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Alouettes keep home playoff bid alive with strong effort vs. Tiger-Cats

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The Montreal Alouettes picked a good time to put together their most complete effort of the season.

Six days after failing to clinch a playoff spot, the Alouettes kept their hopes for a home date alive with dominant 36-5 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday afternoon at Molson Stadium.

Montreal now sits two points back of second-place Hamilton ahead of Saturday’s rematch in Guelph. A win there would give the Alouettes the advantage should the teams finish tied at season’s end.

“I don’t think it matters what we told them today; I think it matters what we told ourselves,” middle linebacker Shea Emry said. “There have been a lot of games where we’ve come out and we’ve had leads like this and we’ve let them come back and get 15, 20 points. For the defence it was big and for an offence that was consistent today, we were really proud of them.”

In his first CFL start, quarterback Troy Smith went 17-for-35 for 247 yards, a total that included a 64-yard toss to S.J. Green in the opening quarter that the slotback ran to the end zone for his 11th touchdown of the season – one of two he’d collect on the day. It set a new career high on that front and sent him past the 1,000-yard mark for the third straight year.

“To start off, I was anxious. The anxiety was set in, some of my throws were not the normal throws but the first completion to Bo Bowling was huge,” said Smith, who threw three touchdowns. “Sometimes you just need something like that to get you going. That’s playing quarterback – staying the course.”

The insertion of Smith as starter was one of three notable roster moves by head coach Jim Popp for Sunday’s tilt. He also slotted running back Tyrell Sutton to start ahead of Jerome Messam and added Bowling in as the primary returner. Bowling’s return dropped struggling receiver Brandon London off the 42-man roster for the week.

The latter two moves also paid off, Sutton rushing for 84 yards on 13 carries, scoring his third touchdown of the season. Bowling, meanwhile, piled up 118 yards on returns, with 58 yards coming on a second quarter run.

“We just came out and executed the game plan. Troy did a great job of facilitating out there, getting the ball, spreading it out to everybody out there on the field and we just played an entire 60-minute game – offensively, defensively and special teams-wise,” Sutton said. “We did a great job of putting an entire game together today.”

A strong and consistent effort from the offence meant more downtime for the defence, a rarity this season. The brightest spot in a topsy-turvy campaign, the defence was notably fresh against the Tiger-Cats. Reigning offensive player of the week C.J. Gable failed to gain anything on the ground and managed just 39 yards on six catches.

The only offence the visitors could muster was a field goal, their other two points coming courtesy of a Sean Whyte safety touch. The five points allowed marked the first time since September 11, 2011 – also against Hamilton – that the Alouettes had held their opponent without a touchdown.

“That’s what they’ve been doing all year,” Sutton noted of the defensive unit. “The only reason that they’ve been giving up so many points is because our offence has been putting them in bad situations.

“We know that if we come out here and play the kind of game that we can play offensively, nobody stands a chance against our defence. We put our defence in great places special teams-wise and they put us in great places defensively. It was a well-oiled machine today.”

A machine that will need to have plenty of oil on hand if it hopes to return to Molson Stadium this season.

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