Ticats look to exploit Als' quarterback woes on Sunday
Tabbies in Montreal on Sunday for first game of back-to-back set against Alouettes
The Montreal Alouettes' starting quarterback carousel will pick up another rider to begin a back-to-back set against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Troy Smith will become Montreal's fourth starter at the position this season when the Alouettes host Hamilton on Sunday at Percival-Molson Stadium.
Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner in his senior year with Ohio State, signed a two-year deal with Montreal on Aug. 14. Five days later, three-time CFL Most Outstanding Player winner Anthony Calvillo suffered what proved to be a season-ending concussion.
Josh Neiswander and Tanner Marsh have started for the Alouettes since the CFL's all-time passing leader went down. Smith, who made his Montreal debut on Sept. 15, has appeared in five games.
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"There's no question when (Smith) first came up here it was to take it very slowly and we didn't know if he would get on the field," Alouettes' GM and coach Jim Popp said on Friday. "But with the injuries that have mounted at that position and he was thrown in there and had to learn more and to be in position to play, he's gotten more and more comfortable, he's more ready to go."
"We're very comfortable with him, and though he may not know 100 per cent of the playbook, I'm not sure if any of our quarterbacks know 100 per cent of our playbook right now."
Popp confirmed after practice Friday that Calvillo would not return this season.
Smith appeared in 14 games with Baltimore in his first three NFL seasons and six more with San Francisco in 2010, when he went 3-2 as a starter.
The 49ers did not re-sign him when he became a free agent. Smith, who spent the following season with Omaha of the United Football League, is looking forward to getting the start.
"It definitely feels good but you have to keep it in consideration, some things that you work hard for, you definitely have to understand that the hard work is just to get there, it does not stop once you've achieved some of the things that you want, so I have to keep plugging away and keep working."
The Alouettes fell to 6-9 after losing at home to Winnipeg for the second time this season on Monday, but clinched a playoff berth with Toronto's 26-20 victory over the Blue Bombers on Saturday.
Smith takes over for Neiswander, who was intercepted three times in the 34-27 loss to the Blue Bombers.
"Well, it's been an open competition," Popp said. "There's nothing set in stone. I mean, we've got to make decisions. We've got to see. Listen, Tanner's played well this year. Josh has played well this year. We need to find out if Troy Smith can play well.
"The bottom line is we need to win consistently and we need to be putting more points on the board than what we've been putting on the scoreboard most of the season. So we're trying to find that combination of people that's going to give us an easier time to win than the way we've been going about winning."
Montreal centre Luc Brodeur-Jourdain is getting used to snapping the ball to different sets of hands after forming an enduring tandem with Calvillo through his first four seasons.
"Every single one of them are pro athletes and they're dealing with the fact that here in Montreal we've had the same quarterback for many years and now they have to fight through adversity," Brodeur-Jourdain said. "They have to fight for their opportunity to show something on the field so I guess for the coaches it's a tough pick and they're just trying to give every single one of them their shot, and now it's Troy's shot."
Ticats gunning for top spot in East
Hamilton coach Kent Austin is adapting his defence to Smith.
"We're preparing a little bit differently for him but at the end of the day we have to prepare for what we see over the course of several games and what they're doing offensively," Austin said. "But he brings some other things to the table as well. He's a big strong kid — throws the ball well, big arm, can run, get out of trouble, break tackles — he's a good athlete."
The Tiger-Cats, who beat Montreal 28-26 in Moncton, N.B., on Sept. 21, are looking to improve their chances of finishing first in the East after consecutive wins over division leaders Toronto.
Running back C.J. Gable won CFL offensive player of the week honours for his contributions to Monday's 24-18 win over the Argonauts in Guelph, Ont.
Gable rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown and 46 receiving yards as Hamilton improved to 8-7.
The Tiger-Cats, who can clinch a home playoff game with a win Sunday, secured the advantage in the event of a tie-breaker with Toronto for the division title by winning the season series.
They host Montreal at Alumni Stadium on Saturday before finishing the regular season on Nov. 2 in Winnipeg.
The Argonauts close out their schedule with a pair of home games against the Blue Bombers and Alouettes.