Ticats turn to Williams to halt slide in Montreal

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will have a new starting quarterback under centre when they visit the Montreal Alouettes on Thursday, and they'll also be hoping for a new result.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will feature a new starting quarterback when the visit the Montreal Alouettes on Thursday, and they'll also be hoping for a new result.

Richie Williams will spell the injured Casey Printers for the Ticats (1-4) and attempt to snap the team's current three-game losing streak and their eight-game slide against the Alouettes in Montreal, which dates back to 2001.

"It's like the eve of any other game," Williams told the Montreal Gazette. "I had a couple of starts last year, so I got the jitters out of the way. This is nothing special. I'm another person playing quarterback and trying to get the Hamilton Tiger-Cats a win.

"This is not a personal crusade. I just want to do my part to help the team get a win."

Printers went down with an injured thumb during the third quarter of Hamilton's 19-13 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos on Friday. The Ticats signal-caller completed 11 of 19 passes for 127 yards before Williams came in and added 138 yards with an interception in the game's waning seconds.

Regardless of which quarterback was under centre for the Ticats, the result was a fifth straight game without a passing touchdown.

While Printers has taken the brunt of criticism for the team's inability to score through the air, the team's offensive line deserves its share, as well.

Hamilton allowed eight sacks in Friday's loss to more than double its season total and fell to last in the league in that category with 15.

The Ticats did pull ahead 13-9 as Jesse Lumsden rumbled for 29 of his 55 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth. Lumsden was back in the lineup after missing one game with a right knee injury.

But Edmonton quarterback Ricky Ray threw to Kelly Campbell for an 11-yard score midway through the fourth and then hooked up with the receiver again to set up a Noel Prefontaine field goal for 10 unanswered points.

"I thought we'd take the momentum then and get back in the game," Hamilton head coach Charlie Taaffe said of Lumsden's touchdown. "But to their credit, they took it down the field and responded… it's very disappointing."

Ray had just one throwing touchdown, but he shredded the Ticats for 356 passing yards, which provided another example of Hamilton's season-long struggle against the pass. The Ticats rank sixth in the CFL in passing yards allowed (312 yards per game) and those gains through the air have resulted in the seventh-most points allowed (28 per game).

Als look to continue aerial attack

Led by quarterback Anthony Calvillo, the Alouettes (2-3) haven't experienced any problems throwing for touchdowns this season as they lead the league with 14 majors via the pass. The team is also second overall in average passing yards per game (332) and average points per game (31).

But like the Ticats, they're coming off a tough loss that saw them let a fourth-quarter lead slip away.

Paul McCallum booted a 36-yarder through the uprights with eight seconds in the game to give the Lions a 36-34 win in Vancouver on Friday, which wasted some solid offensive performances from the Alouettes.

Ben Cahoon hauled in six passes for 92 yards, Brian Bratton caught two touchdowns and Avon Cobourne racked up 127 yards on 14 carries in the loss, which was Montreal's third straight.

Calvillo, the CFL's passing leader with 1,653 yards and 14 touchdowns, completed 20 of 36 passes for 276 yards against B.C. But he threw two of his four interceptions on the season to Barron Miles, which helped give the Lions momentum for their comeback.

"It's just frustrating right now because we taught ourselves this is what we're going to be made of... and I go out there and throw an interception that kills us," Calvillo said following the loss.

The interceptions were two of four turnovers committed by the Alouettes during the game.

Calvillo was also sacked three times in the game but he shouldn't feel as much pressure on Thursday. Hamilton has sacked the opposing quarterbacks 10 times this season, the third lowest total in the league.

But desperate to avoid a four-game slide of their own and preserve their tenuous grasp on top spot in the East Division, the Alouettes won't underestimate their opponents.  

"If you take a team lightly, you're disrespecting the game," Marc Trestman told the Gazette. "Hamilton has as much at stake as we do."

Hamilton will sport a new look defensively on Thursday as defensive linemen Kori Dickerson and Clinton Wayne were released this week, while defensive back Jykine Bradley may also be out with a shoulder injury.

Bradley hurt himself following a scary collision with Eskimos' receiver Jason Tucker, who suffered a fractured and dislocated vertebrae from the hit.

On offence, Williams will have one less target downfield on Thursday as receiver Tony Miles will sit for a second straight game due to a hamstring injury.

Montreal has been forced to make changes in its secondary as cornerback Mark Estelle (shoulder) and safety Matthieu Proulx (hamstring) will both sit.

Import Chris Smith will get the nod at safety while either Paul Woldu or Rayshaun Kizer could fill in at cornerback.

With files from the Sports Network