HAMILTON — The Montreal Alouettes defence has sent a message.
“I think we’re the best defence in the league,” said cornerback Jonathan Hefney after Montreal beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 26-23 Thursday night — handing them their first-ever loss at Tim Hortons Field.
The Alouettes defence recorded six sacks, one interception and two fumble recoveries while holding the league’s hottest offence to just 23 points.
It snapped Hamilton’s win streak at five games — a streak in which the Ticats had scored at least 30 points in each of those games. It was their first home loss in 11 games since the new stadium opened last year.
Montreal’s Kyries Hebert intercepted Zach Collaros at the Als’ 30-yard line with 30 seconds left to seal the victory.
“We’re going to go out there and perform that way every week,” said Hefney, who had two tackles. “We’re going out there to try and make plays and it just happened that we made enough plays today to go out there and get a win. I don’t take anything from that team. They’re a great team… We know it’s a challenge but we want to win that challenge every week.”
Backup quarterback Tanner Marsh led the Alouettes after Rakeem Cato went down in the second quarter with a hip pointer. Cato was injured on a sack by Eric Norwood and finished the game 4-of-7 passing for 115 yards and one touchdown.
Marsh completed 11-of-18 pass attempts for 99 yards and one interception, while adding a rushing TD.
“It felt amazing being out there,” said Marsh. “Just helping this team whenever I can. I’m too excited to even express my feelings right now. It was an awesome win, a huge team win. The defence came up huge right there. The team stuck with me. It was awesome.”
Montreal (4-5) spoiled the party on a night where the crowd celebrated the career of legendary Tiger-Cats defensive lineman Angelo Mosca, who had his No. 68 retired. The win is also the Als’ second over Hamilton (6-3) — guaranteeing them the season series.
Luke Tasker and Jeff Mathews scored touchdowns for the Tiger-Cats. Brandon Rutley also scored for Montreal.
Collaros completed 20-of-27 pass attempts for 293 yards, one TD and one interception.
“If you don’t come ready to play, you’re going to get beat,” said Collaros. “We didn’t play well in all three phases of the game.”
Montreal kicker Boris Bede was good on three of four field-goal attempts, hitting from 31, 23 and 28 yards and missing from 45. His 28-yarder gave the Alouettes the lead with 1:10 left.
Hamilton kicker Justin Medlock hit all three field-goal attempts, from 37, 49 and 48 yards.
It was Montreal’s first game with Jim Popp as head coach after firing Tom Higgins following a win last week against B.C. He said they stuck with the game plan, even after Cato went down.
“We did what we had to do,” he said. “We finished strong and made plays down the stretch.”
The last team to beat the Ticats was Montreal on July 16.
Hamilton looked unsteady on both sides of the ball all game. They finally put a scoring drive together with 10 minutes left to tie the game 23-23, finishing a 72-yard eight-play drive with a two-yard TD rush by backup quarterback Jeff Mathews.
Montreal marched back downfield eating up 5:52 on the clock with a 72-yard 12-play drive, including converting a third-and-one on the Hamilton 39.