The losing run is over for the Montreal Alouettes, who look like they've found their starting quarterback halfway through the Canadian Football League season.
Jonathan Crompton made his first CFL start as the Alouettes used touchdowns by S.J. Green and newcomer James Rodgers to defeat the visiting Ottawa Redblacks 20-10 on Friday night.
The former Edmonton Eskimo completed 15 passes for 245 yards as the Alouettes (2-7) ended a six-game losing streak and took over second place in the feeble East Division.
"It was a great team win," was Crompton's only assessment of a win that came despite two drive-killing turnovers, but was aided by the expansion Redblacks' 135 yards in penalties.
'We need to keep the yards we earn by not taking penalties. We'll keep working at it.' - Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell
Wallace Miles had a 27-yard pass-and-run TD in the fourth quarter and Brett Maher had a field goal on Ottawa's opening drive as the Redblacks (1-8) lost a sixth game in a row.
"It's tough to win when you're not scoring," said Ottawa coach Rick Campbell. "No team can take the amount of penalties we take.
"We can't have the moment be too big or emotional for us, where we lose our way. We need to keep the yards we earn by not taking penalties. We'll keep working at it."
It was as close as the Alouettes have been to a must-win game this season: at home against the expansion Redblacks and giving Crompton his shot after Troy Smith and Alex Brink struggled in the starting job.
Impressive 1st start
Crompton found Duran Carter for five receptions for 127 yards while Green caught five for 48 yards. Running back Brandon Whitaker rushed for an even 100.
"He won the football game," coach Tom Higgins said of his quarterback. "One of my best friends, Ron Lancaster, said the only evaluation for a quarterback is 'can you win with him?'
"He brings that to the table."
Crompton's best moment came after Miles's touchdown pulled Ottawa to within three points with 6:14 left to play.
On the ensuing drive, Crompton hit Carter with a 48-yard pass that set up Rodgers's 17-yard scamper around the left side for a TD in his first CFL game. Rodgers signed this month as a replacement for injured kick returner Larry Taylor, but also saw some time in the backfield.
Sean Whyte added a field goal and had three punts roll into the end zone for singles for Montreal.
A season low of 19,440 turned out to Percival Molson Stadium for a flag-filled game that until the fourth quarter had few big plays from either offence to cheer.
Crompton, who relieved Brink in the second quarter of a loss last week in Winnipeg, was not on the field for the first TD. Tanner Marsh, who plays in short-yardage situations, threw the one-yard touchdown pass to Green in the first quarter after the Alouettes were stopped twice at the one.
A pair of turnovers had Montreal settling for an 8-3 halftime lead despite controlling much of the play.
The Redblacks got a 30-yard Maher field goal 3:16 into the game.
Whyte added a punt single early in the second quarter, but Montreal had a drive end when Crompton's wobbly pass was picked off at the Ottawa eight by Travis Brown for his first career interception.
Another drive ended when Whitaker fumbled at the Ottawa two, with the Redblacks' Jerrell Gavins recovering in the end zone.
Whyte got his third rouge early in the second half and added a field goal.
The Redblacks made a game of it as Henry Burris led an 80-yard drive capped by Miles's TD.
Crompton reportedly winked at Carter in the huddle, then hit him with the pass that turned momentum back to the Alouettes and sealed their long-awaited win.
"We still have room to improve," said Carter. "We left points out there.
"We could have made the game a lot easier early on. But we showed all the teams in the CFL that we're a good team and we're not going away. It does wonders. It's like in basketball, where one shot goes in and then you start making them all. That's what we want to do now."
Ottawa's last gasp drive ended with a turnover on downs. The Redblacks' bright spot was Miles's seven catches for 101 yards. Burris went 21 for 34 for 245 yards.
Campbell called it another learning experience for his new team.
"There's a lot of good football players who are going to be around Ottawa for a long time and we can't lose sight of that when we're losing like this," he said. "We'll keep coaching them and finding ways to be better."