Troy Smith is looking like he will grow into the job as the Montreal Alouettes starting quarterback after all.
After the offence was stifled in a season opening loss last week in Calgary, Smith and the entire Alouettes team were a notch better in a 24-9 victory over the struggling B.C. Lions on Friday night.
Montreal (1-1) posted the first win by an East Division team over a western club this season and dropped the Lions to 0-2.
"There wasn't a lot of difference in play calls, it was just the quarterback making different reads and doing different things," said Smith. "Obviously, having a little more time with the co-ordinator and the offensive line coach is going to help you.
"I'm kind of greedy in the sense that I like throwing touchdown passes and I didn't get one, so I'm still chomping at the bit to get my first one of the season, but if we keep getting wins, that's the most important statistic."
Running back Brandon Whitaker and linebacker Chip Cox scored first quarter touchdowns and Sean Whyte kicked three field goals and a single for the Alouettes.
The defence made the real difference, sacking B.C. starter Kevin Glenn five times, picking off two passes and recovering a fumble. Smith was sacked only once and was not picked off.
Smith completed 17 passes for a relatively modest 187 yards, but he helped the Alouettes pick up 203 yards on the ground with a few timely rushing first downs.
The Lions produced only one Paul McCallum field goal with Glenn at quarterback. Backup John Beck had an eight-yard TD toss to Courtney Taylor with 1:20 left in the game on a drive aided by three Montreal penalties.
It was their first TD since they got two in the first quarter of a loss last week at home to Edmonton.
"This is a tough business to be in because you can be so high one day and so low the next," said the 35-year-old Glenn, who became the starter when Travis Lulay was placed on the six-game injured list with a shoulder injury. "We've just got to make sure we stick together and try to turn this thing around.
"It's a long season. The most important thing is to stick together as a team."
The concern for B.C. going into the game was having newcomer Ryan Cave starting at left tackle after only two practices with the team this week.
It wasn't all his doing, but Montreal spent much of the first half in the Lions' backfield, either sacking Glenn or hurrying throws.
Bowman said the defence didn't key on Cave.
"The way (defensive co-ordinator Noel Thorpe) called the game, it wasn't anything against Cave," said Bowman, whose four sacks was one short of a team record. "I actually thought he played OK.
"Coach Thorpe called a masterful game. We didn't take advantage of one player, but their scheme in general."
The defence came up with the first score 7:36 into the game on a play that had the crowd of 20,018 on its feet.
Defensive lineman Scott Paxson reached up a hand to pick off Glenn's throw, then flipped the ball to Cox to run 20 yards into the end zone. It was a fifth career TD for Cox.
"I had contain on that play," said Paxson. "The quarterback threw the ball a little low and I got my hands on it. After that, I wasn't really thinking. I saw I was about to be tackled so I pitched it to Chip."
Cox had one defensive tackle, leaving the 2013 outstanding defensive player two short of moving into the top-10 in CFL history.
Smith led a nine-play, 71-yard drive capped by Whitaker's 32-yard TD run at 13:27.
Whyte added a pair of field goals in the second quarter, one of them set up by an Andrew Harris fumble that was recovered by Jerald Brown on the B.C. 43 yard line.
Promising drive for Lions snuffed
The other came after Smith's 37-yard pass to S.J. Green, which appeared to hit the ground. However, B.C. coach Mike Benevides said spotters got the replay late and the referee ruled that the next play had started before the challenge flag was thrown.
"That would have been a difference of three points," Benevides said. "I'd love to get the replay on time."
Montreal back-up quarterback Tanner Marsh fumbled on a third-and-short play into Solomon Elimimian's hands at the Montreal 40 to set up McCallum's 24-yard field goal to put B.C. on the board 5:41 into the second half.
Glenn had a promising drive die when he was intercepted by Marc-Olivier Bouillette in the end zone early in the fourth quarter. Glenn threw only seven picks all of last season with Calgary, but has six in two games with the Lions.
B.C. finally scored with Beck in the game.
"I wanted Beck to get some work,"said Benevides. "He had some time to warm up, so I got him in there to get some game reps."
The schedule doesn't get easier for the Lions, whose next game is at Saskatchewan on July 12.
The Alouettes stay home to face 2-0 Winnipeg next Friday.