Johnny Manziel leads Montreal Alouettes past Hamilton for final regular season win

HAMILTON — Despite the conditions of their season ending, Johnny Manziel and the Montreal Alouettes will enter their off-season with a win after defeating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 30-28 at Tim Hortons Field Saturday night, handing the Tiger-Cats their third straight loss.

With the Tiger-Cats set to host the BC Lions next week in the Eastern Semi-Final, June Jones elected to sit many of his starters, including Jeremiah Masoli, giving Dane Evans the nod as the Black and Gold’s starting pivot.

Johnny Manziel, formerly a member of the Hamilton Ticats before being traded to the Alouettes, was given the starting reins for the Alouettes as they, unlike the Tabbies, entered the game with all of their healthy starters in the lineup and playing.

The Alouettes opened the scoring on their first offensive possession of the game, airing it out for a long scoring major to Eugene Lewis, putting Montreal ahead early 7-0.

After Manziel was chased down by Lucas Wacha for his first CFL sack, the Alouettes were forced to punt, setting the Ticats up with great field position after a botched punt by Boris Bede, which sailed 20 yards before bouncing out of bounds around the 55-yard line.

Lirim Hajrullahu gave the Ticats their first points of the game, kicking a successful field goal attempt from 22 yards out.

On Hamilton’s next offensive possession, Dane Evans struggled to handle a snap as the Alouettes pounced on the loose ball and going as the first defensive turnover of the game.

Antonio Pipkin came in at quarterback for Montreal for the ensuing drive, seeing Manziel be placed on the sideline as the second quarter got underway.

In one-quarter of play, Manziel completed four of his five passing attempts for 59 yards and a touchdown.

The Alouettes pushed their way down towards the Ticats goal-line, trying to punch it in with Pipkin as the short-yardage quarterback. After the play was reviewed by the command centre, the officials overturned a play which originally had Pipkin short of the goal-line. Following the review, it was determined that the Als’ quarterback did indeed break the plane, extending the Montreal lead to 14-3 before the ten-minute mark of the second quarter.

Hamilton would respond on their next offensive drive, capping off a nine-play drive with a passing touchdown from Dane Evans to Bralon Addison on a 20-yard connection. The score would be both Evans’ first professional touchdown pass and Addison’s first receiving touchdown.

Eugene Lewis continued to bolster his late-season stats when he hauled in a 75-yard bomb from Pipkin within the final three minutes of the second quarter. An ill-timed knockdown attempt by Hamilton’s Jumal Rolle allowed Lewis to snag the pass, leaving Rolle in his tracks as Lewis darted for the end zone, further extending the Alouettes lead 20-11 after a failed two-point conversion attempt by Montreal.

Come halftime, the two Montreal quarterbacks had combined for 210 yards through the air as Lewis took credit for half of the receiving yards, heading into the locker room with two receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

Pipkin looked to continue his success through the air as the third quarter got underway, connecting with Ernest Jackson for a massive gain in the early going of the second half. However, after a successful challenge by June Jones, it was determined that Adarius Bowman was guilty of offensive pass interference on the play when he ran into Courtney Stephens, who was in coverage of Jackson on the play. As a result, the gain was negated and the Alouettes would eventually have to punt the ball away a short time later.

Working off of a deep 46-yard gain by Hamilton’s Mike Jones, the Tiger-Cats inched their way toward the end zone before Sean Thomas-Erlington punched the ball in for the score from two yards out, bringing the Ticats within two of the Als in the third quarter.

Boris Bede extended the Alouettes lead to five after he sailed a 43-yard field goal attempt through the uprights. The kick gave Bede his 40th field goal attempt as he tallied his 34th made kick this season, bringing his season’s percentage to 85 per cent.

Shortly thereafter, the Alouettes jumped on a loose ball after Terrell Sinkfield fumbled the ball on his own 19-yard line during the ensuing kickoff. A few quick plays later and Pipkin found himself in the end zone after scoring his second rushing touchdown of the game. The Als fourth touchdown would aid in extending their lead to 12 points as the third quarter drew to an end.

Refusing to let up, Dane Evans orchestrated a drive that took nearly the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, eventually connecting with Mike Jones on a back-shoulder throw for his third touchdown reception of the season. As a result, Hamilton cut the Montreal lead to just five points with 10:11 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Matthew Shiltz came in at quarterback for the Alouettes for their first possession of the fourth quarter, sending Pipkin to the sideline after completing eight of his 15 pass attempts for 217 yards and two a touchdown, while also adding two rushing touchdowns.

With time ticking away in the fourth quarter, Evans continued to demonstrate his ability to manage drives as the Ticats pushed deep into Montreal’s end of the field. However, the Alouettes defence stepped up to stall the drive at Montreal’s 13-yard line, making June Jones decide to kick a field goal from 29 yards out with 2:18 to go in the game.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats defence stepped up in a big way after narrowing the lead, picking off Shiltz for the first turnover by the Alouettes in the game. Courtney Stephens registered the interception before stepping out of bounds to set up a potential game-winning drive by Dane Evans and the offence.

Evans and the offence did their part in drawing the Ticats to within field-goal range, however, Lirim Hajrullahu was unable to put a seal on the victory after booting the potentially game-winning field goal wide left, giving the Alouettes the victory as time expired.

With the win, the Montreal Alouettes season officially comes to an end after posting a 5-13 record for the season. Meanwhile, the Tiger-Cats will shift their focus to the playoffs now, as they will begin preparation to host the BC Lions in the Eastern Semi-Final, which will be held on Sunday, November 11 at 1:00 p.m. ET at Tim Hortons Field.

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