilton 15.
Still, that play failed to change the momentum as the Ticats went two-and-out and the snap went over punter Josh Bartel's head and into the end zone, forcing him to kick it out and concede the safety.
Montreal threatened again, moving the ball to the Hamilton 21 before Bo Bowling fumbled the ball at the 11 and Hamilton's Brandon Isaac recovered.
The Ticats finally got on the board with 1:05 left in the half when a 71-yard drive stalled and ended with a 22-yard field goal. It was the sixth straight quarter, going back to last week's Montreal win, in which the Als had kept Hamilton out of the end zone.
That changed with the Ticats' first possession of the third. Hamilton drove 72 yards in seven plays using the quarterback tandem of Burris and Masoli. It was Masoli who lofted the ball to Gable for the 12-yard TD midway through the quarter as the Ticats pulled to 16-10.
Smith and the Als answered immediately with a 79-yard drive culminating with a 63-yard catch-and-run TD from Smith to Carter and a 23-10 lead.