Hamilton receiver Brandon Banks scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 107-yard return of a missed field goal 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's East Division and will host the semifinal, against Montreal, 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 Hamilton.
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.
QB Burris passes milestone
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.
Montreal's rookie QB 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 the 27-23 Hamilton lead — their first of the game.
Whyte missed a second field-goal attempt, this one from 41 yards, for a single and the lead was cut to 27-24 with a little more than two minutes left.
The Alouettes got the ball back on its own 17 with 18 seconds left in the game but got nowhere.
Smith and Montreal struck first, midway through the first 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.
Turnovers costly for Als
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.