HAMILTON — Rookie quarterback Vernon Adams threw three touchdown passes in just his third CFL start to lead the Montreal Alouettes to a 32-25 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Saturday at Tim Hortons Field.
Hamilton (7-11) has lost its last two games but is in the playoffs — hosting the Edmonton Eskimos next week in the CFL East semifinal.
Montreal improves to 7-11 with its third win in a row, but had been eliminated from the playoffs by virtue of having a worse record than Edmonton, who finished fourth in the West and crosses over.
Despite sharing the same record as Montreal, the Ticats head to the playoffs because they hold the tiebreaker with two earlier victories against the Als.
Samuel Giguere scored twice, B.J. Cunningham scored once and Stefan Logan added a punt return TD for Montreal. Brian Tyms and Anthony Woodson each scored for Hamilton.
Hamilton kicker Brett Maher made all three of his field-goal attempts, from 25, 43 and 51 yards out. Montreal kicker Boris Bede hit his lone field-goal attempt, from 16 yards.
Adams completed 16-of-28 pass attempts for 257 yards, three TDs and zero picks.
Zach Collaros started at quarterback for Hamilton, completing 8-of-12 pass attempts for 134 yards but had trouble connecting with his receivers in the end zone, took a handful of hard hits, and lasted just the first quarter before being replaced by third-stringer Jeff Mathews, who completed 18-of-29 pass attempts for 201 yards, one TD and one interception.
Montreal took a 14-6 lead at halftime on the strength of Logan's 86-yard punt return for a TD and an 18-yard touchdown reception by Giguere.
But Maher's 51-yard field goal with the wind opened scoring in the third and pulled the Ticats to 14-9.
On Hamilton's next possession, Mathews lead a 71-yard drive, including a 48-yard catch-and-run to Carl-Olivier Prime, to the Montreal 22 but couldn't convert a third-and-short as the Ticats came away with nothing. But linebacker Keon Raymond forced a Nik Lewis fumble on the ensuing Montreal possession by stripping away the ball after a reception and Hamilton took over on the Montreal 44.
Two plays later, Mathews hit Tyms with a 24-yard TD strike, and then hit Kevin Elliott for the two-point conversion and Hamilton led 17-14.
It was Mathews' first TD throw of the season, and rookie Tyms' first TD catch in his first CFL game.
Montreal answered right back, with a 65-yard drive in six plays ending with a 37-yard TD throw from Adams to Giguere and the Als led 21-17 early in the fourth.
Maher's 66-yard punt single pulled Hamilton to 21-18 with 9:50 to play. On the ensuing Montreal possession Brandon Rutley fumbled and Hamilton's Chris Davis recovered the ball, running it back to the 10-yard line. A facemask penalty against Montreal placed the ball at the five, and Woodson ran it in for a TD on the next play and a 25-21 Hamilton lead.
Adams led the Als right back, marching 76 yards in three plays and hitting Cunningham with a 42-yard TD strike for the 28-25 lead with 6:56 left in the game.
Bede's 16-yarder with 1:10 left in the game gave Montreal the 31-25 lead. He followed with an 82-yard kickoff single for 32-25. Montreal's Marc-Olivier Brouillette intercepted Mathews with 36 seconds left to ice the win.
Montreal was up 7-6 at the end of the first quarter despite its offence not being able to get a single first down. Logan's 86-yard punt return midway through the first got them on the board. Ticat kicker Maher hit both his field-goal tries from 25 and 43 yards to answer for Hamilton.
In the second quarter, Logan's 45-yard punt return to the Hamilton 39 set up Montreal's first offensive score of the game. Three plays later, Adams hit Giguere in the back of the end zone for an 18-yard TD strike and the 14-6 Montreal lead. Logan had 213 all-purpose yards in the first half.
Meanwhile, Mathews came in for Collaros and could get nothing going for Hamilton in the quarter, as the Ticats made it into Montreal territory (the 51-yard line) only once. He was also sacked three times.